It’s clear, after four games of the 2021 season, that the Packers remain Kings of the NFC North—at least, for now. Aaron Rodgers isn’t quite playing at his 2020 MVP level, but he’s been fantastic in spurts. Green Bay’s defense, despite a poor showing in Week 1, is playing better than their early-season reputation—they’re inside the top 10 in passing yards allowed per game and just outside the top 10 rushing yards allowed.
Let’s take a spin around the division and see where each team stands after four weeks.
Chicago Bears (2-2)
The Justin Fields era is about to begin… maybe? After leading the Bears to victory over the Detroit Lions, Fields appeared set to take over Chicago’s offense for good. But Matt Nagy’s gonna Matt Nagy, and he failed to commit to the rookie first-rounder during his first press conference of the week. Still, the good news for Bears fans is that Fields looks like the real deal early in his career. He was helped by David Montgomery and Chicago’s running game, and the team’s wide receivers suddenly look capable of making plays downfield. The offense may finally be catching up to the defense, but don’t get too excited about the Bears’ chances. They have the Las Vegas Raiders, Packers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an upcoming brutal three-game stretch.
Detroit Lions (0-4)
The Lions are one of two winless teams in the NFL entering Week 5, joining only the Jacksonville Jaguars in the league’s cellar. Still, it could be worse. Seriously. Detroit plays a tough brand of football, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The roster has taken on the personality of its coach, Dan Campbell, and has been a difficult out early in the year. The reality, however, is that the Lions are in an obvious rebuild and don’t have the pieces in place, especially at quarterback, to make any noise in 2021. Jared Goff ranks 26th in average intended air yards, per Next Gen Stats, and is averaging just 3.9 air yards per completion, which is tied for the worst mark in the league.
Green Bay Packers (3-1)
Rodgers, as noted above, isn’t playing at the ungodly level he was on in 2020, but he’s been better than any other quarterback in the division, and that matters. Rodgers, in fact, is tracking for the lowest season grade he’s ever received from Pro Football Focus. Currently at a 68.9, Rodgers’ previous career-low was 75.5 in 2015. Nevertheless, Rodgers has eight touchdowns and zero interceptions over the last three games and has the Packers’ offense cooking. Green Bay has scored at least 27 points in each of their three straight wins, and a look ahead at the next three weeks on their schedule—Cincinnati Bengals, Bears, Washington Football Team—suggests the Packers could realistically be 6-1 entering an October 29 matchup against the currently-undefeated Arizona Cardinals.
Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
The Vikings fell to 1-3 after losing to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in what was a bizarre game that saw Minnesota’s offense fail to live up to expectations. Kirk Cousins had been on an MVP pace prior to Sunday’s loss when he threw for just 203 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Maybe it was the suddenly red-hot Browns defense that rattled Cousins, or maybe it was just Cousins being the guy he’s always been: a quarterback who comes up short in big moments. The Vikings are better than their record, however, and I’d imagine they’ll claw their way back to or near .500 as we inch closer to Thanksgiving. Falling two games behind the Packers this early in the season is a big deficit to overcome, though.