After two weeks of the 2021 NFL season, the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings remain winless while the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers have even records at 1-1.
It’s too early in the season to draw any reliable conclusions, but history tells us that teams that begin the year 0-2 have just a 12% chance of making the playoffs (based on a 16-game season). In other words, the outlook is ominous for the Lions and Vikings.
There is some good news for those clubs, however. Neither the Packers nor the Bears look very good either, so the NFC North remains wide open regardless of how the season started.
Here are four takeaways from the NFC North in Week 2.
Chicago Bears’ defense is… back?
The Bears’ quarterback controversy ratcheted up to another level with Andy Dalton’s injury. Justin Fields is set to (likely) start in Week 3, at which time he’ll have a chance to earn the job for good. Buckle up.
The bigger takeaway for the Bears this week is on the defensive side of the ball, where Chicago looked like a rejuvenated group of ballhawks. Led by Roquan Smith, the Bears defense played like a unit that’s capable of being one of the NFL’s best again. They totaled four sacks, three interceptions, and a fumble recovery.
Detroit Lions will be a tough out
It’s pretty clear the Lions are a better team than many expected at the start of the season. No, they aren’t going to win many games, but they’re going to be a tough out. They mounted a respectable comeback against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 and gave the Packers all they could handle early in Week 2’s Monday night game.
Unfortunately, teams don’t get extra credit for trying hard or being competitive. Jared Goff is playing like the stopgap quarterback he was presumed to be when Detroit traded Matthew Stafford, which lowers the ceiling of expectations for 2021. Head coach Dan Campbell has this squad ready to bite kneecaps, but that’s about it.
Green Bay Packers’ defensive regression is real
It was vintage Aaron Rodgers on Monday night when he torched the Lions for 255 yards and four touchdowns. Any concerns about Rodgers being disinterested or checked out in 2021 can be put to rest.
What can’t be put to rest is the state of the Packers’ defense. It isn’t good. In fact, it stinks. They allowed Jameis Winston and Goff to look like quality starters in consecutive weeks. Need I say more?
Green Bay has the 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers coming up on their schedule, so it won’t get any easier. We’ll learn a lot about this team over the next couple of games.
Minnesota Vikings are ‘just a team’
The Kirk Cousins era in Minnesota feels like it’s on its last lap. The Vikings could—and should—be 1-1 but for a missed game-winning field goal as time expired against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, so it’s not exactly panic-time in Minnesota yet. But this Vikings team feels very much like the 8-8 iterations we’ve seen before.
Cousins threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2. Dalvin Cook ran for 131 yards. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen both found the end zone. Yet, the defense surrendered 34 points and 400 yards to Kyler Murray, leaving little-to-no confidence that this team, with all its toys on offense, can overcome the shortcomings on defense. They’ve given up 61 points through two games this year.