Viking fans (and the NFL) were stunned to see the Green Bay Packers shake things up by firing on head coach Mike McCarthy. The shockwaves of this movement were felt in NFC North as well as in the league itself for the next decade or more. Although the end of McCarthy at Green Bay was widely speculated, its mid-season arrival was a move that Packers management does not normally see.
The bigger message that McCarthy's sudden fall has brought is that the Packers are on their way to the cellar at NFC North. The golden Holmgren Sherman McCarthy era in Green Bay is officially over. Continuous excellence can exist only so long in the world, until others know the secrets of those who succeed. The Cowboys and 49ers found this out in the 2000s after long successes in the 1980s and 90s. The packers find out now.
The packers may have one or two short stalls in the next three to four seasons (like the 49's from 2001 to 2002), but they will soon fall into the middle of the pack. However, their power loss leaves a widely open leadership position in NFC North. The question in the department is now who will fill this gap for the next decade.
Based on the way the Bears played this season, many may speculate on Chicago as the new king of division divisions, but that's far from certain. The Bears' shortcomings were cleverly masked by head coach Matt Nagy's new approaches and the sudden arrival of Khalil Mack at the scene. 2019 could be a very different story for the bears if their opponents have developed successful approaches to break and exploit the bear's weaknesses.
Mitchell Trubisky has passerby restrictions for all of his Michael Vick tendencies. Once other teams have figured out how to keep their scrambling under control, it will be difficult. Runningback looks like he's in capable hands, but the receiver's position has been completely contradictory since the departure of Alshon Jeffrey. This looks like a group that is lightning-fast but has no depth. As soon as the flash fades, these fade too.
In defense, Mack has sparked a spark in the team, but what happens when spark life ends at the end of this season? Remember, this defense of Bears looked pretty awful before Mack came up with the same players they use now. Once the teams have figured out how to effectively contain Mack, it will probably be hard for the Bears to keep the defense at the level it has this season.
This 2018 Bears team feels more like a hit-in miracle from 2001 than the Lovie-Smith or Mike-Ditka-trained Bears. This makes their chances for a continued successful game unlikely. Your chances to be part king? Pretty shaky
Lions fans may wish that this opportunity had come while the Jim Schwartz era peaked from 2011-2012, or coach Matt Patricia during the Jim Caldwell era from 2014-2016. This hurts their hopes and prospects.
Matthew Stafford is on the flip side of a solid career. The losses of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate and the lack of a consistently reliable running game have also taken the toll. All in all, this is an offense that looks like it has many leaks that the franchise is trying to control.
In defense, the Lions have some brilliant talents, but this unit is far from the dominant units of Schwartz and Caldwell. They need more help on the defensive line and in the secondary line, especially to hope that they can shut down opponents consistently. The program is promising but requires time to be properly implemented.
Overall, it feels like a team in the midst of a major makeover. The window of opportunity to head the division is small, and the Lions are unlikely to complete the reconstruction in time to get hold of it. This means that their shot at the part king of the hills is unlikely.
The one team that is most likely to benefit and rise are the Vikings. They have a stable coaching behind Mike Zimmer and a program that is just starting to bloom. They have dominated the Packers since 2015 with 5-2-1 and have also begun to dominate the division, and since 2015 they have also recorded excellent division records. In every single-division race, the games in this division are always the most important.
Obviously, the Vikings are likely to have the solid quarterback situation in the division with a solid starter in Kirk Cousins and a rising potential star-in-development in Kyle Sloter who should be ready to take the reins when cousin's Vikings benefit. The runback and receiver stables have many talents far beyond those of many other teams in the NFL. The offensive line poses a problem when the sentry post and the right-hand position take positions in a state of flux and uncertainty, but clever designs or free agent investments in these positions could quickly reverse this if done well.
Defensively, the Vikings have one of the top units of the NFL. The defensive line and the secondary side are the envy of the league for their depth and system qualities. While talented, Linebacker has little experience of depth and experience and probably needs a bit of building to solidify but is still solidly positioned. They could put fresh blood into the defensive coaching staff to maintain Room's defensive system, but overall this is a unit that looks like it's locked up in the long run, especially as they continue to build their depths.
Of the three NFC North teams not from Green Bay, the Vikings seem to have the best chance of being the new King of the Hill. They have a long-term structure very similar to that of the Packers in 2007, when they returned to the top of the division. This should be a welcome message for the Viking fans, regardless of how their 2018 season develops.