(Photo Credit: Stacy Revere / Getty Images)
Besides the Packers, teams from the NFC North really struggled on the field during the 2020 season. The Packers won the division with a 13-3 record, followed by the Bears at 8-8, the Vikings at 7-9, and the Lions at 5-11. Needless to say, the Packers were the only team to qualify for the playoffs, as the NFC’s number one overall seed.
After a wild card-round bye, the Packers took on the Rams in Green Bay. Los Angels had beaten the Seahawks 30-20 in the opening round. The Packers wound up defeating the Rams 32-18, buoyed by a balanced offensive attack. Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of 36 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns. To provide the balance needed, RB Aaron Jones had 14 carries for 99 yards and one touchdown, while adding one catch out of the backfield for an additional 14 yards. RB Jamaal Williams also had a good game with 12 carries for 65 yards. On the receiving front. Allen Lazard led the way with four catches for 96 yards and a TD, while Devante Adams pitched in nine catches for an additional 66 yards and the other receiving TD. The other two receiving options to get involved were: 1) TE Robert Tonyan (4 catches for 60 yards), and 2) WR Marquez Valdez-Scantling (4 catches for 33 yards).
After easily dispatching the Rams, the Packers would host the Bucs in the Championship Round. The Bucs had gotten to this point, by beating Washington 31-23, and then the Saints 30-20. After allowing the Bucs to score the first touchdown of the game, the Packers went into the locker room trailing 21-10. An opening drive second-half touchdown extended this lead even further to 28-10. Making the game extremely competitive, the Packers scored the next two TDs (while missing a two-point conversion) to make the score 28-23 entering the fourth quarter. Despite a very good offensive flow throughout the rest of the game, both teams sputtered over the next several drives in attempts for either the Bucs to build their lead or for the Packers to take the lead.
The Bucs would tack on a field goal to make the score 31-23 midway through the 4th quarter. Marking the beginning of a very tumultuous off-season, head coach Matt Lafleur made an extremely questionable(at best) decision. Despite having been unable to stop the Bucs offense all day, Lafleuf chose to kick a field goal on 4th and goal from the 8 with just right at two minutes left on the clock. Coach Lafleur later justified the decision to not go for it, by saying “It was just the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards. And knowing that you not only need the touchdown but need the two-point. The way I was looking at it was we essentially had four timeouts with the two-minute warning. We knew we needed to get a stop”.
Needless to say, the stop didn’t happen and the Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl. Unlike the divisional round, the Packers could not find any easy sledding within the running game. For the day, all running backs combined for 16 carries for 67 yards and zero TDs. With no running game, Rodgers threw 48 passes(completing 33 of them) for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Valdez-Scantling(4 catches for 115 yards and a TD), Adams(9 catches for 67 yards and a TD) and Lazard(3 catches for 62 yards) once again led the way in defeat.
Although the division had little success on the field, several players from teams other than the Packers had fantasy relevance. These players included: 1) Kirk Cousins; 2) Dalvin Cook; 3) Justin Jefferson; 4) Adan Thielen; 5) David Montgomery; 6) Allen Robinson; 7) D’Andre Swift; 8) Marvin Jones and 9) T.J. Hockenson.
As we near the 2021 season, the NFC North wound up having one of the most turbulent off-seasons for any division throughout the league. Amongst other happenings, there are just a few of the things that have occurred since if the end of the 2020 regular season: 1 Dan Campbell replaced interim Darrell Bevell as head coach; 2) Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff (Rams) were traded(as part of a package) for one another and assumed starting roles for their respective new teams; 3) Andy Dalton(free agency-Cowboys) and Justin Fields (draft-Ohio State) were brought in to replace the Bears’ carousel of quarterbacks; 4) along with Stafford, Adrian Peterson/Kenny Golladay/Marvin Jones all left the Lions during the free agency window, and 5) last, but certainly not least, Rodgers had an extremely extended hold out from the Packers, finally culminating with his return to the team in late July.
Although we could take the opportunity to discuss any of these topics further now, this article will serve as a reminder that a very in-depth, team, set of previews will be rolled out next week. This division should be a very fun one to follow, so please be sure to follow along on Twitter and at https://www.thecutffb.com/
(Cover Photo Credit: NFL & Couch Guy Sports / Yahoo Sports)