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Green Bay still the team to beat in the NFC North

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Green Bay still the team to beat in the NFC North

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In a division that boasts players like Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson and Aaron Rodgers, it would (at least on paper) be assumed that the four NFC North teams would have had similar levels of success recently. It would also be expected that the division as a whole would be consistently competitive and see different teams make the playoffs each year.

After all, the division is home to two former MVPs (Rodgers and Peterson), two former Offensive Rookies of the Year (Peterson and Lacy) and two former Defensive Rookies of the Year (Julius Peppers and Ndamukong Suh). When the high number of above-average starters is added to the mix, the NFC North clearly has its fair share of skilled players.

But in recent years, the parity that appears inevitable on paper is almost nonexistent. Following the 2013 season, Green Bay has won the division title three straight years and has reached the playoffs each of the last five years. Over that same span, the Bears and Lions each reached the postseason once while the Vikings reached it twice.

When viewing the standings from the last five years, they again show Green Bay’s recent superiority. With an overall record of 55-24-1 over this time period, Green Bay is 11.5 games better than the Bears (44-36), 19 games better than the Vikings (36-43-1) and 26.5 games better than the Lions (29-51). The division record paints the same picture; Green Bay holds a significant advantage over the other three teams.

The bad news for the rest of the NFC North is that Green Bay will continue to be the division favorite in the foreseeable future, mainly because of three individuals. Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have positioned the Packers to continue to contend for a title.

The three have a symbiotic relationship that has produced largely successful results. First there is head coach Mike McCarthy. After Jim Schwartz and Leslie Frazier were fired, McCarthy became the only current NFC North head coach to have coached his team for more than one season (2013 was his eighth season). He is viewed as a quarterback’s coach and has been central to Rodgers’ development. Even this past year, when the team played half a season without their star quarterback, McCarthy coached the team to the division title. He has the mind and the guts to continue to coach the Packers to victory.

By using McCarthy’s knowledge and quarterback expertise, Rodgers has progressed from Brett Favre’s backup to one of the league’s best players. His mental and physical abilities allow him to make smart decisions and accurate throws. Though the NFC North has good competition, recent stats and records show that Rodgers is better than Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler and whomever the Vikings choose to start. His presence alone makes the rest of the team better, and he is only now entering the prime of his career.

Ted Thompson, the Packers’ general manager, has been able to build a team that balances youth with experience. Unlike some general managers who spend wildly in free agency, Thompson relies on the draft-and-develop method. Most of the Packers’ current roster has played only for Green Bay, which allows for team chemistry and a better knowledge of Green Bay’s system. It is true that a better defense that can be more successful against the likes of Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson is needed, but for the most part Thompson’s system has succeeded. Adding just a few key pieces could make the defense immensely better.

In no way can it be certain that Green Bay will continue to display dominance over the NFC North as they have over the last half decade. But with Ted Thompson building, Mike McCarthy coaching, and Aaron Rodgers leading, the Packers have the potential to reach another championship, and they are primed to prove that they are still the team to beat in the NFC North.

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