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Football Outsiders Q&A: Vikings still have slight edge over Packers in tough NFC North

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Despite the Packers’ improvements, FO thinks Minnesota remains the best team in one of the NFL’s best divisions.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

To close out our Q&A with Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, we at Acme Packing Company decided to go for the big picture. What are the realistic goals for the Green Bay Packers overall this season? Is it reasonable to expect the franchise to compete for a Super Bowl this year, as our Paul Noonan suggests?

Predicting playoff success is difficult, but it’s the question on every Packers fan’s mind. Then again, there is another possibility: is this Packers team likely to fall short of the playoffs for a second straight year?

Be sure to check out the 2018 Football Outsiders Almanac for more answers to your questions, including many that you probably didn’t even realize you wanted to ask.


APC: How do you see the Packers faring in the division and NFC playoff race this season?

The conference looks really deep and the division is one of the best. I would probably still give the nod to Minnesota as the NFC North favorite due to having the best roster and adding Kirk Cousins to it. However, if Rodgers can stay healthy for 16 games like he usually has in his career, then I don’t see any reason why this team doesn’t make the playoffs again to start a new streak after last year snapped a streak of eight postseasons in a row. Once in the tournament, then it just comes down to the usual things like getting that last stop or engineering that final drive. At least this time fans can’t blame Dom Capers if it goes poorly.

As Scott notes, the NFC North should be one of the top divisions in the NFL this year. In a 2017 season that featured the division’s best player missing nine games and one team starting a rookie quarterback with one of the most unimaginative head coaches in football (looking at you, Bears), the division still managed to combine for a record over .500. Now, Aaron Rodgers is back, which probably improves the Packers by a minimum of three wins; the Vikings get their preferred starting running back and have made several improvements; the Bears brought aboard a clever offensive mind as head coach in Matt Nagy; and the Lions...well, they’re the Lions. But still, this division should be one of the tougher groupings in the league this year.

It’s only natural to give the Vikings the preseason pick, however. Although Case Keenum had a better year than Kirk Cousins in 2017, Cousins is probably the better quarterback. Adding John DeFilippo to Mike Zimmer’s coaching staff should help Cousins take another step forward as well. Plus, the Vikings still have one of the NFL’s best and deepest defenses and one of the top defensive minds as their head coach.

But can the Packers challenge for that mantle? If their offensive line can keep Aaron Rodgers in one piece and if the defense takes a tangible step forward, they can. And as noted in Scott’s response, they should at a minimum be a playoff team, and the team’s last Super Bowl came as the sixth seed in the NFC. Home-field advantage sure would be nice, though, and that Sunday Night game between the Packers and Vikings on Thanksgiving weekend should be a big one.


Thanks to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders for all of his insight and to all of the FO staff for their gracious responses to all of us at SB Nation.