Today, we kick off a brand new series here at Pride of Detroit. In the NFL, it’s not always about how you stack up against the rest of the NFL, it’s how you stack up against your division. The easiest way to get into the postseason is always through your division (unless you’re in the AFC East and you aren’t the Patriots).
For the Lions, that’s also been a tough road. Detroit hasn’t won their division since the early 90s, but as of recent, they have at least been in contention for the NFC North title near season’s end; in three of the past four years, they’ve finished second.
Is this the year they finally get over the hump? Over the next couple weeks, we’re going to take a look at where they stack up in the division at each respective position.
Today, we start with the most important position: quarterback. For these NFC North rankings, I am factoring in the entire depth chart, but I obviously have a huge emphasis on the starter.
Here are my NFC North quarterback rankings.
1. Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer, Brett Hundley, Tim Boyle)
When he’s healthy, Aaron Rodgers is potentially the best quarterback in the league right now. Since becoming a starter in 2008, Rodgers hasn’t finished a season with a passer rating lower than 92.7. For comparison’s sake, Matthew Stafford has only finished with passer rating above 93 four times in his career.
Few quarterbacks in the league can carry an entire roster to success, but Rodgers is one of those guys. In seasons in which Rodgers has played all 16 games, the Packers have made the postseason in all but one: His first year as a starter in 2008. Even in his two injury-shortened seasons, Rodgers managed to push his team into the postseason once, and nearly did it against last year.
Additionally, the Packers attempted to improve their depth by adding DeShone Kizer this offseason, after the Brett Hundley experiment went off the tracks last year.
2. Detroit Lions (Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock, Matt Cassel)
While Stafford still has plenty of doubters both in Detroit and around the league, his play since 2015 has undoubtedly been among the NFL’s best. Here’s where he ranks among NFL quarterbacks in the past three years (minimum: 30 starts):
Completion percentage: 6th
Passer rating: 8th
Yards per attempt: 12th
Interception percentage: 8th
Stafford is playing at a top-10 level, and he’s even knocking on the door of a top-five performance since Jim Bob Cooter took over as offensive coordinator. Add in the fact he’s managed to do it while being the most-sacked quarterback over the past four seasons with literally the worst running game in the league and it’s even more impressive what he’s been able to accomplish.
In addition to that, the Lions also have a young quarterback who is now well versed in the system in Jake Rudock, and a veteran voice in the room in Matt Cassel.
3. Minnesota Vikings (Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter, Peter Pujals)
Admittedly, Cousins has actually put up better numbers than Stafford over the past three years. Here’s where he ranks in the same categories as above since 2015:
Completion percentage: 3rd
Passer rating: 6th
Yards per attempt: 4th
Interception percentage: 13th
But the reason I ranked Cousins and the Vikings lower is simply because he’s joining a new team, a new scheme and a new set of teammates. There will be an adjustment period, and while Cousins has everything set up for success—hot, new offensive coordinator, solid offensive line, big WR threats and a potential running game—it’s never as easy of a transition as it appears.
Additionally, after having one of the league’s best depth charts at quarterback last season, the Vikings have completely decimated their own depth chart, getting rid of literally every quarterback from last season. There’s something to be said about consistency in the quarterback room, and now the Vikings have a bunch of new guys, and all of them unproven behind Cousins.
4. Chicago Bears (Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray)
By most accounts, Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie season was a success, especially when you consider his supporting cast. He really started to shine toward the end of the season when the Bears finally took off his training wheels in Week 8. He flashed signs of impressive accuracy, playmaking ability with his feet, and solid reads.
But he still has a long ways to go to show he belongs with this set of impressive quarterbacks in the division. He has yet to throw two touchdowns in a single game, he finished his rookie campaign throwing as many interceptions (7) as touchdowns, and his passer rating (77.5) was good enough for just 28th in the league.
With a new set of legitimate receivers and a brand new coaching staff, the future for Trubisky could be bright. However, there’s little doubt he’s starting 2018 in the basement of his division, and if he goes down with an injury, you can go ahead and pencil the Bears in for a top-five draft pick.