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NFC North burning questions for 2024 NFL season: How quickly can Bears, Vikings QBs make an impact?

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The 2024 NFL season isn’t far off, and there might not be a more intriguing division to watch than the NFC North. The reigning champion Detroit Lions are fresh off their best season in decades, coming within one win of a historic Super Bowl appearance. The Green Bay Packers are looking to build off their own playoff promise. And both the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings have brand-new quarterbacks to go with well-rounded supporting casts.

All four have the potential to challenge for the NFC North throne. All four also have hurdles to clear. Here’s one burning question for each of them, going into 2024:

Chicago Bears: Can Caleb Williams‘ talent translate to immediate impact?

Caleb Williams

In case you’ve forgotten, Bears general manager Ryan Poles once said the team was “all in” on Justin Fields as the face of the franchise. Except the front office’s actions indicated otherwise, asking Fields to almost single-handedly overcome a so-so setup. Was Fields perfect? No. But he wasn’t exactly positioned to excel. Williams, on the other hand, enters the NFL with not only a superior scouting report as a laser-armed gunslinger but genuine investment from Poles and Co. in the form of a savvy supporting cast. What, then, can we expect from Williams with weapons like D.J. Moore, Rome Odunze, Keenan Allen and D’Andre Swift at his disposal? It depends how quickly the USC product adapts to NFL speed. Will his freestyling mirror the roller-coaster ride of, say, Josh Allen? Will he restrain himself for the benefit of Matt Eberflus’ defense? The spectrum of debut possibilities is broad.

Detroit Lions: Did they do enough to sustain momentum?

Jared Goff

The Lions didn’t just live up to the hype in 2023; they exceeded it, restoring Motor City’s belief in a gridiron contender. And much of their ultra-balanced core remains: Jared Goff and Amon-Ra St. Brown are locked up for the long haul, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs remain a thunder-and-lightning combo in the backfield, and the secondary has lots of fresh talent, namely rookie cornerbacks Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. There’s also little doubting that Dan Campbell and Ben Johnson will keep their pedal on the gas as aggressive decision-makers. Under the surface, though, the Lions are still banking on young breakouts at key spots like wide receiver and edge rusher, where St. Brown and Aidan Hutchinson do a lot of heavy lifting. And they’ll need the O-line to stay healthy to keep Goff comfortable for another deep playoff push.

Green Bay Packers: Can Jordan Love build off his promising debut?

Jordan Love USATSI

Few quarterbacks were as dazzling to close 2023 as Love, who went from erratic to MVP-esque in his first full year replacing Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay seems content with his progression, too, considering the Packers barely touched their crowded room of young wideouts this offseason, allowing the likes of Jayden Reed, Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks and Romeo Doubs to headline the aerial attack. A beefed-up ground game featuring Josh Jacobs and MarShawn Lloyd should help, as should a defense aided by a new patroller in Xavier McKinney. But their ceiling as a team will depend primarily on Love’s next step: With contract questions swirling in the background, can he rein in his inner Brett Favre to make smart reads with such a gifted arm? If so, this club is primed to be a weekly pest in and outside of the NFC North.

Minnesota Vikings: What is the priority under center?

Kevin O’Connell, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah USATSI

For the second year in a row, it’s hard to pin down the Vikings’ internal expectations. Entering 2023, Kirk Cousins was preparing to play out his contract just as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah stripped down the defense for new coordinator Brian Flores. Entering 2024, Cousins is gone, but the supporting cast is arguably just as competitive, if not more so. So when Kevin O’Connell and Co. weigh Sam Darnold versus first-round pick J.J. McCarthy at quarterback, will they prefer patient long-term development or instant results? Maybe they can have both. McCarthy is the future, but with a skill group featuring Aaron Jones, Justin Jefferson and other elite talent, the time to make another playoff push could be now. Especially with Flores also touting a deeper pass-rushing rotation for a defense that overachieved in 2023.

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Author: Cody Benjamin
June 4, 2024 | 9:20 am

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