NFC North Roster Rankings: Lions Finally Ready to Compete for Super Bowl

Detroit addressed its lone glaring weakness this offseason and should be favored to repeat as division champs even as each NFC North team harbors playoff hopes.
Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson has racked up 21 sacks, 48 QB hits, 23 tackles for loss and even four interceptions in his first two NFL seasons.
Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson has racked up 21 sacks, 48 QB hits, 23 tackles for loss and even four interceptions in his first two NFL seasons. / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, there was hesitation from some football pundits to get behind the Detroit Lions because they weren’t sure if Jared Goff could replicate his promising 2022 season. The former No. 1 pick did that and more, guiding the Lions to their first playoff win and NFC title game appearance in three decades. 

With less doubt surrounding Goff, the Lions appear to be a consensus Super Bowl contender after the moves they made this offseason. Detroit has a stacked roster and is well positioned for back-to-back NFC North titles, but the Green Bay Packers aren’t far behind after Jordan Love’s breakout campaign. The two teams split their season series in 2023.

The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears have uncertainty at quarterback, but their rookie signal-callers have the luxury of playing with talented offenses. 

​​Here’s how we view the rosters in the NFC North with free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror. 

4. Minnesota Vikings 

The Vikings’ roster is ranked last on this list, but they’re not far behind their rivals after a busy offseason that saw them get younger on both sides of the ball while parting with quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive end Danielle Hunter.

Despite the loss of Hunter, the Vikings managed to form a stronger front for defensive coordinator Brian Flores, who produced a bounce-back season for a unit that struggled mightily in 2022. The blitz-happy Vikings will have a formidable pass-rushing rotation with the additions of Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel and rookie Dallas Turner, the team’s second first-round pick. Minnesota gained another playmaker in linebacker Blake Cashman, who had 106 total tackles for the Houston Texans last season. The Vikings do have roster concerns in the interior of the defensive line and at cornerback. But the safeties, with Harrison Smith and Cameron Bynum, will likely be a strength. 

There’s plenty of uncertainty with Cousins’s potential replacements. Rookie J.J. McCarthy, the No. 10 pick, and veteran Sam Darnold will compete for the starting quarterback job during training camp. McCarthy has plenty of upside, but he was the fifth quarterback chosen in the draft partly because of his lack of work in a run-heavy Michigan offense. If McCarthy quickly grasps coach Kevin O’Connell’s playbook, he could run an efficient offense with Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson and Justin Jefferson, the best wide receiver in the division and probably in the league. 

Minnesota has a good case for having the best skill position group in the division after the signing of running back Aaron Jones. The offensive line, on the other hand, has had issues with consistency, but it’s at least anchored by left tackle Christian Darrisaw.  

3. Chicago Bears

Quarterback Caleb Williams could have a debut season that compares to C.J. Stroud’s Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign for the Texans. Williams might not have a singularly explosive weapon like Justin Jefferson, as McCarthy does, but he does have three talented wideouts at his disposal in DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, whom the Bears traded for in March, and rookie Rome Odunze, the team’s second top-10 pick.

If Williams and his stacked receiving corps quickly develop chemistry on the field, the Bears’ offense could have a memorable season and break some records for a franchise that’s never had a 4,000-yard passer. Perhaps that’s getting too far ahead, but the Bears are well positioned to make noise with depth at tight end (Cole Kmet, Gerald Everett) and playmakers at running back (D’Andre Swift, Roschon Johnson). This intriguing offense won’t get far, however, if the offensive line continues to struggle as it did throughout Justin Fields’s tenure in Chicago. On paper, the line has plenty of talent, with tackles Braxton Jones and Darnell Wright. Perhaps the arrival of center Coleman Shelton, the former Los Angeles Rams lineman, can improve the unit. 

Coach Matt Eberflus deserves plenty of credit for getting the defense to make strides last season—Chicago ranked first against the run, only allowing 86.4 yards per game. Second-year defensive tackles Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens could have breakout seasons in 2024. As a whole, the defensive front should be better with a full year from edge rusher Montez Sweat, who was acquired from Washington in October. Highly paid linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards fit in well during their debuts in the Windy City. The back end of the defense has plenty of talent, with cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Tyrique Stevenson and safeties Kevin Byard and Jaquan Brisker. 

Chicago’s outlook will likely come down to Williams—if he resembles Stroud more than Bryce Young, the Bears should be competing for the playoffs with their most balanced roster in years. 

Packers QB Jordan Love
Love led the Packers to a wild-card win over the Cowboys and nearly triumphed over the top-seeded 49ers in his first season as a starter. / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

2. Green Bay Packers

Rosters tend to look better with established star quarterbacks, and the Packers appear to have unearthed yet another one. Not only did Love play at a high level as a first-year starter—the Packers’ other young offensive players stepped up to get the team back in the postseason during Green Bay’s first year without Aaron Rodgers leading the offense since 2007.

The Packers might not have a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, but they may have the most depth in the division with five reliable wideouts including Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks and Malik Heath. Green Bay also has depth at tight end, with Tucker Kraft and Luke Musgrave. All the aforementioned pass-catchers have at least one year of NFL experience. Green Bay’s aerial attack will likely do plenty of damage this season, but the team won’t neglect the running game after the splash signing of Josh Jacobs and third-round selection of MarShawn Lloyd out of USC. The offensive line has question marks, where the right side could be a weakness, but the team gained a versatile piece by using a first-round pick on Jordan Morgan, who can play guard and tackle. 

The Packers haven’t been as fortunate with their defensive draft picks the past few seasons. If Lukas Van Ness, the 2023 first rounder, and ’22 first-round picks Devonte Wyatt and Quay Walker find their footing, the Packers could have a deep defensive roster. That’s a lot of ifs, though. They do have two productive edge rushers in Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, as well as a standout cornerback in Jaire Alexander. The best move of the offseason could be the signing of safety Xavier McKinney, who’ll look to make the same sort of impact Jessie Bates III did for the Atlanta Falcons last year. He’ll be paired with second-round rookie safety Javon Bullard to form a secondary that’ll aim to make Lambeau Field a no-fly zone for opponents. 

1. Detroit Lions 

The Lions might own a top-five roster in the NFL, a testament to what GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell have done since being hired in Detroit three years ago. 

For the past year, many football pundits, including this one, have written about Detroit’s weakness in the secondary. That might no longer be an issue after the Lions traded for Carlton Davis III, signed Amik Robertson and selected Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. with their first two draft picks. With depth at cornerback, Brian Branch, last year’s rookie standout, could move from the slot position to safety, creating a young, athletic duo with Kerby Joseph. Suddenly, the secondary appears to be a strength, leaving no holes on the Lions’ roster, at least on paper. Even star edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson and stout defensive tackle Alim McNeill received help with the acquisitions of Marcus Davenport and D.J. Reader. If linebacker Jack Campbell builds off his rookie season, the Lions could have a dominant defense after heavily relying on the offense the past two seasons. 

The days of Goff being viewed as a bridge quarterback in Detroit seem to be long gone after he led the team to the NFC title game. Goff will again have an abundance of weapons with No. 1 wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown, standout tight end Sam LaPorta and the dynamic running back duo of Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery. Detroit’s rugged offensive line took a hit after the departure of guard Jonah Jackson, but the team quickly recovered with the signing of veteran Kevin Zeitler. First-team All-Pro Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker are back as the starting tackles. The Lions are simply stacked throughout the depth chart and head into the season as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. 

Gilberto Manzano