It’s hard to believe that going into Week 4’s Thursday night football game, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions seemed to be on similar footing. Both were 2-1, and both had overcome close Week 2 losses and had won in Week 3. But since September 28th’s 34-20 drubbing by Detroit, the franchises now seem to be going in completely opposite directions. The Packers have lost 4 straight, while the Lions have won 4 out of their past 5. But it’s worth noting this didn’t happen overnight; it could’ve been years in the making.
Detroit Lions: Rebuild mode
Ever since the Lions won their last division title in 1993, they have usually resided near the basement of the NFL. They found themselves in that position again in 2021 when they hired New Orleans Saints assistant Dan Campbell as their new head coach. Campbell made waves when he stated at his introductory press conference that his teams would be ready to “kick you in the teeth” and “bite a kneecap off.”
They also traded longtime quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Rams quarterback Jared Goff and draft picks. With young key pieces like Amon-Ra St. Brown and Aiden Hutchison drafted into the mix, the Lions were able to finally find a winning formula that allowed them to finish last year winning eight of their last ten games and begin 2023 off to a hot 6-2 start.
Green Bay Packers: Rebuild time?
Going into this season, Packers coach Matt LaFleur made some interesting comments. He said:
“It feels like Year 1, quite frankly. It feels like we’re right back where we started when I first got hired here. That’s exciting. I think there’s a lot of excitement that goes along with that. We’re going to coach these guys hard, and we expect them to show up with a great attitude every day and give everything they can.”
It’s fair to surmise from these comments that LaFleur was indicating that the Packers teams that won 13 games for three straight seasons from 2019-2021 may not be necessarily indicative of how the 2023 Packers would perform.
It would be a fair argument to chalk up Jordan Love’s struggles to the growing pains of a quarterback in his first season. The Packers finished 2008 with a 6-10 record in Aaron Rodgers’ first season. But now there are, indeed, murmurs going around the league now about whether LaFleur is the right man to lead this new Packers squad going forward and whether Love is the right man under center for the future. When both the head coach and the quarterback are in the hot seat, that could be a signal from the organization that a full-on rebuild may very well be around the corner in light of the team’s lack of success this season.
Whole New World
The Lions haven’t been in the driver’s seat in their division in many years if not decades. But with the Chicago Bears’ woeful year, the Vikings losing quarterback Kirk Cousins for the year due to injury, and the documented struggles of Green Bay, a division crown for the Lions seems very much in reach. It truly would represent a changing of the guard in the NFC North, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, given how much the city of Detroit has suffered over the years.