All Eyes On: NFC North and A​FC North

Welcome to the fourth and final part of my series All Eyes On. This time will be covering the final two divisions, the NFC and AFC North, let’s get right into it!

NFC North-

Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky- While his first seasoning wasn’t astonishing, winning only 4 of the 12 games he started, Trubisky had a solid rookie year. He put up quite respectable numbers during the season and had some extremely good moments showing what he’s capable of. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the best rookie quarterback in the 2017 season. New Bears head coach Matt Nagy was hired in large part to help develop and improve Trubisky and it seems to be working. Multiple people, Nagy included, said they’ve been impressed with Trubisky’s performance throughout minicamp. Nagy even said at one point he was “amazed” with his performance. Nagy continued saying Trubisky had very few poor reads and throws during the minicamp. There’s no doubt Trubisky has quite a lot of talent and the Bars can develop and put that talent to use in the right ways Trubisky could become a high-tier quarterback. This year is shaping up to be a good year and an improved year for Trubisky, definitely keep him on your radar.

Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford- Matthew Stafford is snapping his way into his 10th NFL season and it looks like it’s going to be a thriller. Starting in 2009 when Stafford was drafted he’s been learning and improving year after year, now he’s a top 10 quarterback and can definitely strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. Stafford has shown he’s capable of some truly amazing feats and seems to put up solid numbers each year. After 10 years with the Lions’ team and more importantly the offense he’s very accustomed to and comfortable running the offense. That is something that bodes well for any team, but in particularly bodes well for the Lions. The Detroit Lions run one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the entire league so having a good and experienced quarterback, like Stafford, behind the ball definitely gives a large boost to that offense. While Detroit has many names to look out for this year I believe Stafford’s name sticks out the most and we’ll see if his performance this season reflects that.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers- Aaron Rodgers fantastic career has also been an injury-riddled one, last year it was placed on injured reserve in the earlier part of the season after suffering a shoulder injury which required surgery, then later in December of 2017 he suffered another injury against Carolina causing him to be placed on injured reserve for a SECOND time effectively ending his season. After coming back from shoulder surgery, then going back onto the field and getting hurt again Rodgers definitely took quite the beating last season. However, Rodgers has come back from injuries playing just as well, sometimes even better than they did in seasons past. This year Rodgers will attempt to do that again and attempt to continue his exemplary career adding on even more fantastic stats. Until we see Rodgers take the field again we can only guess and speculate, but I would definitely keep your eye on Rodgers this season.

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins- Cousins career short-lived career in Washington was a solid performance, but now he’s made the move to Minnesota. It seems Cousin has acclimated well earning praise for all sorts of people, including backup quarterback Trevor Siemian who said that he believes Cousins is already becoming comfortable with Minnesota and, according to CBS Sports, “has wasted no time becoming a locker-room leader”. Additionally, Cousins has earned praise from wide receiver Adam Thielen, who said: “he’s been doing a phenomenal job”. Many players have trouble adjusting and acclimating to a new team once they’re traded, but it seems Cousins isn’t having that struggle at all. This bodes well for Minnesota as if this is the case they’ll be running like a well-oiled machine come time for the regular season. Also, it appears Kirk Cousins is performing just as well in Minnesota as he did in Washington considering all the praise he’s been receiving. I would definitely keep watch of Kirk Cousins because if he can continue performing like he did in Washington the Minnesota Vikings could pose an even larger threat this season.

AFC North-

Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson- The Ravens shocked everyone trading their way back into the first round to draft Lamar Jackson. With Joe Flacco growing old and his performance going downhill, the Ravens needed to start looking for a replacement and it appears they’ve found one in Jackson. A very gifted athlete with a strong arm, though there’s still some work that needs to be done but could easily become very good. Additionally, Jackson posses great mobility which more and more teams are looking for in their quarterbacks. Jackson has a very high ceiling, but he’ll require some help to reach it. If the Baltimore Ravens do a good job and develop Jackson the right way he could become a nightmare for defenses.

Cincinnati Bengals: Billy Price- While Lamar Jackson, a potential replacement for Dalton, remained on the board the Bengals opted to select center Billy Price instead. I think that this was a much better pick than Jackson because Cincinnati’s O-line has been extremely weak and Price looks to be able to provide the boost this line needs. With Price in the center, it can help to prevent opposing team’s interior pass rush. Additionally, Price’s strength and toughness provide an added spot of protection to the backfield, whether it be Dalton or a running back. Price can fit into just about any scheme providing the Bengals with more flexibility in their schemes. The Bengals have desperately needed to fix the O-line for a while now and the selection of Price was a good step towards achieving that goal.

Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield- It should come as no surprise that the number 1 overall pick in the draft is the Browns’ player to watch this year. So far this preseason Mayfield has shown that he posses the skills to become a starting quarterback. Though, his skills may need to be fine-tuned Mayfield definitely has what it takes to start. He has a good arm and can become a great precision passer. He also has a very high football IQ able to find new lanes and throughout his college career threw many anticipated passes as well. According to ESPN “during his final season at Oklahoma, he completed 71 percent of his passes, averaged 11.5 yards per attempt, converted a first down on 45 percent of his throws, posted a 198.9 QB rating and a 92.6 total QBR”, some of the highest stats during that collegiate season. His preseason performance has been fairly successful thus far and appears that his success will continue, but until we see him perform during the regular season we can only assume.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Le’Veon Bell- No doubt one of the top running backs in the entire NFL Bell constantly and consistently proves himself as a force to be reckoned with year after year. While Bell may be another obvious choice, I felt the need to list him nevertheless, he constantly is placed among the top 5 running backs in the league and his stats reflect exactly that. His sheer strength, power, and size allow him to break off tackles and bulldoze through defenders and just keep running. If the defenders manage to bring him down you can bet Bell will use his strength, power, and size to fight for some more yards while he’s going to the ground. On top of his power, Bell has his speed which allows him to breeze by defenders after going through them. Finally, if Bell ever gets in a tight spot he can surely rely on his experience and technique to make a move and gain some extra yardage. Each year Bell proves why he’s such a powerhouse and it’s only a matter of time before he does it this season so make sure to all eyes on Le’Veon Bell this season.

That’s going to wrap up this series, hope you all enjoyed and do forget to keep all eyes on!