Alex Anzalone: Lions ‘on the rise’ with or without Aaron Rodgers in NFC North
For the first time in 15 seasons, there will be a new starting quarterback in Green Bay.
With Aaron Rodgers announcing he intends to play for the New York Jets in 2023, the Packers will move forward with former first-round pick Jordan Love under center.
The change from a four-time NFL MVP to a player who has made one start in three seasons has the rest of the NFC North smelling blood in the water.
With Rodgers moving on (eventually), there is a level of uncertainty Green Bay hasn’t dealt with since the last time they shipped an aging quarterback to New York. Could Love provide as seamless a transition as Rodgers once did following Brett Favre? Sure. Could he struggle out of the gate after not playing for three years? Sure. Right now, all options are on the table — both the good and bad.
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Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone was asked about the prospect of battling for an NFC North title with Rodgers on his way out of the division.
“With or without him, we are on the rise and I think that we’re going to be for years to come,” Anzalone said on Wednesday, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “And it’s fun to see it happening and see it happening in real time, and seeing young guys develop, seeing pieces being filled that we need filled through free agency and the draft. It’s going to be a fun year going forward.”
The Lions haven’t won the NFC North since 1993, Favre’s second season with Green Bay. Since then, the Packers have won 15 division titles. They won eight of those with Rodgers under center. Green Bay also made the playoffs in 11 of Rodgers’ 15 seasons as a starter (one miss came in 2017 when he played just seven games).
Detroit played a role in the end of Rodgers’ run in Green Bay. The future Hall of Fame QB’s final throw in a Packers jersey was intercepted by Kerby Joseph in Week 18 to help knock Green Bay from the postseason.
The Lions will be one of the popular picks to win the NFC North this offseason. The offense is one of the most fun to watch in the league, combining explosive playmaking with chain-moving efficiency. While atrocious for the bulk of last season, the defense got better down the stretch and already added some key contributors in free agency (including cornerback Cameron Sutton).
Of course, we’ve seen offseason darlings crash and burn before. The key for the Lions will be managing expectations while continuing to develop on the field. Dan Campbell can’t afford another slow start to the season for the third straight campaign.
The Packers brass probably feels like they can compete in a very winnable division and conference, even in Love’s first season. It isn’t exactly a roster devoid of talent — the defense sports a litter of first-round picks, the Christian Watson-Romeo Doubs duo could be in for a Year 2 leap, and Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon form one of the NFL’s best backfield duos. Writing off Green Bay in March would be foolish, with or without Rodgers.
But for the first time in years, there is uncertainty in Green Bay that has piqued the hopes of its rivals.
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