Vikings vs. NFC North: Quarterbacks

There is no doubt who is currently the best quarterback in the division, but the Vikings appear to have a good future at the position with Teddy Bridgewater. How do the QBs of the NFC North stack up?

1. Green Bay Packers
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Key Backup: Brett Hundley It isn’t hard to argue that Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL, let alone the NFC North. Sure, you could make an argument for Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees in the NFL, but in the past couple seasons Rodgers has seemed to surpass them all and take over the top spot.

Everyone knows the story about how Rodgers fell to No. 24 overall in the draft after it was believed he was going to go early. Then how the Packers drafted him to be Brett Favre’s eventual replacement and how he had to sit for three years behind the future Hall of Famer.

Since Rodgers has taken over that role he has thrived. He has won a Super Bowl, been named the league MVP (2014) after throwing for 4,381 yards, 38 touchdowns and five interceptions, been named to four Pro Bowls (2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and has set numerous franchise and NFL records. And he is likely going to go down as one of the most accurate passers in the history of the NFL with a current completion percentage of 65.9 (currently listed as third all time).

Not only is he an accurate passer, but he also has the arm strength to throw the ball downfield – and he is not afraid to do so – and he has a good pocket presence. Throughout the course of a game, Rodgers will avoid what looked to be a sack and use his legs to scramble for what is many times a first down.

At the age of 31 – he will turn 32 during the regular season – Rodgers should still have several good years left in him, but the Packers drafted Hundley in the fifth round. He is going to be a player the team hopes they can mold into a starting quarterback by the time Rodgers decides to call it quits, or at least a player they can one day trade for a good value.

2. Detroit Lions
Starter: Matthew Stafford
Key Backup: Kellen Moore When Stafford was drafted No. 1 overall in 2009 he was drafted by a struggling team that just went 0-16 the year before, but at the same time he has to be thankful for that. Even though the team was struggling, Stafford was given a gift that all quarterbacks in the NFL want, a big-bodied wide receiver that is fast and can catch nearly anything you throw his way.

Calvin Johnson is arguably the best receiver in the NFL and has been a big part to the success that Stafford has had in the NFL. Granted, Stafford has a lot of talent or the Lions wouldn’t have taken him No. 1 overall or kept him around for what will now be his seventh year, but having Johnson as a receiver certainly hasn’t hurt.

The start of Stafford’s career got off to a bumpy start and that could be attributed to the poor players around him. He missed six games his rookie year because of injuries and then 13 games his sophomore season for the same reason. But since then he has bounced back and hasn’t missed a game for four straight seasons.

Even though he missed so many games in his first two seasons he has reached 17,000 career passing yards faster than any other quarterback in the history of the NFL. He is currently 27 years old and if he is able to stay healthy for the remainder of his career there is no telling what he can do.

He has thrown for over 4,000 yards for four years in a row, including a 5,058-yard performance in 2011. The one big area of his game that he needs to improve on is cutting down on the amount of interceptions he throws. The only time he has thrown fewer than 10 interceptions in a season was in 2010 when he only played in three games. But if he can do that he might one day be considered one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and certainly one of the best in Lions history.

3. Minnesota Vikings
Starter: Teddy Bridgewater
Key Backup: Shaun Hill The Vikings originally intended to have Bridgewater sit and learn behind veteran quarterback Matt Cassel after trading back into the first round of the 2014 draft to get Bridgewater. But plans quickly changed once Cassel broke multiple bones in his foot during the fourth game of the season and Bridgewater was forced to come in and start the remainder of the year.

Like most rookie quarterbacks starting in the NFL, Bridgewater had to go through multiple ups and downs over the course of his rookie season, but he seemed to get things figured out as the season progressed. Finishing the season with a 64.4 completion percentage, 2,919 passing yards, 15 touchdowns (one rushing), 12 interceptions and three fumbles.

The fans voted Bridgewater as the Pepsi Rookie of The Year at the end of the season, an honor that many expected to go to the New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. A big reason why the fans voted him in for this award was because he was the first rookie quarterback to ever complete 70 percent of their passes in four straight games. Also, he had the highest completion percentage (75.6) in a game by a rookie quarterback on Dec. 14 against the Detroit Lions.

Bridgewater showed a lot of promise throughout his rookie season, but maybe none as much as what he showed in two-minute situations. He was able to lead his team down the field on multiple occasions to either score a touchdown or get into field goal range at the end of games. The moment never seemed too big for him and that has given many fans hope moving forward.

There are still multiple areas of his game Bridgewater still needs to improve, namely turning the ball over less, but he seems to be on the right track. And the additions of Adrian Peterson – who missed 15 games last season because of off-the-field issues – and Mike Wallace should only help Bridgewater in his sophomore season.

4. Chicago Bears
Starter: Jay Cutler
Key Backup: Jimmy Clausen If being a quarterback only relied on arm talent/strength alone, Cutler could very well be considered one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately for him, and Bears fans, there is a lot more that goes into being a quarterback than just having a cannon for an arm.

Cutler seems to have the same problem that many other gunslingers have, and that is they think they can make every throw and fit the ball into even the tightest of windows just because they know they can throw the ball hard. Because he has that sort of mentality, Cutler has always had a problem with turning the ball over. He has thrown 10 or more interception in seven of his nine seasons (the only two where he threw fewer than 10 interceptions is when he played in fewer than 10 games).

In 2014, the Bears signed Cutler to a seven-year contract, which means that he could be under contract with the Bears until 2020. However, if things continue at the pace they are currently trending, it is going to be hard for the Bears to keep him around because there has been a growing uneasiness in the fan base regarding Cutler. At some point the team might just have to bite the bullet, admit they made a mistake and take the cap hit cutting him would involve. He was also rumored to be on the trading block earlier this offseason.

But there is always the possibility that Cutler is able to turn things around. He has a lot of young talent at wide receiver and a new head coach for the 2015 season. So it is always possible that everything finally comes together for Cutler and he is able to get on the right track.

But at the age of 32 and now entering into his 10th NFL season it is not very likely that Cutler will change who he is. And who he is seems to be a player with all the talent in the world that continues to make mistakes that leave you scratching your head and wondering what just happened.

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