NFL Analysis


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NFC North is Most Intriguing NFL Division for QBs in 2024 Season

Apr 26, 2024; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears number one draft choice Caleb Williams at a press conference at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Usually, quarterbacks are the NFL’s biggest story. It’s the game’s most important position, after all. 

This year is shaping up to have quarterback intrigue galore. Aaron Rodgers’ return to the New York Jets, Russell Wilson and Justin Fields competing in Pittsburgh and the extension-less (so far) Dak Prescott, Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence are all interesting storylines.

Also, other injured quarterbacks are returning: Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Daniel Jones, Anthony Richardson and Kirk Cousins (with Michael Penix Jr. breathing down his neck).  

Can Lamar Jackson get to a Super Bowl? Can Deshaun Watson finally justify the Cleveland Browns’ trade? What will Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud do in Year 2? How will the six rookie quarterbacks perform? And will Patrick Mahomes lead the first three-peat Super Bowl winner in history?

Looking at the league’s quarterbacks by division, it’s a tight race. Still, I place the NFC North atop the pecking order as the most intriguing — and potentially one of the best — division for quarterbacks this season. 

Let’s break down the division’s projected signal callers from most to least experienced.

NFC North QB Storylines


Jared Goff was perceived as an afterthought when the Detroit Lions acquired him from the Los Angeles Rams in 2021, along with two first-round picks and a third-rounder in exchange for Matthew Stafford. 

It had to be extra special for Goff to beat Stafford and the Rams in a wild-card game last season. The Lions followed that with a divisional round win against Tampa Bay before losing to San Francisco in the NFC title game.

In those playoff games, Goff threw for 837 yards and four touchdowns with no turnovers. The impressive playoff run followed one of his best regular seasons: He ranked second in the league in passing yards (4,575) and fourth in touchdown passes (30), leading the Lions to their first division title in 30 years.

Goff is a three-time Pro Bowler. The Rams selected him first in the 2016 draft, and he led them to Super Bowl LIII in the 2018 season. His performance fell off the next two seasons, leading to his trade to Detroit, where he has reestablished himself as an elite quarterback.

Still only 29 years old, Goff is entering the final year of the $33.5 million-per-year extension he signed in 2019. He wants to stay long-term in Detroit and is negotiating an extension expected to top $50 million per year. It will create a lot of drama if this deal does not get done before Goff becomes a free agent next March unless he’s hit with a franchise tag.

The most intriguing question surrounding Goff is whether he can lead the Lions to their first Super Bowl.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love
Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) celebrates his touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings on New Year's Eve. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)


Goff and the Lions will have to first hold off the other challengers in the NFC North, led by the Green Bay Packers, who rode a hot Jordan Love in the second half of the 2023 season to a wild-card spot.

A first-round pick in 2020, Love backed up Rodgers for three years before taking the starting reins last season when Rodgers was traded to the Jets. At midseason, Love had played inconsistently, and the Packers were languishing with a 3-6 record. 

A dramatic turnaround ensued: six wins in the last eight regular-season games. Love led the way with 18 touchdown passes and only one interception during that stretch, which included upset wins at Detroit on Thanksgiving and at home against Kansas City.

In the wild-card round, Love led a demolition of the Cowboys in a 48-32 upset, which the Packers led 27-0 in the second quarter. Love threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns with a near-perfect passer rating of 157.2. 

Then, in the divisional playoffs at San Francisco, Love had a chance in the final two minutes to lead another upset, but he threw an interception into double coverage, and the Packers lost, 24-21.

The poised, confident and talented Love enters the 2024 season after ranking second in the league with 32 touchdown passes and seventh in passing yards (4,159) and after posting a 96.1 passer rating. In 2024, he’s under contract at the bargain amount of $13.5 million. The Packers surely will extend him before he hits free agency next March. Like Goff, he should top $50 million per year in his next deal.

Love is only 25 and has a bright future, leading a young, talented team. Will that future include an NFC North title this season and eventual Super Bowl wins like his predecessors Rodgers and Brett Favre had? 


Caleb Williams enters the NFL in the spotlight, under pressure as the top pick in a draft that produced six first-round quarterbacks. Like Young in Carolina last season, Williams will be compared with the other first-round quarterbacks.

He brings arm strength, playmaking and off-schedule ability. He also was sometimes inconsistent, as his three interceptions in a 28-point loss at Notre Dame last season illustrated. 

His overall stats at USC were impressive. He recorded 72 touchdown passes, only 10 interceptions and 21 rushing touchdowns during his two seasons. It’s a mild concern that his stats fell off in a disappointing 7-5 finish last season compared with his Heisman Trophy year in 2022 when he led USC to an 11-3 record. However, his supporting cast was not as good in 2023.

The good news is that Williams has one of the league’s best wide receiver trios to work with after the Chicago Bears drafted Rome Odunze ninth overall to go with excellent veterans DJ Moore and Keenan Allen. Williams also has a quality running back in D’Andre Swift and a fine tight end in Cole Kmet. 

His offensive line must be better than last season's, which ranked 25th with 50 sacks allowed.

The Bears are the only NFL team never to have a 4,000-yard passer. Williams will try to change that, but can he meet the immense expectations, especially in Year 1? It’s another intriguing question for Williams to answer.

Chicago hopes its young quarterback can lead the team to the playoffs after missing out on them the past three years. It’s been 18 years since the team’s last Super Bowl appearance.


I’m projecting J.J. McCarthy to become the Minnesota Vikings’ starter sooner than later — perhaps even on opening day over Sam Darnold. 

The Vikings selected McCarthy 10th overall after he led Michigan to last season’s national championship in an undefeated season. The talented 21-year-old went 27-1 as the Wolverines’ starter the past two years.

The Vikings were determined to draft a rookie quarterback after not meeting Cousins’ contract demands as he left for Atlanta. Minnesota traded up one spot to draft McCarthy: an excellent athlete, a fine passer who can make all the throws and a dangerous runner.

McCarthy is learning the Vikings’ offense under the guidance of two former NFL quarterbacks — Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell and QB coach Josh McCown. O’Connell says he won’t rush the process, but Minnesota fans will be anxious to see McCarthy in action.  

The two knocks on McCarthy were that he needed to bulk up to handle NFL hits and that he wasn’t asked to carry Jim Harbaugh’s run-oriented offense at Michigan. But O’Connell has pointed out that McCarthy made plays when he needed to and was very efficient as a passer or runner in third-and-long situations.

McCarthy has the best supporting cast of the six first-round quarterbacks. The coaching he’ll receive and a skill position group led by Justin Jefferson — the league’s best wide receiver — plus 2023 All-Rookie WR Jordan Addison, Pro Bowl TE T.J. Hockenson and free agent RB signee Aaron Jones will make McCarthy's transition easier. To protect him, the Vikings also have two excellent offensive tackles — Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill.

McCarthy will be the biggest story in Vikings camp this offseason and into training camp as he battles Darnold for the starting job. At some point, McCarthy will be the guy. He’s expected to lead the Vikings into contention in the tough NFC North and back to the playoffs as soon as this season. 

The hope is that McCarthy can lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl soon, something that last happened with Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in the 1976 season.

McCarthy and his fellow NFC North signal callers Goff, Love and Williams are under big-time pressure. It will be exciting to watch it all unfold in 2024 and the years ahead.