Does Jordy Nelson's injury change the complexion of the NFC North?


There is no question the devastating injury to wide receiver Jordy Nelson during Sunday's preseason game is a big loss for the Green Bay Packers offense.

Even Packers coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged as much to his team after news that Nelson would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.

After winning the NFC North for the fourth straight year last season, the Packers fell in the NFC Championship game to Seattle, but have entered 2015 as a favorite to win the Super Bowl.

Does Nelson's injury change any of that?

The message hasn't changed around the Packers.

"It's a tough blow to our football team, but as we spoke in the team meeting, nothing's changed," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told ESPN. "Our goal hasn't changed. When things like this happen, a good system with a good football team, adjustments are made. So we will adjust and keep moving."

ESPN's Rob Demovsky agrees with McCarthy, noting that Green Bay's offense, even without Nelson, is good enough to get them to – and even win – the Super Bowl.

"Running back Eddie Lacy has proved he can handle a significant workload; he's missed only one start in his two-year career. Randall Cobb nearly matched Nelson catch for catch (91 to Nelson's 98) and touchdown for touchdown (12 to Nelson's 13) last season." 

Demovsky notes that defensively, the Packers probably can't finish 23rd in rushing defense like they did last season.

One of the teams with the most to gain without Nelson though is undoubtably the Vikings.

Minnesota last won the division in 2009, but don't forget an Adrian Peterson-led, Christian Ponder-quarterbacked team beat the Packers at the Metrodome during the final game of the 2012 season to get into the playoffs.

But like the Vikings, expectations are also high in Detroit. The Lions are expecting big things with an explosive offense around quarterback Matt Stafford and a rebuilt defense that puts former Raven Haloti Ngata in the middle of a defensive line that used to be anchored by Ndamukong Suh, who left for Miami.

Will either team have enough to overtake the Packers in the division? That remains to be seen, but without Nelson, the gap appears to be somewhat closed.

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