Ranking the Most Optimistic Fanbases in the NFC North
The NFC North is home to two of the oldest and most traditional franchises in the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
The Packers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, while the Bears may find themselves in the race for the No. 1 pick in next spring's draft. As a result, the fanbases of the two teams are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Minnesota Vikings have had several ordinary seasons, but year two of the Mike Zimmer regime appears to have the team moving in the right direction, and fans have regained their hope. On the other hand, a slow start by the Detroit Lions has fans thinking last year's playoff appearance was nothing but a mirage.
In this piece, we compare the optimism level of the fanbases of the four teams in the NFC North.
Warning: Links to Reddit contain NSFW language.
4. Chicago Bears
When the Bears decided to part company with Lovie Smith at the end of the 2012 season, there was a sigh of relief among Chicago fans.
They had grown tired of Smith's teams that featured a nasty and responsible defense along with a boring and ineffective offense. Little did they know the changes made would turn their team into a joke.
In the dunder-headed two-year regime of Phil Emery and Marc Trestman, the Bears lost their defensive swagger, and the offense was mistake-prone and ineffective.
The Bears cleaned house after the 2014 season and brought in an untested general manager in Ryan Pace and veteran head coach John Fox.
While Fox is a major upgrade over Trestman, the Bears need more talented players. A lot of them.
According to ESPN Chicago (AM 1000) talk show host Jonathan Hood, Bears fans have some patience and reason for hope because Emery and Trestman are gone.
"Because of the ineptitude of the Trestman-Emery era, I believe Bears fans are being patient with John Fox and the new staff," Hood told Bleacher Report in an interview. "The prevailing theme from callers on my show is: 'We have people in place that will turn this around.' Time will tell."
3. Detroit Lions
There was a legitimate feeling of hope with long-suffering Detroit Lions fans in 2014, as the team made the playoffs with an 11-5 record and pushed the Dallas Cowboys to the limit before falling in the NFC Wild Card Round.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a fine year, as he threw for 4,212 yards with a respectable 22-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. At the same time, the Lions had developed one of the nastiest and most physical defenses in the league.
But even with the positive play and several dominant wins, there was a storm cloud looming. Defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley were both facing free agency, and there was a strong possibility neither would return in 2015.
That feeling became reality at the start of the free-agent signing period, as Suh signed with the Miami Dolphins, and Fairley inked a deal with the St. Louis Rams.
While there was still plenty of talent on hand—Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate—the good feeling surrounding the team disappeared.
After falling to the Denver Broncos in Week 3, the Lions have started the season 0-3 and have the look of a team that will not be able to compete. Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com wrote an 0-5 start is a legitimate possibility and that the good feelings that surrounded the team last year are gone.
Lions fans on Reddit are particularly displeased with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and the team's game plan.
Pessimism is a way of life for Lions fans, and last year's optimism was just a blip that has disappeared from the radar screen.
2. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings took a big step up the ladder last year when they went 7-9 in Mike Zimmer's first year as head coach, and they played respectable football even though Adrian Peterson was not eligible to play in 15 of the team's 16 games.
The Vikings are off to a 2-1 start, and the arrow is pointing up. However, Vikings fans are taking a wait-and-see attitude about their team, as indicated by this Reddit stream.
That seems to make sense because the two victories (over the Lions and Chargers) are both over teams with losing records. However, Zimmer is one of the best defensive minds in the game, Peterson is still a game-changing running back, and Teddy Bridgewater has the potential to be a solid quarterback even though he does not have great arm strength.
The Vikings will get tested at Denver in Week 4 and by Kansas City in Week 6, and hopeful fans may become legitimately optimistic after those games if the Vikings can continue their winning ways.
1. Green Bay Packers
There's little doubt Green Bay fans have more optimism about their team than any of the other NFC North fans have about their teams.
The Packers have the best quarterback in football in Aaron Rodgers, and they know their team is driven to get back to the Super Bowl after its gut-wrenching defeat in the NFC Championship Game last January.
However, Packers fans know there are several potential pitfalls along the way. They were 12-4 last year and barely got by the Cowboys in the playoffs before losing to Seattle with the Super Bowl on the line.
They know their team has weaknesses, and this Reddit thread indicates that while there is plenty of optimism, the fans are not blind to the team's issues.
Still, there is little doubt the Packers are the best team in the division and have a great chance to play deep into the postseason once again.