Saturday, May 08, 2010

NFC North

As promised today I'd like to take a look at the NFC North in a futile attempt to predict who will win the division and how each team will fair. So let's get started straight off by saying that the Chicago Bears will likely finish bottom of the pile. Of all the things the Bears needed to do in the offseason, of all the players they needed to pick up, the O-line was a priority. Did they fix it? Nope. To think Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor are going to solve all of your many problems is ludicrous. In addition, with new offensive coordinator Mike Martz comes a pass happy system that is precisely the thing that got the Bears in trouble last year as everyone forced the Bears and Cutler to do it all through the air. With no real standout receivers (and no, Devon Hester is NOT a true receiver), all Cutler seemed to be able to do was to throw picks. The Bears are a disaster waiting to happen, a title previously held by the Lions. But I feel that Detroit may be about to unleash an almighty roar. Well, a roar of some sorts. Offensively they'll be better this year. Stafford has shown he has the fire and a competitive streak that you look for in a QB. The addition of Nate Burleson takes some pressure off Calvin Johnson to carry the receiving corps. TE is definitely a strong spot for the Lions this season and although I wasn't overly impressed with the move up to get Jahvid Best, that's a minor gripe. The Lions should be more rounded this year, with a resulting increase in production. Defensively they've bolstered the line but Suh and Vanden Bosch are just the start for the Lions, not the finished product. The increased pass rush will take some of the pressure off the back end but the fact remains that the Lions secondary and Linebacker corps look vulnerable. I'm surprised that they didn't take the opportunity in free agency to get Darren Sharper as a temporary upgrade at the FS spot. Former Giants LB Antonio Pierce should really be a target and is still available. He's very familiar with the 4-3 defense and could provide some much needed leadership on that side of the ball. Meanwhile the Vikings could be in the opposite position defensively. They've added depth with guys like Lito Sheppard and Everson Griffen, but centrally they could be up a certain creek without the fabled paddle. A recent ruling on the case involving the Williams' could see the NFLs planned suspension upheld, which would leave an almighty run-vulnerable gap right up the middle of the Vikings D. And as always, we still don't know what will happen with Brett Favre. Will he comeback? If he does, how mobile will he be? Will he still have the base to launch those rocket shots downfield? And if not, who steps up into the breach? Tavaris Jackson? Sage Rosenfels? Can either of these two produce the offensive magic that the Vikings had last season? If they can sort out their QB situation, it can' be doubted that the Vikings have one of the premier all round offenses in the league today. If it wasn't for the sudden fumble jitters they developed in the NFC Championship game, they would have been headed to the Superbowl instead of the Saints. All in all, I'm not confident all the pieces come together this year. Maybe they'll make the wildcard, but it really depends on how some of the other divisions pan out. Which leaves only one team left ready to ascend to the crown of the NFC North; Green Bay. Towards the end of last season Aaron Rodgers was staring to get the hang of the whole "don't hang on to the ball for ten seconds trying to make the perfect play" thing. The drafting of Bryan Bulaga will certainly help to resolve some of the O-line woes in Green Bay and they still have the best overall receiving corps in football, especially when you include TE. The run game might still need some work but then the Packers are a West Coast Offense type team who will throw 60-65% of the time anyway. Defensively this could be the year that the Packers breakout big time. They converted to a 3-4 scheme last year which was bearing fruit towards the end of the season. In the playoffs it all came apart around the edges, but in the draft and the free agent period afterwards the Packers have set about rebuilding their roster to fit the scheme by bringing on 4 new linebackers and two new DE. If they can make all the pieces fit this could be a great chance for the Packers to make a surge for the 'bowl, bearing in mind that their cornerbacks aren't getting younger and their O-line will need more upgrading in the next draft. Division wise, I think it'll end up looking like this: Packers Vikings Lions Bears Give it another year or two and I honestly think that the Lions might actually have a run at jumping the Vikings. ---- So whose next? It's the glamour division of the NFL, the NFC East. Tomorrow maybe. Until then, have a great day everyone.

No comments: