Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NFC North Prospects

Starting as ever in alphabetical order with.... Chicago Bears: I can't wait for the Bears to fall flat on their big, stupid faces. Potentially the worst team in the NFC North heading into 2010, somehow the Bears managed to conjure up the feigned reality that they're a good team and made it to the playoffs. In fact, it was worse. They beat the Seahawks (party time) to make it to the NFC Championship game. God I hate the Bears so much right now. Ok, ok, fair play to them. They beat those who were put in front of them and they turned a roster nightmare into a faint dream of glory. Credit to all involved. But now I want to see the wheels fall off the wagon and watch it go careening into a nearby valley, before exploding Hollywood style even though it's made of wood. Where was I going with that? I don't know, I just got carried awa with the thought of Jay Cutler on fire. So, free agency then. QB Caleb Haine is on the restricted list along with Devin aroma-sha-what's-his-name. Todd Collins is on the unrestricted list. That poses the tantalising question of whether Cutler will be the sole survivor at QB for the Bears in 2011. Lot of people talking about Haine's performance, so it wouldn't be a complete surprise if he was plucked from under their noses. Other than that, the Bears don't come off too badly from free agency at all. They keep pretty much all of their big name guys under contract. So yes, in other words the Bears roster will be as bad as it was last year!! (chortle, chortle). Honestly. People make a habit of being very middle of the road, non committal when talking about teams. Certainly the media has a vested interest in not hammering any one team too hard, lest they find themselves receiving a cool reception from said organisation in the future. But I'm a realist. The Bears suck. They are just horrible. I don't care if they made the NFC Championship game. They did it by beating the Seahawks. They should have lost to the Lions in the regular season, THE LIONS, but for the horror that is the "process of making the catch" rule. Luck plays its part in football, and the Bears rode theirs all the damn way. Picking 29th overall the Bears will be looking at their roster in horror. Outside of defensive linemen and maybe running back, they could use a brand new player at just about every position, including quarterback. Honestly, I really don't think people appreciate just how badly the Bears suck. As for 2011. Who knows? They should have sunk like a lead balloon in 2010, but somehow they didn't. Their luck may just extend to 2011. But at a guess I'd say they're about to take a tumble. I really hope so. I can't stand listening to people talking about them like they're the second coming of the '85 Bears. If their wagon doesn't ride off the cliff, I may just jump myself. Detroit Lions: Ahh the Lions. God bless them and their annual attempt to matter. Not win games. But just to matter, to make a show of things, just to prove that they're not a complete walk over. 2011 could be the year. I know, I know, I said the same thing about them at the start of the 2010 season. But this is different. Kind of. Another year in the system for the players. A core of rookies and veterans who have shown a lot of potential. And another round of draft picks to come. In free agency the Lions really wont miss out on much. DE Cliff Avril is up for restricted free agency, but other than that the Lions front office should be relatively happy with what they see. That means they can look forward to the draft, in which they pick 13th overall. Linebacker and secondary are likely to be the two main areas they go for, depending on what pick ups they make in free agency. If I remember correctly the free agent market for secondary guys is a little thin this year, so the draft will likely be the way forward. Luckily for the Lions, there are some attractive looking prospects on the board. So how does this translate into the win/loss column for the 2011 Lions? I think they'll do fine. The Bears will likely bomb out (I have my fingers crossed, trust me) and the Vikings are going back to the drawing board, so there is an opportunity to be had to pick up divisional wins. The Lions have a solid offense, it's just that D that needs a good kick up the arse. Green Bay Packers: They won the Super Bowl. Can't really say more about their 2010 season than that. More to the point, they did it well, with some great wins under adversity along the way. The fact that they were being ravaged by injury on a near constant basis says a lot about the strength and depth of this side. Free agency could be a problem though. Atari Bigby, Daryn Colledge, Mason Crosby (the kicker), Korey Hall, Brandon Jackson, Cullen Jenkins, James Jones and John Kuhn will all hit the market. That's a lot of very good (and in many cases under rated) players who could potentially be off for a big(ish) pay day somewhere else. Luckily for the Packers though, pretty much all of those positions are covered more than enough. That's just how good the Packers have been at drafting and playing the free agent market in recent years. If you want to talk dynasties for the 20-teens, Green Bay is looking like the most realistic candidate. And while they may be picking 32nd in the draft, that's of little concern. The Packers have two key advantages a) their excellent eye for talent and b) the fact that they have little need to reach out and grab anyone. They can just stock talent this year. It's an enviable position to be in. More to the point, 2011 could be even better than 2010 for the Packers. The chance is begging for them to storm a weakened division. They finally have the quality in depth to be able to pull off a 13 or 14 win season and still go on to win the big one again. Of course by saying all of this, I've naturally now doomed the Packers to fail this season. Bring on the 49ers then! (yeah, I'll go and put that one back in the dream box). Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have a mysterious allure about them. Just like the Cowboys, you can't help but be sucked in by their story, watching and waiting for them to fail miserably and go ploughing head first into the turf. Much like they did in 2010! (boom, right there!). 2011 promises a repeat show. Leslie Frazier and his new Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers coach Mike Singletary (enjoy that one fellas) will be trying to pick up the pieces of the post Brett Favre era. It's also going to be the post Tavaris Jackson era. And the post Sidney Rice era. And the post Pat Williams era. And the post Ryan Longwell era. And the post Hank Baskett era (about which I'm sure the Vikings are gutted). Also on the way out (at least for now) is Ryan Cook, Ray Edwards (hot commodity in the making), Fred Evans, Ben Leber, Greg Lewis, Patrick Ramsey and Lito Sheppard. In short, the ship is sinking and these are the lucky ones who will get out before she cracks her back. Chad Greenway will, sadly for him at least, be sucked under the waves by the ship (interesting fact; this is actually a myth. Sinking ships don't suck people down from the surface. There you go). Greenway is set for a franchise tagging that will tie him down to the team for another year. That means he gets the joy of watching Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar battle it out for the starting QB spot. This is not helped by the lack of quality receivers. Percy Harvin will still be around, but Greg Camarillo and Bernard Berrian won't be striking fear into peoples hearts any time soon, though I do like Camarillo as a number 3 type guy playing underneath. The O-line will remain largely unchanged, but the Vikings D-line just got a lot skinnier, in more ways than one. The linebacking corps looks anaemic. At least the secondary isn't too bad. But this is definitely not going to be the year to take the Vikings D in fantasy football. Not even with the last pick. Just abstain from having a defense, you'll probably be better off. In the draft the Vikings pick at 12. The fact that they're picking before Detroit should serve to emphasise how dire their situation is. Defense will be the order of the day, but at some point they need a QB. Honestly though, I'm not sure there is anybody in the draft who is a standout, guaranteed starter, so taking a promising kid in the later rounds may be the best approach, then running with Webb and Bomar to give them a chance to prove their worth. Because (yeah I know) to be honest, I see 2011 as a year of rebuilding in Minnesota. Unless Leslie Frazier has the Lombardi touch, I really can't see him winning many games this year. As always in these situations, you just have to hope that a) he doesn't make things worse than they already are and b) people in Minnesota have a bit of patience. Things aren't going to get much better for the Vikings any time soon. Right then, that's your entire NFC preview for free agency and the draft. Well, in a way. Speaking of the latter, the combine kicks off tomorrow (technically today) and barring some kind of absurd miracle I will probably miss the vast majority of it. Which is a pain in the butt to say the least, as I sadly derive quite a bit of pleasure from watching the players perform the drills, complaining about the bench press, nodding approvingly at displays of good footwork, tutting discouragingly when a player messes up and screaming blue bloody murder at the monitor due to the NFL Networks arse about face coverage, which is usually about as well edited and smooth as a childs first home video. Ahh, those were the days.

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