Monday, August 06, 2012

NFC North 2012


Yes, well, perhaps not quite the fanfare I'd anticipated. Anyway, finally I am back to writing this blog as the football season slowly begins to lurch into action with the Hall of Fame Game tonight between the Cardinals and Dog the Bounty Hunters new favourite team, the Saints. So it's only appropriate that I pick this day to jump back on the saddle and actually produce a meaningful post.

I'm not sure whether the time away has been good or not. I was pretty burned out on football, just sick and tired of watching game after game of draftees in College. But at the same time I kind of regret spending so much time away, as I've really not followed football at all during the off season. I forgot that Raheem Morris had been fired from the Buccaneers for example. Football has lost some of it's lustre, but I'm hoping that getting back to the meat of football will bring that back.

I'm going to ease myself in today by taking a quick look at the NFC North and how I think the teams will get on. Begin!

Chicago Bears,
Every year, one team takes a big leap forward. This year I think it's going to be the Bears. If I was a betting man, which I'm not ever since I worked in the industry and saw how much money was being made, I would take the Bears for the NFC North, with a decent shot at winning the whole thing.

Yes. The Bears could win the Super Bowl.

Why? Because last year the only thing that really held back the Bears was their passing game and a big chunk of that was down to poor protection and a lack of any decent receivers. Enter Gabe Carimi onto the offensive line and Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to the receiver corps. I really think that could make a big difference this year.

When you consider as well that the Bears have added depth at running back to support Matt Forte, the fact that they have Forte, and the fact that they've put some more speed and talent on defense, I personally think that has made them a formidable prospect for 2012. Jay Cutler is still a question mark, but with more time in the pocket and better receivers to throw to, a more rounded running game to ease the pressure, and a play making defense, things couldn't look better for him this year.

Detroit Lions,
Simply put, the Lions need their running game to improve this year. Calvin Johnson is one man, not a team, and you can't expect him to carry everyone else. The defense looks as impressive as it did last year on the defensive line, while still looking just as terrible as it did last year in every other aspect.

It really does come down to whether Mikel Leshoure can live up to his promise that was high before he missed his rookie season with an injury, and whether Kevin Smith can survive more than a few games without breaking or tearing something, and whether Jahvid Best can recover from probably the worlds longest concussion (seeing a pattern here?). Oh, and whether Joique Bell can be more than just a journeyman running back.

If the Lions can pick up the pace on the ground it might help them take some pressure off the passing game and heaven forbid they might actually hold onto a lead every once in a while. Don't count on it, because their linebacking and secondary corps wont stand up to the pace. I feel sorry for Stephen Tulloch, he deserves better.

Green Bay Packers,
Ryan Grant is still lingering in free agency. Presumably the Packers are waiting on him and hoping to resign him on the cheap. That's a hell of a gamble if that's the case because their only other option is John Kuhn, who still hasn't recovered fully from his knee injury last year. Without Kuhn, the Packers run game hasn't got a lot going for it.

Which may seem a silly thing to worry about because the Packers are... well, they're the Packers. They throw to win. But looking at their offensive line I see the excellent Byran Bulaga, I see an injured Derek Sherrod, and then I look at the rest of the line and go "oh dear". Aaron Rodgers has built a reputation as a mobile quarterback and I think this year he's really going to have to earn that reputation.

Then I look at the linebackers and I start to worry even more, partly due to injuries. I'm just not sure where the Packers are going to generate pressure from? The Clay Matthews game has been figured out for the most part so he really needs to come back strong and reassert himself this season. The secondary is good, if a little vulnerable deep.

There's just something about the Packers that I can't put my finger on. It's like looking at a cricket ball that's lots some of its shine; it still has a solid core, but it just doesn't have the same pace or pose the same threat that it used to. I think they'll do ok, but I think the Bears have their number this year.

Minnesota Vikings,
With Adrian Peterson having bitten off more than he can chew, or possibly just bitten off something he shouldn't chew, or some humorous analogy that sounded good in my head but is lost now, that puts the Vikings in a bit of a spot.

This is supposed to be the year of Christian Ponder. Except he just lost his franchise running back who would otherwise have served to keep defenses honest. Now, I happen to like some of the backups like Matt Asiata and Lex Hilliard, but they're certainly not Peterson, and until they prove themselves (presuming they're given the chance) nobody is going to treat them as a major threat.

And then when Peterson does return? Normally you would look at that and say "wow, Peterson is back!". Except the Vikings have consistently under utilised his skills in recent years, which makes me wonder just how much of an impact you can expect him to really make, at least until they start seeing him as the key weapon on offense.

Now in the favour of young Ponder is the fact that he's a good young quarterback and also that he has some pretty nifty receivers in Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins. He also has Matt Kalil added to his O-line. Other than that though....?

The defense still looks suspect. Jared Allen will probably have a few fun games to push up his sack tally and hopefully we'll see some more out of guys like Everson Griffin and Christian Ballard, but don't hold your breath. I just don't think the Vikings have enough quality in depth to seriously challenge this year.

And that, boom, is that. Quicker than I thought.

Next up is the NFC East and it's at this point that I only just found out about Andy Reids son, who was found dead in his room at the Eagles training camp. Personally I'm not going to get into that whole speculation thing. It's a tragic time for Coach Reid and there are no good words to say at a time like this, nothing that can really make a difference or properly express peoples sorrow.

I wish him and his family well.

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