NFC North Preview

NORTH

The entire season rests on the WD-40’d ankle of a 41 year old man. Not exactly an ideal position to be in but Minnesota made this bed and now it’s time to sleep in it. We’ll see if that sleep yields another dream season, or one of nightmares. I’m inclined to believe nightmares are ahead. Favre is an unbelievable talent, we haven’t seen anything like him and probably never will, but his body is breaking down. Entropy happens. He already had to be dragged off of his farm by his three best friends, not to mention he’s already needed a lubrication injection before just 2 series of a preseason game. I believe Favre will be a far cry from his career year last season and I fully expect his consecutive games streak to end this year. However, Adrian Peterson is still a monster. With Sidney Rice missing at least 6 games coupled with the unpredictability of Percy Harvin’s migraines, their season rests on Adrian Peterson’s shoulders (and in his suddenly suspect hands). If Favre does go down and they’re fortunate enough for it to be after week 13 they might be able to cope so long as he returns for the playoffs. With the Vikings shipping off Rosenfels they’ll be relying on Tarvaris Jackson to win them games at some point this season. We all saw how well that worked out pre-Favre.(9-7 w/o Favre; 11-5 w/ Favre)

Aaron Rodgers makes the Packers look smarter and smarter with each touchdown pass. Considering how many touchdown passes he’s thrown, I’m convinced their entire front office is full of Rhodes Scholars. Aaron Rodgers and this receiving corp is headed for a record breaking season. If the line protects Rodgers and he continues to get the ball out of his hand quickly he’ll force himself into any conversation concerning Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees. Ryan Grant is a top 5 back when healthy and compliments the passing game perfectly. It will be the challenge of every defense to keep this team under 28 points. With teams being forced to pass to stay in the game, the Packers defense is athletic enough to challenge for the league lead in both sacks and interceptions. Keeping Rodgers on the sidelines is the best way to beat the Packers, however, not many teams will be capable of doing so. (13-3)

Player To Watch: Jermichael Finley. His size and athleticism is a matchup nightmare no matter where you put him on the field. And that’s part of the problem, Green bay can line him up anywhere. He’s nearly an impossible cover in the red zone and can also run the TE seam route as good as any in the league. He may end the year as the most productive TE in the league.

For a team that was pretty abysmal last year the scheduling gods certainly showed them no mercy. The Lions start their season with 3 division rivals in their first 4 games, all on the road. But these division games are only part of the problem when factoring in their out of division opponents. The Lions will be forced to try and win games in Dallas and in New York versus the Giants. They’ll also host New England and the New York Jets at Ford Field. For a 2-14 team last season you can’t feel confident about Detroit winning any of these matchups. However, I do appreciate the young nucleus they’ve put together. Frequent top 10 picks help, but they haven’t always drafted well so I’ll give them some credit. Though I have good feelings about the futures of Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best, and Ndamukong Suh…..their time isn’t now. They’ll certainly improve from last year but that schedule is very discouraging. (5-11)

Player To Watch: Ndamukong Suh. I appreciate his relentless abuse of quarterbacks. It may trim his salary in half due to fines but I like the throwback ways of showing true disdain for your opponent. His Jake Delhomme shot put toss ranked really high on my list of preseason top plays.

I expect Chicago to take a step back. Yes Urlacher is healthy, Peppers will help, and Tommie Harris is supposedly going to play like Tommie Harris again but my concern is the other side of the ball. In this division they’ll need to score points to compete and that’s what worries me. Mike Martz is a good offensive coordinator but he has some very faulty tools to work with. The offensive line has more holes than Plaxico Burress’ thigh, Jay Cutler enjoys throwing to the other team, and their wide receivers  are average at best. Hester and Knox have blazing speed but their route running is far from crisp. Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt made the offense work because they ran terrific routes. Matt Forte should be effective in the Marshall Faulk role and hopefully improve upon his mediocre numbers from last year. Still, add inconsistent route running with a QB known for accuracy problems and matadors for offensive linemen and what do you get? (8-8)

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