Tag: NFC North

NFL 2015 preview: Can the NFC North stop the Packers?

Predicted Finish:

Green Bay Packers (13-3) (1st seed; NFC Championship Game)

Minnesota Vikings (9-7) (5th seed; NFC Divisional Round)

Detroit Lions (7-9)

Chicago Bears (5-11)

All eyes are on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers this season, but it would be foolish to ignore the up-and-coming Minnesota Vikings or, for that matter, the declining but still dangerous Detroit Lions.

The one thing it is safe to say about the NFC North: The Chicago Bears aren’t going anywhere.

The Packers’ path to the playoffs is relatively easy. They’ll benefit from a comparatively easy schedule and an average-at-best division. The problems for the Packers, however, will be the same as always — Aaron Rodgers health, a lack of depth in the weapons department thanks to Jordy Nelson’s injury, and the same old weaknesses on defense, especially against the read option. The No. 1 seed is very much attainable. The Super Bowl? We’ll see.

If there’s a team to get excited about in the NFC North, it’s undoubtedly Minnesota. Teddy Bridgewater certainly appears to be the premiere quarterback of the crop from two years back, and this year he gets Adrian Peterson to bolster the running game. And by bolster, of course, I mean inject with the kind of rocket fuel that saw him carry the Vikings to the playoffs practically by himself. The Vikings are still young and still have too many holes to be a Super Bowl contender, but they’ll make some noise this year for sure.

The Lions still have Calvin Johnson. They still have Golden Tate, who in Johnson’s absence last year gained over 1,300 yards. They still have Joique Bell, who may not be a household name, but is rapidly becoming a fantasy football hot prospect. And they still have Matthew Stafford, who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards four years in a row, including over 5,000 in 2014.

So why are the Lions being looked at as also-rans? For one, they’re big stick on defense, Ndamukong Suh is gone. Second, the organization has clearly lost confidence in Stafford, and that’s usually a recipe for disaster.  Finally, the Lions haven’t managed to put together back to back playoff season in something like 50 years. Would you be excited about their prospects?

While the Lions have problems, they’re nothing compared to the train wreck that is the Bears. Their quarterback has quit on them. Their defense is non-existent. Is there any good news? There’s no lack of talent at the skill positions, but that’s kind of like having a really cool sound system in a car that’s up on blocks. This team is in need of a total rebuild.

Come playoff time, I have Minnesota advancing a round before losing to division rival Green Bay. The Packers fall short of making the Super Bowl, however, when they run into the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game.

Games to Watch:

Week 2 – Seattle @ Green Bay: This is the Packers’ chance to show that they’ve learned some lessons defensively (yes, defensively) in terms of how to shut down an offense like Seattle’s. This is also the toughest test their offense will face all year

Week 5 – Arizona @ Detroit: This game finishes off a brutal first five for Detroit. Whatever chance they have depends on them coming out of this early maelstrom at or near .500. That would include winning this home game, one of the easier contests they’ll face.

Week 14 –  Washington @ Chicago: Occasionally the NFL offers up a late season game so bad the the only reason to watch it is to laugh. Don’t be surprised if this one is for the first overall draft pick.

Week 16 – New York Giants @ Minnesota: This is one of a handful of crucial games against NFC contenders that the Vikings need to win to be a playoff team.

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Which QB Can Stay Healthy? NFC North 2014 Preview

Quarterback health is a big issue for the Bears and Packers who are in contention to win this division, while the bottom half both feature teams in a transition phase.

The Bears offense was great last year, even after Jay Cutler got hurt, but Chicago needs Cutler healthy to maintain their offense performance this year as backup Josh McCown is gone.

On defense, I’m looking for an improved performance (in particular Jared Allen should have a good year as NFC North transplants seem to come up big), although the Bears defense was so bad last season they almost can’t help but be better.

On paper, the Green Bay Packers are probably the best team in this division but there are several red flags for Green Bay that have me putting the second.  Aaron Rodgers is one of the four elite QBs in football, and the Packers have the best skill position talent in the division, but the line is suspect – it’s what got Rodgers hurt last year, which could hold the offense back, in particular RB Eddie Lacy, a breakout star.

On defense, I don’t like Green Bay’s personnel OR their coaching – the Packers are inept at making adjustments.  Losing BJ Raji for the season really hurts Green Bay, who were already very susceptible to the run.

It wouldn’t shock me if the Detroit Lions completely turn themselves around this season, even though I have them missing the cut.

Detroit is hoping that a talented but badly mistake prone offense can be cured with a coaching change.  I’m not so sure, but I do know that Calvin Johnson alone is worth the price of admission.

On defense, the change is likely to be more pronounced, as the Lions will scrap the idiotic wide 9 in favor of a 3-4/4-3 hybrid scheme.  Detroit has a great front 7, but the secondary remains a major weakness and that’s something that scheme alone won’t fix.

You have to wonder how long Adrian Peterson can continue to be an elite back or, more specifically, whether he can do it long enough for Teddy Bridgewater to take over as Minnesota’s starting quarterback.  That figures to happen sometime during this season, as Matt Cassel is just a plug-in starter and the Vikings will not be competitive this year or probably next year either.

Can AP still dominate three years from now?  You have to wonder, but that’s how long it will take Minnesota to develop Bridgewater, replenish the skill positions and rebuild the defense.   Sadly, the Vikings are a candidate for worst team in the league – only Peterson elevates them above that.

Predicted Finish:

Chicago Bears (10-6) (3rd seed; NFC Divisional Round)

Green Bay Packers (9-7)

Detroit Lions (7-9)

Minnesota Vikings (4-12)

Games to Watch:

Week 1 – NY Giants @Detroit:  If this is indeed a new-look Detroit Lions team, then winning the opener, at home, against a Giants team looking to find itself, would seem to be a must.

Week 10- Chicago @Green Bay:  The Bears come off their bye week to showdown with the Pack.  After this, 5 of their last 7 are at home, so winning this one could be a clincher.

Week 11 – Philadelphia @Green Bay:  The Packers playoff chances will depend on their two games with Chicago and a handful of NFC showdowns like this one with fellow bubble team the Eagles.

Week 11 –  Minnesota @Chicago:  If I were looking for a spot to break in my rookie QB, it would be probably be here, after the bye week, on the road, against a subpar defense.

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The NFC North is 2nd best division in the NFL

If the NFC West isn’t the best division, then it’s the North, with four teams that could all make a playoff run (and one or two with bigger ambitions than that).

Predicted Finish

Chicago Bears (10-6) (3rd seed; NFC Divisional Round)

Detroit Lions (10-6) (6th seed; NFC Wildcard Round)

Green Bay Packers (9-7)

Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

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NFC North Preview 2013

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