Wednesday, September 8, 2010

NFC North Preview

1st Place, Green Bay Packers

Offensive Players:
QB Aaron Rogers
RB Ryan Grant
WR Greg Jennings
WR Donald Driver
TE Jermichael Finley
LT Chad Klifton

Defensive Players:
DT B.J. Raji
LB A.J. Hawk
LB Nick Barnett
LB Clay Mathews
CB Charles Woodsen
CB Al Harris
SS Atari Bigby

The Packers are one of the most complete teams in the NFL this year, and they could be on their way to the Super Bowl if they can keep everyone healthy. Aaron Rogers is an elite QB, and he's got a few targets he's more than comfortable with in Jennings, Driver, Finley and James Jones. They also have one of the most underrated backs in the league toting the ball for them in Ryan Grant (2,456 rush yards over last 2 seasons). They also sport a top-3 defense, led by a stacked linebacker group and a sound secondary. Their schedule also works in their favor, as it ranks 22nd toughest in the league. If they can figure out their old friend Brett Favre (0-2 vs. Minesotta in '09) Then they could be in store for a 14-win season as the class of the NFC.

2nd Place, Minnesota Vikings*

Offensive Players:
QB Brett Favre
RB Adrian Peterson
WR Percy Harvin
WR Benard Berrian
TE Visanthe Shiancoe
LT Bryant McKinnie
LG Steve Hutchinson

Defensive Players:
DE Ray Edwards
DT Pat & Kevin Williams
DE Jared Allen
CB Antoine Winfield
CB Cedric Griffen

The Vikings will once again have the ancient, yet amazingly productive, 40 year-old Brett Favre running their offense, but he'll be without his #1 target from a year ago in Sidney Rice for at least the first half of the year. I'm very surprised that the Vikes didn't go after the recently released T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who landed with the Ravens just 2 days after being cut by Seattle. Still though, I think the Vikes will be just fine, as I'm expecting Berrian to step up, and let's not forget that they still have that guy named Peterson running the football for them. Defensively, they bring back pretty much the same, tough unit they finished last season with. They're going to be very tough to run against, and they're hoping their pass defense is just as stingy. The Vikes are on their way to the playoffs again, that's for sure, but without Rice, I don't see them as quite the powerhouse they were a year ago.

3rd Place, Chicago Bears

Offensive Players:
QB Jay Cutler
RB Matt Forte
WR Devin Hester
WR Johnny Knox
TE Greg Olsen
C Olin Kreutz

Defensive Players:
DE Julius Peppers
LB Brian Urlacher
LB Lance Briggs
CB Charles Tillman
CB Zack Bowman
SS Daniel Manning

The Bears should be a big improvement on their 7-9 campaign from last year, but they're in a very tough division, and will need some lucky breaks in order to sneak into the playoffs. I think they're defense will look a lot more like the traditional, tough Bears D with the addition of Peppers, and the return of Urlacher. Offensively, they need Jay Cutler to mature, and cut his mistakes down big time. They also need Matt Forte to return to his 1,238 rush yard rookie year, and I think he's primed to do so. The real wild card for Chicago will be their passing game though, and whether or not some reliable targets will emerge for Cutler to throw to. There are certainly some intriguing options like Hester, Devin Aromashodu and Johnny Knox. I also like young tight-end Greg Olsen. If only they weren't in the same division as Brett Favre and Aaron Rogers.

4th Place, Detroit Lions

Offensive Players:
QB Matthew Stafford
RB Jahvid Best
WR Calvin Johnson
TE Brandon Pettigrew

Defensive Players:
DT Ndamukong Suh (R)
DE Kyle Vanden Bosch
LB Julian Peterson
CB Chris Houston

The Lions have an improving, young offense, led by 2nd year QB Matthew Stafford, 3rd year wideout Calvin Johnson and rookie running back Jahvid Best. Give them 2-3 years, and this bunch could be the next big threesome in the NFL, but they have a ways to go. Defensively, this team is in shambles, especially in their secondary, where they're going to have a helluva time trying to keep opposing aerial attacks in check. They should try and use back Kevin Smith as trade bait in order to try and get some cover help in there, or they'll have a tough time improving on last years 2-win season.

(R) Indicates rookie
* Indicates Wild-Card team

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