Monday, September 5, 2011

2011 NFC North Preview

This is another division that is very tightly knit. The reigning Super Bowl champs stand supreme, but they have a young, up-and-coming team on their heals and some solid, veteran led squads also hungry for playoff football:

Green Bay Packers, 1st Place

: QB Aaron Rogers, RB Ryan Grant, RB James Starks, WR Gregg Jennings, TE Jermichael Finely, RT Bryan Balugam

Defense: NT B.J. Raji, LB Clay Mathews, LB A.J. Hawk, LB Desmond Bishop, CB Charles Woodson, FS Nick Collins, CB Tramon Williams

The reigning champs are another one of those balanced teams that can beat you in a number of ways. The number one way though is with Aaron Rogers and his weapons, Jennings, Driver and Finley, among others. Then we get to their defense, that's just as strong as it was for last years super bowl run, though another huge year out of Charles Woodsen may not be in the cards. Still, they have enough talent on both sides to make the playoffs and should win this division so long as Rogers is healthy.
Record: 12-4


Detroit Lions, 2nd Place

Offense: QB Matthew Stafford, RB Jahvid Best, WR Calvin Johnson, TE Brandon Pettigrew, WR Nate Burleson, LT Jeff Backus

Defense: DT Ndamukong Suh, DE Cliff Avril, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, LB Stephen Tuloch, CB Eric Wright

The Lions have an offense built to keep up with anyone. As long as Stafford stays healthy, he'll utilize the heck out of his excellent targets like Johnson, Best, Burleson and Pettigrew. The one area they need to solidify and figure out is their running game. Best is a game-breaker and they want him carrying at least 12-15 times per week, but he's not an everydown guy and will break down. They drafted a big back to compliment him, then he got hurt, so I wouldn't put it past the Lions to be searching for a bigger-sized power-back (Chester Taylor just got swooped up but Larry Johnson may not be a bad option).
Record: 10-6


Minnesotta Vikings, 3rd Place

Offense: QB Donovan McNabb, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Percy Harvin, TE Kyle Rudolph, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, LG Steve Hutchinson

Defense: DT Kevin Williams, DE Jared Allen, LB E.J. Henderson, LB Chad Greenway, CB Antoine Winfield

A lot of people are counting the Vikes out this year because of all the turnover, but I'll tell you this; Donovan McNabb is hungry, and he has more than a few weapons at his disposal. He's got two very good tight-ends and a couple solid wideouts, but the focus on the offense run through Peterson and AP is the ultimate back who could go for 1,300 yards/12 TD's in his sleep and should have his most prolific receiving year with McNabb behind center. Their defense is solid, not great, but strong enough to win if their offense puts up points.
Record: 8-8


Chicago Bears, 4th Place

Offense: QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, WR Roy Williams, WR Johnny Knox, T Gabe Carimi (R)

Defense: DE Julius Peppers, LB Lance Briggs, LB Brian Urlacher, FS Chris Harris, CB Charles Tillman

Plenty of people like the Bears as high as 2 in this division behind Green Bay, but I think they have too many holes, and I just don't think Jay Cutler is a winner. I like Matt Forte, and maybe with Chester Taylor gone, they'll let him run the ball 275+ times and get 1,200 yards. He's a beast in the passing game too. Their recieving corps is a mess though. They demoted Knox, who was their top guy last season, for the Williams, who they're hoping regains his 2007 form when he dominated under Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz's offense. Unless their receiving steps up in a big way and Cutler finds some clutch bone in his body, this team again is all about their defense.
Record: 7-9

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