Junior D’s NFL Preview: NFC North

by Junior D on August 17, 2013 · 0 comments

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The NFC North, on paper, looks very good. In 2012, every team in the NFC North was good except for the Detroit Lions. They unexpectedly stunk up this division by going 4-12. Unlike the AFC East, every team in this division has a chance at making the playoffs. The fans of any team in the NFC North have high expectations and have a lot to look forward to in 2013. This should be the tightest division going into the final stretch in December unless the Lions have a repeat performance of 2012. Either way, these teams will be fun to watch.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2012 Record: 10-6)

When you think of the Minnesota Vikings one name comes to mind…Adrian Peterson. He was Minnesota’s entire offense in 2012. He rushed for an almost record 2,097 yards with 12 TDs after coming off of major reconstructive knee surgery during 2011…and people question baseball players?! Anyway, outside of Peterson, the Vikings were a pretty average football team in 2012. They lost some players in the off-season but they picked up a few guys and had a very good draft.

The Vikes lost Percy Harvin but they got a first round pick for him. Harvin was more of a headache in Minnesota so I look at it as addition by subtraction. They picked up Greg Jennings (Green Bay) and they added Cordarelle Patterson with one of their 1st round picks to help Christian Ponder improve to become the mediocre quarterback that we all know he is. The offensive line looks good from what I’ve seen in the pre season games, so Adrian should be able to run wild again this season. In case the mediocre Ponder doesn’t work out they picked up the mediocre Matt Cassel (Kansas City). The offense looks good but in a passing league you need a good quarterback not a bunch of pretenders hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. With Peterson running the ball you should rank higher than 31st in passing offense…it’s called play action. If you don’t have a QB worth anything then it’s hard to improve in the passing game.

The Vikings defense was average, at best, last season. They ranked 16th overall, they were pretty stingy against the run but anyone could throw the ball on them. They ranked 24th against the pass…so, for the record, they couldn’t throw the ball and they couldn’t stop anyone from throwing the ball. That spells disaster in a division with Matt Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler. They did improve their garbage secondary by adding some beef up front. Nothing hides a crappy secondary like a strong front seven. They drafted Sherrif Floyd to bolster their defensive line, clog the middle and take some pressure off of Jared Allen. They also added Xavier Rhodes (CB) to help their awful secondary. This will be huge for the defense if Rhodes can play like he did at Florida State. We’ll see if it all works out.

The Vikings are looking to continue winning and making the playoffs but I don’t think it’s going to happen this season unless Ponder decides that he wants to stop being a bad quarterback. This team will only go as far as Adrian Peterson will take them…I just don’t think he can put the entire team on his shoulders like he did last year. That’s asking way too much of him. I think 2014 will be the breakout season for the Vikings, provided they get a better quarterback.

2013 Prediction: 9-7

DETROIT LIONS (2012 Record: 4-12)

The Lions were supposed to be contenders last year but they laid an egg instead. Their defense was supposed to be great but they ended up being average all the way around. Throw in some suspensions and distractions and that was the Lions defense in a nutshell. For a team that went 10-6 and made the playoffs the year before, the Lions looked like the Lions of old in 2012.

The passing game wasn’t an issue for the Lions last season…on paper. They have a top tier quarterback, the best WR in the NFL and with that you get the 2nd overall passing offense in the league. Unfortunately, Matt Stafford’s only target is Calvin Johnson. Stafford threw 21 INTs and only 20 TDs in 2012…yes, that would be a 52% decrease in TDs from 2011 when Stafford threw 41 TDs. They ranked 23rd in rushing offense and couldn’t score once they got inside the 5 yard line. They’ve lost RB Kevin Smith, WR Titus Young, WR Kassim Osgood, TE Will Heller, OT Jeff Backus, OT Gosder Cherilus and G Stephen Peterman on the offensive side alone. They replaced all that with RB Reggie Bush, G Leroy Harris and G Jake Scott…something doesn’t look right. I guess we can watch Stafford getting planted into the ground for another 16 weeks this season. Reggie Bush won’t help either…no RB can help the Lions if there is no one there to block.

The defense actually ranked better than they played last season. Coming into 2013 they lost 9 players on the defensive side of the ball…DE Cliff Avril, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE Lawrence Jackson, DT Corey Williams, DT Sammie Lee Hill, DT Andre Fluellen, OLB Justin Durant, CB Jacob Lacey and CB Drayton Florence. How did the Lions replace them? They brought in DE Israel Idonije, DE/DT Jason Jones, DT C.J. Mosley and S Glover Quin while adding DE Ezekiel Ansah, CB Darius Slay and DE Devin Taylor in the draft. It looks like another great season of Ndamukong Suh kicking people in the nuts, getting suspended and Nick Fairley getting hurt and missing half of the season. Are you excited yet Lions fans? This defense ranked 13th overall last season and they have not gotten any better. I would say, with the players they have, they will regress in 2013.

Everything I’ve seen and read from the “experts” say that the Lions are going to make noise in 2013. They say that they will have a running game and a good defense. I’ve seen this song and dance before. I’m not buying what they’re selling. I see another season of ups, downs, turnovers and injuries. I wish I had better news for the Lions fans out there. My only advice is to call a Browns fan and laugh at their misery.

2013 Prediction: 7-9

CHICAGO BEARS (2012 Record: 10-6)

The Bears seemed like a team destined to go all the way last year. They looked good as they started the season 7-1 but Bears fans were bitterly disappointed as they saw their team go 3-5 down the stretch and miss the playoffs. They were destroyed by injuries on both sides of the ball and never regained the swagger or consistency they had in the first half of the season.

I’ve been very tough on Jay Cutler throughout the years and last year was no different. Even though I’m not a fan of players that get upset with the media when they’re called out for comments they’ve made, I felt a little bad for Cutler. His offensive line was worse than Matt Stafford’s. He suffered his 6th concussion and had a slew of other injuries due to the lack of protection up front. Matt Forte, Lance Louis and Devin Hester were also part of the injury crew. Also, Brandon Marshall was the only weapon to speak of in the passing game. They had no depth at WR and that hasn’t changed heading into 2013. They lost WR Johnny Knox, TE Kellen Davis, TE Matt Spaeth, G Gabe Carimi, G Chilo Rachal, G Lance Louis and C Chris Spencer in the off-season. They replaced them with an overpriced Jermon Bushrod, a very good TE in Martellus Bennett and they reached in the draft for G Kyle Long in the first round. If Long and Bushrod can actually work out then Cutler might have a chance but, with that said, who knows which Cutler you’re going to get. He could throw 6 INTs per game, 6 TDs per game or both. We’ll also see how new head coach Mark Trestman handles this team and if they buy into his philosophy.

The defense was crushed by injuries last season as well which is another reason for the horrible second half of the season. Despite the injuries, they actually finished 5th overall and 8th in both rush and pass defense. They had some losses in the off-season but none more notable than Brian Urlacher. After not coming to terms with the front office he decided to wait for the phone to ring and that didn’t happen either. He finally settled on announcing his retirement. They brought in some defensive help as well by adding DE Kyle Moore, DE Turk McBride, DT Sedrick Ellis, DT Andre Fluellen, OLB James Anderson and S Tom Zbikowski. They also drafted ILB Jon Bostic who will take over for the retired Urlacher. When it comes to defense there are two teams you can always bet on…the Steelers and the Chicago Bears. They should be fine heading into 2013.

Everything looks okay with the Bears. I don’t see them taking huge strides in 2013 but I don’t see them regressing either. Their biggest concern is keeping Jay Cutler off the ground. If they can do that and do better than their 29th ranked passing offense then they might have a better record this season. I don’t see them going to the Super Bowl but I do see them making a run at the playoffs.

2013 Prediction: 10-6

GREEN BAY PACKERS (2012 Record: 11-5)

What I like about the Packers is that they didn’t apologize for not having a running game, they just kept winning. Their defense wasn’t good last year either, which means that all of their success fell on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers in 2012. With only a few free agent additions in the off-season, Green Bay tried to get better mainly through the draft. We’ll see if their rookie draft class can give Rodgers a running game and take a little pressure off of him.

Let’s face it; Aaron Rodgers carried the Green Bay Packers in 2012. They didn’t have a running game (they ranked 20th in rushing offense) and their offensive linemen were turnstiles. Rodgers was on the run during most of last season. He was sacked 51 times in 2012…that should never happen. They addressed some needs on the offensive line during the draft and are moving a few guys around to make that unit better than last year. They also drafted RB Eddie Lacy, who fell in the draft, in an attempt to give Rodgers a running game. Lacy is a powerful runner who should be a very good RB in the NFL. They also drafted RB Johnathan Franklin, from UCLA, as insurance in case Lacy gets injured. Even though Greg Jennings took the money grab in Minnesota and Donald Driver is no longer there, Rodgers will still have Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb to throw to. Jennings and Driver won’t be missed, especially since they both decided to run their mouths as soon as they left town…sorry Aaron Rodgers yelled at you guys for running the wrong routes. Go cry to someone who cares and dry your tears with the Super Bowl ring that Rodgers won for you.

The Packers defense needs to improve in 2013. They were below average last season, don’t let the numbers fool you. Even though they ranked 11th overall, this unit was 17th against the run. Their defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, needs to figure out how to stop the read option. The 49ers gashed their defense in the playoffs and since the Packers play the 49ers in the season opener we’ll see if Capers used his off-season time wisely to come up with a better game plan. They started by drafting DE Donte Jones in the first round. Clay Matthews will still be blowing up quarterbacks and their secondary looks really good. They lost Charles Woodson but he was declining and getting old. They chose not to address Woodson’s departure in free agency or the draft. They, instead, chose to go with M.D. Jennings at the safety spot, who is a stop gap until they find someone else. The secondary should be fine though; they’re young and good at every other DB position.

If Eddie Lacy can be the RB that many are predicting he will become, the Packers offense should see a rise in productivity and Aaron Rodgers should have an even better 2013…which is scary. The two main concerns in Green Bay are the offensive line and their defense against the run. If those two areas can be improved then the Packers should be dangerous this season. As always, they are a contender for the Lombardi Trophy again and they should win the NFC North. I see the Packers improving on both sides of the ball, running away with the NFC North and making more noise in the playoffs.

2013 Prediction: 12-4

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