Today I will preview the NFC North and how I view their seasons to play out, including who makes the playoffs. Who doesn't love the NFC North?
NFC North - Playoff teams in 2008: 1 - projected playoff teams in 2009: 1
Since the departure of nose tackle/quarterback Dante Culpepper and Nascar Randy Moss the NFC North has been a one horse race. Since 2004, only Green Bay and Chicago have made the playoffs from the division that is been widely considered the worst division in the NFC (since the NFC West seems to have sooo much potential). More on that later. This year, I could see 1-2 teams making the playoffs if certain teams new pieces can pull it together. The team I see as the playoff team is the Minnesota Vikings. Am I a vikings fan? Yes. Is that why I'm picking them to come out of the North? No. I'm picking them because of the rest of the division. And AP doesn't hurt, either.
4. Detroit Lions - As any football fan knows, Detroit never wins anything. A few years ago they had driven down the field with less than a minute remaining to tie the score Last year they acted like the Ducks college football team by starting strong then failing astronomically down the stretch. You can write them down for the same thing this year. For their next trick, hire Mike Bellotti as head coach. I can only dream. Either way, I like to call them the University of Oregon Lions.
3. Chicago Bears - The other bottom dweller this year will be the one and only windy city Bears. This team is made up much like the Minnesota Vikings but without one of the top 2 running backs in the NFL. In fact, It appears more and more likely that they will start the season out with a rookie running back getting most of the work. When you combine that with either Kyle "but I was good in college" Orton or Rex "all I do is close my eyes and throw" Grossman you have some serious offensive problems. I expect the Bears to narrowly edge out the Oregon Lions for 3rd place in the NFC North.
2. Green Bay Packers - With Brett Favre leaving you can expect some growing pains from the suddenly young Packers. While I believe in Aaron Rodgers' potential based on his years at Cal. His prime time moment came when his 4th ranked Cal Bears went to #1 ranked USC as part of the pac-10's yearly great team VS great team match up. All he did in that game was set the NCAA record for consecutive passes completed in a game at 23. Yes, that pass defense of USC that Rodgers tore apart was probably better than the Vikings pass D last year but they've got to figure it out this year, right? Green Bay's schedule doesn't bode well for the Packers in the early going and that isn't good for a young quarterback. They have the Vikings on MNF to start the season, then go to Detroit for their home opener, then Dallas comes to town in a prime time game, at Tampa Bay, home against the Falcons (1st win?), at Seattle, and at home against the Colts before their Bye. They will likely be 1-6 or 2-5 on their bye week. If they can win 4 or 5 more they should finish in the 2 slot. They may only win 3 games after the bye and if so we should start hearing the Brian Brohm chants. Lucky for the Pack, they have a very good defense that should steal them a couple games as long as Rodgers isn't asked to do too much. I think they happily finish 7-9.
1. Minnesota Vikings - Projected Playoff Team - The Vikings open the season on the road on Monday Night Football at Green Bay. Any other year for the last 16 years I would tell you to chalk this one up in the loss column but with Jet Favre out of the picture, this is a rare chance to get a season opening road win on MNF. Score one for the schedule makers! I expect the Vikings to be similarly effective in the running game as they were last year (and my fantasy team is counting on it) even if they are facing 8 man fronts. If you remember last season the Vikings didn't exactly have a passing game. If they do improve as expected and as training camp and their first preseason game has suggested AP could put up even better numbers then last year. That is, health permitting... The Vikings defense is what they will win games. The last two years they have boasted the top run defense in the NFL and by adding new pieces at safety and defensive end (Jarred Allen, last years NFL sack leader in only 14 games) they pass defense should improve at least a little bit. That should be enough for them to win an extra 1 or 2 games this year which will earn them a division title at 10-6.
How do you view the NFC North?