NFC North has the phenomenal Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers ready to show why they could be the most explosive offense not named the New Orleans Saints. Minnesota Vikings have Brett Favre, but his primary target Wide Receiver Sidney Rice will be sidelined for awhile with a hip injury. Chicago Bears’ offense is under the direction of new offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Jay Cutler’s decision-making must improve in order for the Bears to make the playoffs. Detroit Lions will take their lumps again this year but, it will be another year that Matthew Stafford matures as a professional quarterback.
NFC North division comes down to the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers, the only two teams that will challenge each other for first place in the division. I expect the Minnesota Vikings to finish on top of the division. I give the Vikings the slight edge over the Packers, because I think pass protection will be a problem for the Packers once again this season.
Vikings have a potent running attack with Adrian Peterson leading the way. He can be a liability in critical situations because he coughs up the ball too often for my taste. Beyond Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans, Peterson is the most dominant running back in the NFL. The passing game will take a hit without Rice in the line up. Percy Harvin is also having medical issues. Harvin is very explosive and versatile part of the Vikings’ passing game; however, his inexperience and migraines could hurt the Vikings if Rice recovery runs longer than expected.
Offensive Line must become better run blockers. The twenty year veteran Favre must duplicate the numbers he had last season to have the Vikings playing in the Super Bowl this season. Favre must recognize the Vikings play better when Peterson carries the ball 20 or more times. Defense possesses one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Jared Allen is a sack specialist. The Vikings shutdowns the running game of opposing offenses because Kevin and Pat Williams are defensive tackles who create havoc when plugging up gaps. Linebacker corps needs E.J. Henderson to return to form. The secondary is suspect. Antoine Winefield great playing days may behind him, but if he can make a solid contribution, it will greatly help a mediocre secondary. Vikings barely wins this division.
The Green Bay Packers offense will have everyone overlooking their good defense. Aaron Rodgers if he gets great protection this season the Packers could possibly overtake the Vikings, the expected first place finisher. Rodgers is a great quarterback ready to make the leap into the superstar stratosphere. If Rodgers is about to blast off then his primary targets, Greg Jennings, and Donald Driver, are his booster rockets. Both wide receivers had over 1000 receiving yards.
The Packers are far from one dimensional; therefore, any defense that do not account for the whereabouts of Ryan Grant and his contribution to the offense, then expect another 100 yard game on the ground for Grant. The Packers’ defense is led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Charles Woodson and Pro Bowler, Safety Nick Collins. The defense does not give up a lot of yardage, and they will create a lot of fumbles with their attacking style from a 3-4 scheme. Pass protection and more pass protection will be a key to Packers’ success this season.
For Chicago Bears’ Head Coach, Lovie Smith, this season will be a turning point in his career. If the Bears do not make the playoffs this season expect a new Head Coach at the helm for next season. His future rest on the arm of Jay Cutler or should I say the decision-making of Jay Cutler. Twenty plus interceptions will not be acceptable this season. The newly hired offensive coordinator Mike Martz will try to fix the problems of the offense. Well, it is not a secret, Mike Martz like to pass and pass often. The Chicago’s wide receivers have blazing speed, but other skill set such as great route running or great hands they lack.
Without the explosive wide receiver with great hands and good route running ability, it will be a major problem when trying to execute the offense designed by Martz. The terrible pass blocking will not help the Chicago Bears’ cause on offense. The running game is led by Matt Forte. He must step up, because veteran Chester Taylor is a better fit in Mike Martz’ offense. Taylor is a better fit, because his catching ability is better than Forte. Taylor can carry the load on the ground if the Bears are not satisfied by the performance of Forte.
The defense will get Brian Urlacher back, and that is good news for Lance Briggs. Urlacher will take some of the pressure off Briggs as most offenses tried to take Briggs out of the play on most downs. Bears will be led by the most dominant pass rusher in the game, Julius Peppers. Peppers’ presence on the field will have a Domino effect in almost every position. He will open up gaps for the Bears’ linebackers, because offenses will try to double team him every chance they get. The defensive line should get more sacks as Peppers draw much of the offensive lines’ attention. Secondary could be a problem for the Bears. Personnel at the cornerback positions lack the speed needed to stay with speedy wide receivers. I do not expect the Bears to do any better than third place in the division.
Detroit Lions continue to grow, and their star quarterback, Matthew Stafford gains another year of experience. Calvin Johnson is the best wide receiver who does not get a lot of press, because his team is the Detroit Lions. Offensive Line will have its problems, but it should be better than last year. Kevin Smith and the rookie Jahvid Best will lead the running game. The offensive line may hinder the progress of the ground game. Lions added Nate Burleson to the receiving corps. Burleson should take some of the pressure off of Calvin Johnson. Tony Scheffler will give Stafford another option in the passing game. The defense has great athleticism in the linebacker corps.
Upfront, rookie defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh will make an early contribution. Suh has a lot to learn, because a defensive tackle in the NFL does not make it on athletic ability alone. Kyle Vanden Bosch will add his pass rushing ability to the Lions. The secondary is terrible. Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade are what the Lions have to work with and on any other team they would not be starters. Lions need a few years before they get on the right track. This season maybe just one of many more last place finishes.
Vikings wins this division in tight race but that could very well change if the wide receivers do not step up in the absence of Sidney Rice. Green Bay Packers will be close; therefore, Minnesota cannot misstep once or divisional title will go to the Packers.