I recently went through every game on the NFL schedule and predicted every game. I will be using those totals to predict who will win the NFC North this season. Will Brett Favre help the Vikings this season? Will Jay Cutler compose himself? Can the Packets defense step up and help their offense? Will the Lions win a game? Check out out NFC North Preview.
Chicago Bears– (Projected Finish 11-5)
The Bears sold the farm and got their prized quarterback. Jay Cutler is going to be a nice addition to the Bears offense. They haven’t had a decent quarterback since Jim McMahon, Erik Kramer almost had that title, but one good season doesn’t count. Matt Forte is going to have a great season and I would watch Earl Bennett to be catching balls left and right from Cutler. The Bears offensive line is sold and with the addition of Orlando Pace and with Chris Williams having a year under his belt, Cutler will stay upright more than he was in Denver.
The Bears still have a strong defense, but their Achilles heel would be their secondary, especially safety. The linebackers have to hold this defense together and makes sure that they control the running game, so the safeties can cheat a little to make up for the lack of athleticism at the position. They aren’t the same defense that made the Super Bowl a few seasons ago, but they are still very good.
The NFC North play the NFC West and AFC Central this season and they lucked out. Both of those divisions are a bit down, minus the Steelers, but Chicago gets them at home. The other non-divisional games are at Atlanta and they get Philadelphia at home, both should be very tough. The Bears should bounce back and make the playoffs this season and will at least garner a share of the division title this season.
Minnesota Vikings– (Projected Finish 11-5)
Brett Favre made the Minnesota Vikings as popular as the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers this off-season. There were more stories about them than both of those teams combined. Favre isn’t the quarterback that lead the Packers to a comeback season two years ago, but if he can stray away from the turnovers, he can help this team. All they need to do is give the ball to Adrian Peterson, throw some underneath passes to Percy Harvin and let him run, and go over the secondary and throw deep to Bernard Berrian. It’s a pretty simple plan and it will work.
The Vikings defense has been statistically one of the best defenses over last three seasons. The addition of Jared Allen added the extra pass-rushing presence that they needed to be elite. Pat Williams and Kevin Williams cog up the defensive line and make it near impossible for any running game to be established. The way to beat the Vikings would be to pass on them and allow the running back to help pass block. Antoine Winfield will pick off passes and make quarterbacks pay, but he is the lone star in the secondary.
The Vikings early season schedule is very favorable. It can allow Favre to get seasoned and get into better shape as the season goes by. The five out of the last six games of the year, they play possible playoff teams. They play Arizona, Carolina, NY Giants, and Chicago twice. If Favre can stay healthy all year, they will make the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers– (Projected Finish 6-10)
Packers’ fans have only two games circled on their calendar, at Minnesota, and home against Minnesota. I believe they realize that they won’t be a playoff team, but their season would be considered a success if they can beat Favre. Aaron Rodgers had a decent season last year and should have another decent year, if he can stay upright. Ryan Grant had an off-year last season and needs to produce or Green Bay could be looking for a new running back next season. James Jones and Jordy Nelson should establish themselves and up-and-coming receivers this season.
The Packers have put in a 3-4 defense and Aaron Kampman is going to play linebacker. It’s a change from a defense that looked like swiss cheese last year. The addition of B.J. Raji should help their run defense and look for decent seasons from A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett. Their secondary is old and they need to get younger. Al Harris and Charles Woodson have been in the league 12 years and are showing signs of age. Teams will be able to pass on them all day. They will need to score a lot of points to win games this season.
Green Bay is a tough place to play towards the end of the season. They get Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Arizona at home the last month of the season. They will need that extra Lambeau-edge to compete with those teams. The Packers are facing another tough season this year and need to re-build their secondary to be a contender.
Detroit Lions– (Projected Finish 2-14)
Good news for the Lions, they will win a game this season. Bad news for the Lions, they will lose a lot of games. It doesn’t matter who plays quarterback for the Lions, they aren’t going to win many games. Matthew Stafford will be starting by mid-season, but Daunte Culpepper might be a decent option to start the year. Calvin Johnson and Bryant Johnson are both nice receivers, but they need a QB to throw them the ball. They should rely heavily on Kevin Smith this year, but their offensive line still needs work.
Head Coach, Jim Schwartz, should help get this defense up to par, but they are still a long way from being good. They have some nice pieces there, but they will need to gel as a unit. Julian Peterson, Ernie Sims, Phillip Buchanon, Anthony Henry, and Stuart Schweigert should all help out. They have at least one good player at every area, but the depth is not there. If the injury bug hits the defense, it will be even worse.
The Lions will be searching for their first win in over a season. The third game against the Redskins could potentially be their first win, but that would be the earliest potential win and it is still a long shot. The sixth game agains the Packers or the seventh game againt the Rams could be when the winless streak ends. One game that I have to watch is the game on October 11th against the Steelers. I don’t think the game will be competitive, but it will be a good litmus test of how this team will react when they are faced with elite talent.