NFC North Preview: A Crowded Pack at the Top

The final week of the NFL preseason is professional football at its worst. Teams play half-a-dozen starters and the players who finish the game will be happy to make a practice squad. It looks more like the XFL than the NFL. At last it’s over and we can get ready for another exciting season in the NFC North. From first to worst, here is a season preview of the division.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers won the Super Bowl last year without key starters Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley and Brady Poppinga (injured reserve). A healthier team should take the NFC North title back from the Bears and contend for another trip to the Super Bowl. General Manager Ted Thompson rarely opens the checkbook for free agent acquisitions and this year was no exception. The offense will be pass heavy as always but a combination of Ryan Grant and James Starks in the backfield will force defenses to respect the running game more this season. The defense lost tackle Cullen Jenkins to the Eagles but Dom Caper’s attacking 3-4 defense will dominate the division again. Tramon Williams had a break out season in 2010 and will look to supplant an aging Charles Woodson as the team’s shut down corner. The Packers superior coaching combined with on-the-field talent make them the class of the NFC North in 2011.

Offensive Ranking: 1
Offensive Stud: Aaron Rogers
Defensive Ranking: 1
Defensive Stud: Clay Matthews
Team X-factor: Jermichael Finley

Chicago Bears

The Bears caught a lot of breaks in 2010 on their way to the NFC Championship game. That won’t happen again and their record won’t look quite as impressive. Defensively, the team should compete for best in the NFC North which will keep them in games all year. Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and an ornery Lance Briggs anchor a defense that is strong on the front line but returns a questionable secondary. If Major Wright plays up to his talent, the safety position could be solidified for the first time in many seasons. Jay Cutler should take a significant step forward in year two of Martz’s offense. The last few preseason games showed the offensive line could be better than average and give Cutler time to throw down field. It may not seem like it but the wide receiving position has been upgraded from last year. Jerry Angelo replaced Rashied Davis and Devin Aromashodu with Roy Williams and Sam Hurd. The Bears will not have the luck or talent to repeat as NFC North champions but should make it somewhat competitive and have a chance at a Wild Card birth.

Offensive Ranking: 3
Offensive Stud: Matt Forte
Defensive Ranking: 2
Defensive Stud: Julius Peppers
Team X-factor: Roy Williams

Detroit Lions

There is a lot of hype around the Lions going into the year. Analysts believe, if he can stay healthy, Matthew Stafford will step into the second tier of the quarterback elite. With Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Jahvid Best, he has the offensive weapons and the management has built a solid offensive line to protect him. The defensive line is being billed as one of the best in football. With talent like Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nick Fairley, it isn’t an overstated proclamation. Coach Jim Schawartz has built the type of defense he envisioned since he arrived from the Titans. For the first time in a long time, it will be a fun team to watch. Though the expectations are high, the Lions have much to prove before becoming a true contender. They should take another step forward this season eyeing a run at the division in 2012.

Offensive Ranking: 2
Offensive Stud: Calvin Johnson
Defensive Ranking: 3
Defensive Stud: Ndamukong Suh
Team X-factor: Jahvid Best

Minnesota Vikings

Expectations should be much higher for a team with Adrian Peterson as its running back and Donovan McNabb as its quarterback. But most people expect little after last year’s debacle of a season. That, coupled with the loss of Bryant McKinnie (released), Ray Edwards (free agent to Falcons) and Sidney Rice (free agent to Seahawks) signal a rebuilding year for Minnesota. If McNabb looks like the quarterback from Philadelphia instead of the quarterback from Washington, the offense will put up numbers. Unfortunately, the defense is in worst shape than the offense. There is little talent remaining from seasons past. Fans can hold out hope that the defensive-minded coach Leslie Frazier will get the most out of the lackluster talent. In a competitive NFC North, the Vikings will likely end up in the basement in 2011.

Offensive Ranking: 4
Offensive Stud: Adrian Peterson
Defensive Ranking: 4
Defensive Stud: Jared Allen
Team X-factor: Donovan McNabb

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One thought on “NFC North Preview: A Crowded Pack at the Top

  1. Typical McNabb hating crap. The 2004 Eagles would beat this Pittsburgh team by 10 pintos. Dems the breaks. The only year the Eagles had a team worthy of winning a Super Bowl they had to play a Dynasty type team.

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