I spent the last post talking about the NFC East, so staying with the NFC theme I’m going to be looking at the North now. Clearly this is one of the strongest divisions in the League, that and possibly the AFC North, so both Wild Card spots could well go to this division. Anyway, enough of the bullshit, here it is.
Packers – Clearly, here is an offensive machine. Rodgers is unbelievable in the Red Zone, and frankly anywhere else on the pitch, Jennings, Nelson, Finley, Driver are some incredible wide outs, and people forget the important work that James Starks and sometimes even pro bowler John Kuhn do pounding the ball on the ground. Perhaps they would like to pick up a reserve QB, someone ordinary in case Rodgers does a Brady and Peyton and doesn’t throw a ball all season. I’m sure that sentence has sent shivers down the spines of many a Packers fan. However, defense is the polar opposite to the star offense. This team had the single worst defense (yards per game) ever in the National Football League. And the old adage that defense wins championships is simply true, as has been proved many a time. This team needs a cornerback and a safety. Woodson is a great player with incredible experience, but he’s lost a step or two in recent years. Therefore, it may be wise to move him to safety so he can operate more in the zone. This then means that the main cornerbacks that the Packers have are Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. Hardly Hall of Fame names are they? And in a league with Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler, that could cost you games. So in summary, this team can continue to shine on offense, but they won’t win anything again until they pick up some decent cornerbacks and maybe even safeties. They finish 13-3 and win the division, but lose out in the conference game.
Lions – In the last two games the Lions conceded over 90 points and over 900 yards. Admittedly it was to the Packers and the Saints, but this was Flynn, not Rodgers. They need some work on defense and badly. Both in the corners and at safety. They have the 23rd pick in the draft, and I hear that they like the look of Alabama safety Mark Barron, depending on his injury status. In terms of offense, it all centres on helping Matt Stafford out. They need some work on the Offensive Line and in the Running Back position to help out the play action game and third down short yardage situations. The Lions looked heavily at RBs at the Senior Bowl, and as such they appear to be heading the rookie way once more. With regards to the OL they could again go the rookie route with the major name in the frame being David DeCastro. Another huge huge huge issue for this side in the off season is re signing Calvin Johnson. They are set to make Megatron the highest paid receiver in the game, but boy do this team need him. I see them finishing with the same record as last year (10-6) and ending up with the Wild Card and a tough trip away from home somewhere, possibly San Fran. Good luck my friends.
Bears – If Jay Cutler and Matt Forte were not injured this team comfortably makes the play offs. And they go far. Who’s to say they wouldn’t have taken the Giants, setting up a mouth-watering Divisional Round game at the Packers. Anyway, on to next year. This team desperately needs some targets for Cutler. He needs a big play threat down the field. Whether they are willing to trade up in order to really go aggressively and get Blackmon remains to be seen, but on the Free Agency side of things Reggie Wayne or Dwayne Bowe look like great deals for Cutler to work with. Finally, they need a tight end, and someone like Fred Davis could fit the receiving mould of tight end that they want and need. So, where do I think that this team will go in this year? In a division with very little defense, they look to be the most all round team, so I like 11-5 and the NFCs 5th seed. Bold, but I think warranted as long as they don’t have to rely on Caleb Hanie once more.
Vikings – Who is going to throw the ball for them this year? Ponder looks decent, but the one that I like most was Joe Webb. In week 14 he led that team like a 10 year elite quarterback, not a novice. If the refs had spotted that blatant face mask I say they win that game, and Webb cements a position as starter for the rest of the season. However, I think that they will stick with Ponder, so being a realist I’m going to assume that this is the case. If so, they need some help for him. A seriously high class left tackle is needed to give him longer in the pocket, someone like Demetrius Bell or the volatile yet brilliant Jared Gaither, both of whom are available on the free agency. Assuming the obvious that Henderson is snapped up they will need to find someone else to fill that now vacant middle linebacker position, and the free agency is solid but not spectacular, so expect the Packers to use their Tight Ends on opposing teams to stretch them in the middle of the park. The Vikings end 6-10, better than this year, but never really in competition in this ultra-competitive division.
Three wildcards is my big call, and it would be brave to bet against it. Good luck must go to the AFC South and the NFC West.
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