NFC North Preview

Posted: August 12, 2011 by Humza Ghori in Features, Preview

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers won it all last year. MVP Superbowl Aaron Rodgers led the team to a 31-25 victory of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers victory did not come easy they had to fight through a tremendous amount of setbacks due to injuries to their star players such as: Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Jermichael Finley, and Ryan Pickett. However their roster was deep enough and their players were able to recover fast enough so they could make the playoffs with a 10-6 record. As the sixth seed the Packers battled their way through the Philadelphia Eagles, the Atlanta Falcons, and their divisional rival the Chicago Bears. Now with the confetti from the Superbowl parade cleaned up and their flight to Washington to meet President Obama booked, the Packers look towards this coming season to defend their title. The team has gone through some roster changes as DT Cullen Jenkins signed a 5 year 25 million dollars contract with the Philadelphia Eagles and Linebacker Nick Barnett who signed a 3 year 12 million dollar contract with the Buffalo Bills. However many of the key players who helped win the title last year are still with the team. Aaron Rodgers is even more confident after finally strapping on that championship belt, Greg Jennings is still there to put the team on his back, and they still have their best pass rusher Clay Matthews who also happens to be one of the most underrated linebackers in the NFL. The Packers are still a strong team, yet the NFC North is becoming stronger. The Bears with Jay Cutler were able to make it all the way to the NFC Championship, the Lions have one of the scariest defensive lines in all of the NFL, and the Vikings just signed another future Hall of Famer named Donovan McNabb. There is no doubt that the Green Bay Packers are a great football team, but with the new threats emerging in their own division the path to repeating will only be tougher.

Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler’s controversial knee injury was the difference between the Chicago Bears hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy and them losing the NFC Championship by one touchdown. Last season Jay Cutler decided to finally shut his mouth and play some football. It helped when the Bears hired offensive coordinator Mike Martz who was finally able to settle down the disgruntled QB. Once he did, the Bears became a major threat to any team they faced. They finished 11-5 winning the NFC North as well as a first round bye. However their great season ended abruptly when Jay Cutler hurt his knee in the third quarter of the NFC Championship game. With the new season a couple of weeks away the Bears look to take back the NFC North. By the looks of it they still do have a great chance of maintaining their elite status from last year, but its gonna be a challenge. They are going to have to deal with a harder schedule and a tougher division. As the Bears saw last year injuries can make or break a season, if the Packers can stay healthy they can come up with 12 to 13 wins meaning if the Bears have one slip up especially in a divisional game it could cost them a first round bye or maybe even a playoff spot.

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings had a busy off-season this year as they signed yet another future hall of fame QB named Donovan McNabb. McNabb just came off of his worst season in his career as he was publicly humiliated in Washington. He was supposed to rebuild the franchise and bring them back on top of the NFC East however he soon realized that Washington is where careers go to die. After being traded only for two sixth round draft picks for the 2012 and 2013 draft McNabb seems content in his new town. However lets see what McNabb has around him that makes him so happy. He finally has a consistent RB named Adrian Peterson, a stand out wide receiver named Percy Harvin who struggled with migraines last season however doctors believe they have resolved that issue, and veteran TE Visanthe Shiancoe who can put lay down the block as well as give McNabb a nice target to throw to. Also for once Donovan McNabb has a solid offensive line to protect him, led by veteran G Steven Hutchinson. So he does have some things to be happy about, however the reason he might be losing sleep is not because of the new timezone he is in, but the new division he is in. While the Vikings still have a decent looking team compared to their division there one of the weaker ones. With the second hardest schedule in their division any late mess ups and the Vikings could be sitting at home in January for the second straight year.

Detroit Lions
If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, the Lions can be a playoff team. They drafted a great quarterback No. 1 in 2009 however since then hasn’t even played a full season as he enters his third year in the NFL. The Lions have been in the rebuilding process ever since their 0-16 season in 2008. The Lions finished in third in their division last year and had the same record as the Vikings at 6-10. Stafford only played 3 games last season but looks determined to start and finish all 16 games. However the Lions have the hardest schedule in their division this year and even if Stafford can play through all the games the Lions will struggle to win them. However with one of the best Defensive Lines in the game right now and talent at the QB, RB, and WR positions on offensive the Lions will give any team this year a good game. They are a hard-working football team that is only getting better. If the Lions want to get to .500 this year they will have to beat a lot of good teams this year, and I’m sure they wouldn’t want it any other way.

Summary
It is looking like the NFC North will be the most competitive division in the NFL this year. With every team capable of making a .500 record these teams will have to play flawlessly if they will want to take the top. There is a really good chance that either the first or second seed for the NFC will come from the North but the question still remains who will it be? The Packers if they can stay healthy can dominate this division, and the Bears showed last year that they can get it done if Cutler stays healthy. Vikings have new life with Donovan McNabb and the Lions looks to keep Stafford healthy so they can finally make serious a push for the playoffs. Below are the projected records and standings for the division

Green Bay Packers 13-3
Chicago Bears 11-5
Minnesota Vikings 10-6
Detroit Lions 8-8

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