2010 NFL Preview – NFC North

Posted: August 22, 2010 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NFL
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The NFC North was a tale of two extremes in 2009. The upper class Vikings and Packers finishing a combined 23-9 and each making it to the Playoffs. While these two squads lived in the penthouse, Chicago and Detroit had seasons characterized by mixtures of frustration and hope. Both added new franchise quarterbacks to be beacons hope, with Jay Cutler’s exile from Denver landing him with the Bears. The Lions landed Matthew Stafford as their “reward” for their 0-16 season with the first pick in ’09’s draft. However, both team’s hope quickly turned into a struggle as they failed to make much progress against either of the top teams.

Heading into this season, this may be the most constant of all divisions in the NFL. It’s going to be a tough road for the bottom teams to crack through, but will their adjust give them enough to breakthrough? As for the Packers, they have what it takes, but will will the return of their old gunslinger hold their ground? Let’s see how it stacks up…

Chicago Bears (7-9 in 2009)

Offense: J. Cutler-QB, M. Forte-RB, G. Olsen-TE, D. Hester-WR (C+)

Defense: B. Urlacher-LB, J. Peppers-DE, L. Briggs-LB, T. Harris-DT (B)

The Good: Last year is over and there is a chance to reset. Jay Cutler had rocky debut in the Windy City, high (or more appropriately, low) lighted by his league leading 26 interceptions. All of that is behind them now and with new offensive coordinator Mike Martz in town, the abilities of this offense have nowhere to go but up. The defense gets a great boost by the return of Brian Urlacher and the signing of this year’s top free agent, defensive end Julius Peppers. He averages 10 sacks per season and should be pumped to finally leave Carolina after years of pushing for it.

The Bears have to hold out hope that Urlacher's return sparks a defense that looked flat all year in '09.

The Bad: For as good as the front lines of the defense can be with Urlacher and Peppers, along with Lance Briggs and Tommie Harris, the secondary can be just as bad. They simply have nothing to fear in coverage. Nathan Vasher was the best of their corners, but he left for San Diego, leaving them with little of consequence for any QB to worry about. With all the matchups in the pass happy North, this defense could get bombed.

X-Factor-Matt Forte: As a rookie Forte blew up for the Bears and was one to best overall RBs in the NFL. Whether it was a sophomore slump, more emphasis on the passing game or struggles with injuries, he took a few steps backwards in ’09, finishing with 300 yards less in year two. Finding his form again is critical to helping the entire offense, as it will take defenses attention away from focusing only on Cutler and the Bears mediocre receiving corps.

2010 Prediction: Det (W), @ Dal (L), GB (L), @ NYG (L), @ Car (W), Sea (W), Was (L), Buf (W), Min (L), @ Mia (W), Phi (L), @ Det (W), NE (L), @ Min (L), NYJ (L), @ GB (L)

Summary: The Bears would be a solid threat in many other divisions, but playing four games versus the Vikings and Packers, who are nightmare matchups for them, will hurt their chances for a turnaround season. They’ll be competitive, but they are a few upgrades away, at critical positions, from truly turning it around. RECORD: 6-10

Detroit Lions (2-14 in 2009)

Offense: C. Johnson-WR, M. Stafford-QB, J. Best-RB, B. Pettigrew-TE (C+)

Defense: K. Vanden Bosch-DE, N. Suh-DT, L. Delmas-FS (D+)

The Good: They’re gaining more experience and the core is improving. Coming off their historic 0-16 performance in 2008, rookie QB Matthew Stafford showed expected struggles (20 interceptions), but also showed all the talent expected of him as well. Calvin Johnson is among the top talents at wide receiver in the League, and along with Stafford could become one of the best combos in football. Landing phenom defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the second pick in 2010’s Draft gives them strong building block on the defensive side of the ball, where they are woefully in need.

In year 2 of the Matthew Stafford era Detroit fans (the ones left) are counting on a big improvement.

The Bad: There is still a long, long way to go to even breaking even here. They finished dead last in passing defense and 25th in rushing defense, meaning there is tons of work to be done there. They also finished near the bottom of the league in rushing yards as well. They also have big problems along their offensive line still and this could limit the entire offense’s development at the skill positions.

X-Factor-Jahvid Best: A season ending injury to starter Kevin Smith and his uncertain status for 2010 made the need for another back high on the priority list for the rebuilding Lions. When they traded back into the first round to land Best, the hope was that he would be able to immediately fill in the role. Despite Smith rebounding and being able to participate in the preseason, Best will still be counted on as the premier back in the offense.

2010 Prediction: @ Chi (L), Phi (L), @ Min (L), @ GB (L), StL (W), @ NYG (L), Was (L), NYJ (L), @ Buf (W), @ Dal (L), NE (L), Chi (L), GB (L), @ TB (W), @ Mia (L), Min (L)

Summary: The Lions are getting better, no doubt, but they still are by and far one of the worst defenses in football and are still very much a work in progress. They have plenty of young talent, but are in an experienced tough division and still will be the among the basement dwellers in the NFL. RECORD: 3-13

Green Bay Packers (11-5 in 2009, Wild Card in Playoffs)

Offense: A. Rodgers-QB, G. Jennings-WR, D. Driver-WR, R. Grant-RB, J. Finley-TE (A)

Defense: C. Woodson-CB, N. Collins-FS, A.J. Hawk-LB, C. Matthews-LB (B+)

The Good: They flat out make plays, big ones. Aaron Rodgers is among the league’s elite QB and commands one of the deepest receiving units of any team. He became the first QB to ever pass for 4,000 yards in his first two years as a starter and both Donald Driver and Greg Jennings finished with over 1,000 yards receiving. 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson leads a secondary that had the most turnovers in football (33 interceptions in ’09). The other parts aren’t too shabby themselves, featuring arguably the best linebacker group in the game as well. The AJ Hawk/Clay Matthews/Nick Barnett led unit allowed only 83 rushing yards a game last year, tops in all the NFL.

Charles Woodson picked off nine passes found the endzone 3 times for the Pack defense last season.

The Bad: The Pack has a prolific offense that has big play potential, but too often those big plays come out of necessity created by Rodgers having to go downfield after being sacked, yet again. Rodgers hit the ground 50 times last year behind the inconsistent offensive line, and a beating like that is not what a premier QB needs. It will catch up to him sooner or later. They have to protect their most valuable asset if they want to work deeper into the Playoffs.

X-Factor-Jermichael Finley: It’s hard to rise to the forefront of such a diverse passing attack, but Finley’s talent will make a huge impact on an already impressive offense. He is among the best athletes in the game at the position and makes plays few can. After not starting the first half of ’09, he still finished with 676 yards and 5 touchdowns. With a full year in the mix constantly, Mr. Rodgers could have yet another Pro Bowl receiver at his disposal.

2010 Prediction: @ Phi (W), Buf (W), @ Chi (W), Det (W),@ Was (W), Mia (W), Min (W), @ NYJ (L), Dal (W), @ Min (L), @ Atl (L), SF (W), @ Det (W), @ NE (L), NYG (L), Chi (W)

Summary: The Pack can play with pretty much anybody and should get off to as good of a start as any team in the league, with an easy early schedule; however it picks up in the second half with matchups versus New England, San Francisco, Dallas, both New York clubs and Minnesota twice. They’ll be tested, but will be a tough playoff matchup for any team. RECORD: 11-5

Minnesota Vikings (12-4 in 2009, Division Champs)

Offense: A. Peterson-RB, B. Favre-QB, S. Hutchinson-G, S. Rice-WR, P. Harvin-WR (A)

Defense: J. Allen-DE, K. Williams-DT, P. Williams-DT, A. Winfield-CB (A)

The Good: They have as complete of an offensive offering of anybody in football. Brett Favre’s experienced hand pushed them to new levels in ’09, and they all gained experience that will pay off bigger this season. Adrian Peterson at the mountain top of backs in the NFL and the emergence of Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin makes it impossible for teams to stack up defenses to just stop him. The understated key to the team is the toughness of its defensive unit. The combo of Pat & Kevin Williams is still the best interior line pairing in football and no player has more sacks over the last six years than Jared Allen, with 72. Together, they are the best defensive line in football.

After all the annual controversy has settled, Favre's return is the most important part of a repeat North championship in Minnesota.

The Bad: There isn’t much bad to say about this team as a whole, but there is some concern about how well the secondary will be able to hold up. Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin aren’t young anymore and the safety spot was noticeably downgraded with Darren Sharper’s departure before last season. They would have been well served adding some youth through the Draft, but they declined that opportunity. Running the ball at their frontlines is a pointless venture, so many teams will try to go over the top and they could find success more often than not going straight at this unit.

X-Factor-Percy Harvin: The 2009 Rookie of the Year brought a brand new dimension to the Vikes offensive attack. However, once again his migraine problems that plagued him at Florida returned and limited his on-field time towards the end of the season. Once again this season, the problem has returned, with him passing out during training camp in a scary moment for the sport. His being able to stay healthy is huge for Minnesota, but his health concerns are almost equal to the level of his talent, a huge question mark.

2010 Projection: @ NO (L), Mia (W), Det (W), @ NYJ (L), Dal (W), @ GB (L), @ NE (W), Ari (W), @ Chi (W), GB (W), @ Was (W), Buf (W), NYG (W), Chi (W), @ Phi (W), @ Det (W)

Summary: They have virtually every piece of their team returning from last season, and have a relatively easy schedule compared to what their potential can be. Favre’s return, no matter how criticized, is huge for this squad and puts them a legit chance to play again exactly where they ended last season, in the NFC Championship Game.

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Comments
  1. wesdan328 says:

    i have the bears going 5-11 with that extra loss coming @Mia

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