We continue our NFL Division Previews by looking at the NFC North, which was dominated by the Green Bay Packers last year, going 6-0 in the division. The Detroit Lions were the some what surprise of the North last year, going 10-6 and making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The Chicago Bears were on their way to playoffs last year, but injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte sideswiped that plan. And the Vikings…well they still have Adrian Peterson, an Adrian Peterson who’s coming back from major knee surgery, but Peterson all the same. So how will this year go. Let’s find out.
Fresh New Face: C Jeff Saturday - While they lost a Pro Bowl center in Scott Wells, they gained a 5 time Pro Bowler and possible future Hall of Famer in Jeff Saturday. Rodgers isn’t the first great quarter back Saturday has been center for. The name Peyton Manning should sound familiar. With Saturday as the leader of the Colts offensive line, the Colts gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL from 2004-2006.
Won’t Be Coming Back: C Scott Wells- Aaron Rodgers was undoubtedly the MVP last year, so losing a big aspect of your offensive line may put a tweak in Rodgers’ run to repeat. Especially when Wells just made his first Pro Bowl appearance. Scott Wells did not resign with the Packers, instead signing with St. Louis Rams for 4 years and $24 million. The Packers gave up 41 sacks last year, 21st in the league and that was with a pro bowl center. Rodgers has a tendency to hold onto the ball too much and with Wells out, that may cost him health wise down the road.
Season Prediction: The Packers are pretty much in the same position they were in last year. Terrific offense, but terrible defense. It worked out for them 2 years ago, but not last year. The running game was never a huge strength for the Packers, and with James Starks hurt and the Packers signing veteran Cedric Benson, it looks like the Packers will rely on their passing game again, which shouldn’t be a problem since they have one of the best passing offenses in the league, led by the best quarterback in the league, Aaron Rogers.
Fresh New Face: WR Brandon Marshall- One of the elements holding the Bears back was their lack of depth at the receiver position. That and a weak offensive line have lead the Bears to give up 49 and 56 sacks in the past 2 seasons, with the majority of that punishment being targeted toward Jay Cutler. But now Cutler has reunited with old Bronco teammate Brandon Marshall and now he has a legitimate number 1 option available for him. This move also takes pressure off Matt Forte, who the Bears relied on heavily last year. Cutler was at his best with Marshall. Now he’ll be looking to repeat those old Broncos’ numbers instead at looking up in the air on his back.
Won’t Be Coming Back: RB Marion Barber- While Barber didn’t have a huge impact last year as Matt Forte’s backup, the Bears had to get a suitable replacement. Enter Michael Bush, who had a slightly better average that Barber (3.8 average compared to 3.7 from Barber). He’s also gone through 3 less seasons of hits and has proven to be durable, something the Bears will have to rely on if Forte gets re-injured.
Season Prediction: The Bears started 7-3 last year until Cutler got hurt, followed up by Matt Forte. Injuries are already having an impact on the team. It’s uncertain when Brian Urlacher will play due to his bad knee, and while they’ve definitely upgraded on the offensive front, their defense is getting older, which means that the offense will have to finally step up for a defense that has carried them in the past.
Fresh New Face: OT Riley Reiff- The Lions will go as far as Matthew Stafford takes them. Last year was the first year he played every regular season game, and they made the playoffs. The Lions are looking to repeat that healthy season by drafting Iowa Offensive Tackle Riley Reiff. Having a 2011 All-American should provide Stafford that extra second to throw the deep ball to Megatron, Calvin Johnson.
Won’t Be Coming Back: I Got Nothing, But…- The Lions did not lose anyone significant during the offseason, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be losing anybody for a few games in the future. Multiple Lions have encountered trouble with the Police. CB Aaron Berry was cut by the Lions after two arrests. DT Nick Fairley has also been arrested twice, but hasn’t been cut…yet. He faces multiple drug and alcohol charges. Although he hasn’t gotten in trouble off the field, Ndamukong Suh, certainly gained the title “dirty player” after he stomped on an opposing player’s arm in their Thanksgiving game against the Packers. Suh will now have a target on his back, so he better be on his best behavior.
Season Prediction: The Lions will have to deal with an improved Bears team and a powerhouse Packers team. The Lions will have to cut down on the self inflicted wounds: penalties and player arrests. They have the most dynamic duo in the NFL with Stafford and Johnson, and if Stafford can have another healthy season, they may be able to go over the Bears again in the division, but I don’t see them beating the Packers.
Fresh New Face: WR Jerome Simpson- If the Vikings were looking to get any highlights this season, they might as well come from the guy who provided the greatest highlight of the previous NFL Season. Jerome Simpson already showed his hurdling skills for the Vikings, but he’ll have to pull every trick in the book if the Vikings have any chance of being competitive this NFL season.
Won’t Be Coming Back: G Steve Hutchinson- Yes, he was on injury reserve last year, but that only proves how big of a loss he was to the team. The Viking were 3-13 last season, and with an unproven quarterback in Christian Ponder, it’s probably safe to say that the Vikings will have a similar season this year.
Season Prediction: It’s not looking good for the Vikings. Adrian Peterson has gone through major knee surgery and the results haven’t been tested yet as he is given the quarterback treatment in practice. They’re terrible on both sides of the field, and their division opponents didn’t lose anyone significant in the offseason.
So, do you agree or disagree with our thoughts on the NFC North. Lets us know in the comments.