NFC North NFL Preview

In preparation for the upcoming 2013 NFL season, Just A Guy has put together a team-by-team analysis with a run down of every division along with the staff’s picks for how they believe the division will play out. In this article we highlight the NFC North, which includes the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings. 

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have had one of the louder offseasons. They traded Percy Harvin to Seattle for a first round pick, losing their best weapon outside of Adrian Peterson. They did some wheeling in the draft though, and ended up with three first round picks. Those picks became cornerback Xavier Rhodes, DT Shariff Floyd, once thought to be a top five pick, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, once thought to be a top 10 pick. That’s pretty good value at the end of the first round. The Vikings also gained Greg Jennings from division rival Green Bay. His veteran presence should help Patterson greatly, who at 6’3 and 200 plus pounds has great speed, and is electric with the ball in his hands. But he is very raw in running routes and catching the ball, obviously two huge concerns for rookies making the pro transition. But they’ll need him to contribute at least moderately to relieve pressure from Peterson, who, as God like as he is, I don’t think he can carry this team like he did all last year. They need balance. They need Christian Ponder to come through. Unfortunately, I don’t think he ever will, and think he was a bad pick at 12 overall in 2011.

Floyd and Rhodes will look to bolster the defense, joining sack master Jared Allen and surprise second year stud Harrison Smith at safety. If the Vikings could get more balance to their attack, there is no reason they can’t snag a wild card berth again, as I think the Packers will once again win the North. The Bears are going to be boom or bust with the new coach and system. The Lions just aren’t well coached or disciplined. But if the Vikings remain the one man army of Adrian Peterson like I think, look for them to falter and lose space to either an improved Bears unit or a surprise Lions team thanks to Detroit’s new toys.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers have Aaron Rodgers.  The Packers will make the playoffs.  I could probably just end the 2013 outlook there, but I guess I’ll breakdown a few other areas for this team.  It would be nice if the offensive line could keep Rodgers upright this season as he was the most sacked QB in 2012.  Imagine how great the offense would be if they could be just middle of the pack in QB protection.  A few familiar faces in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are gone.  Left are Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, and Jermichael Finely to do the pass catching, which is a pretty solid quartet as long as they all stay healthy.  The Packers also drafted Eddie Lacy to lead the running game, which was very inconsistent in 2012 (Alex Green lead them in rushing with 464 yards- ouch).  On the flip side, the defense is good but needs to be better.  They lost Charles Woodson, but he was on the downswing of his career anyway. When you have to play Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall twice a year, you better have a good secondary.  And they have that in Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward who are a solid group on CB’s, while Morgan Burnett is leading the safety’s.  Clay Matthews will again be the Packers best pass rusher and should get or improve on his 13 sacks in 2012.  BJ Raji and Ryan Picket stuff the middle, but nothing much in terms of defensive line pass rush, which is why they hope rookie Datone Jones will pan out to help that area.  The Packers will make the playoffs this year even in a tough NFC North.  If everything comes together in terms of pass protection, a decent running game and a consistent defense- watch out NFL.

Detroit Lions

If you’re going to describe the 2013 Detroit Lions before the season, “Boom or Bust” would be a good start. The Lions look like they can actually count on their defensive line to give them some sort of a pass rush this season after a miserable showing last year. First round draft pick Ziggy Ansah is young and (very) inexerienced, but if he can develop quickly, he’ll have the opportunity to make some big plays. Ansah will benefit greatly from having pressure diverted from him by Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and newly minted defensive end Jason Jones. The secondary is somewhat improved with the additions of safety Glover Quin and draft pick Darius Slay, but it’s far from a finished product and any worthwhile quarterback will look to test them.

Calvin Johnson put up video game numbers last year with 1,964 yards, but only had five touchdowns. Obviously he is a large part of the offense, so the Lions need to make sure they can get him in the end zone more. Reggie Bush steps into the vortex that has been running back since Barry Sanders departed. He’s eager to prove himself as a runner, but he should have a substantial impact in the passing game as well. The Lions were 3-8 last season in games decided by seven points or less, even being over .500 in those situations put the Lions at 7-9. I may be foolish to believe they’ll improve that much (let’s face it, I am) but I can see them taking second in the division.

Chicago Bears

Da Bears are a whole new team this year. Gone are long tenured coach Lovie Smith and beloved middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. In their place are former Canadian Football Leaguer Marc Trestman as head coach and a combination of D.J. Williams and rookie Jon Bostic at middle linebacker. Defensive leadership will remain steady with veterans Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, but it will be strange not seeing number 54 on the field. The other change at linebacker is James Anderson replacing Nick Roach at the strongside position. The defensive line and secondary remain largely the same and that’s a good thing, because this unit led the league in takeaway by a wide margin. Their league leading 44 takeaways was 9 better than the next closest team, the Giants.  This will hard to reproduce but it shouldn’t have to be for the Bears to have some serious success this year.

The offense is vastly improved with at least three new starters on the offensive line including: Jermon Bushrod at left tackle, Matt Slauson at left guard, and rookie Kyle Long at right guard. Based on their track record and preseason performance they will be the best line the Bears have had in five years. This is great news for quarterback Jay Cutler, as he can be a top five quarterback if he gets more than two seconds to throw the ball. This improved line will also allow for a healthy Matt Forte to put up some big numbers, which in turn will further open up the passing game. Brandon Marshall is the most talented receiver the Bears have ever had and paired with a healthy Alshon Jeffery, this duo could amass big yardage. Rookies Joe Anderson and Marquess Wilson could push for some playing time behind Earl Bennett in the third receiver spot. The addition of Martellus Bennett will give the Bears their first weapon at tight end since the sorely missed Greg Olsen. This offense could really shine and it seems that Trestman is doing all the right things, which also means having Devin Hester focus solely on returning kicks. A well rested Hester returning punts and kickoffs will provide for some excitement on special teams and with Robbie “Good as” Gould eyeing some field goals, there is no reason for the Bears not to have a tremendous year.

SteveRyanChrisFrank
Packers (10-6)Bears (12-4)Packers (12-4)Packers (12-4)
Bears (8-8)Packers (10-6)Bears (9-7)Bears (8-8)
Lions (8-8)Lions (7-9)Lions (6-10)Lions (7-9)
Vikings (6-10)Vikings (6-10)Vikings (6-10)Vikings (5-11)
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