Friday, September 10, 2010

NFC North Preview and Predictions

1. Green Bay Packers - 12-4
I really like the Packers team as a whole this year, and we'll start with the offense. Aaron Rodgers has grown and developed into one of the best QB's in the league. In 2009 he set career highs in passing yards (4,434), completions (350), and TD's (30). Rodgers also has some decent legs on him, he had five rushing touchdowns in 2009. Green Bay has kept all the weapons that Rodgers used to have such a productive 2009 campaign, I only see him getting better. Running Back Ryan Grant is coming into his third full season as the starter, and in each of the past two seasons, Grant has broken the 1,000 yard mark on the ground. Last season he set career highs with 1,253 rushing yards and 11 TD's. With another year of experience under his belt, I expect more production out of Grant in 2010. The Packers receivers are a mix of old reliable (Donald Driver), the young dynamic guy (Greg Jennings), and the quick slot receiver (Jordy Nelson). Jennings has emerged as not only the Packers number one option, but he's also a top 5 receiver in the NFL. Jennings has had back to back seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving.
Green Bay lost Aaron Kampman in the off season, but their defense still has the chance to be extremely dangerous. The Defensive Line Is led by Cullen Jenkins, but look for second year Nose Tackle B.J. Raji to have a huge year in his first as a starter. The core of Linebackers is the biggest strength of this defensive unit. A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, Nick Barnett and Brad Jones form one of the most feared LB units in the NFL. In 2009, Matthews has 10 sacks on his own (a Packers rookie record) and the LB unit as a whole had 19 sacks. Green Bay's secondary is led by six time Pro-Bowl CB Charles Woodson. In 2009, Woodson had 9 interceptions and 2 sacks, and was nearly matched by FS Nick Collins who had 6 interceptions and 1 sack.

2. Minnesota Vikings - 11-5
Favre is back, but Sidney Rice is out. Favre's favorite target from a year ago is out indefinitely after having hip surgery. Favre will be Favre, there is no need to go through stats, because we already know how good Brett can be. Running Back Adrian Peterson also needs no introduction, he alongside RB Chris Johnson, are fighting for the title of best back in the league. Second year receiver Percy Harvin and deep threat Bernard Berrian are gonna have to step up in Rice's absence, but the migranes Harvin battled all through training camp have to be a cause for concern in Minnesota. Favre always seems to have a good relationship with his Tight End's, so look for him to be targeting TE Visanthe Shiancoe a lot more often.
The Vikings also have a very good defense. The front four of Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, and Pat and Kevin Williams has to be considered one of the best in the NFL. The Linebackers are also solid, Chad Greenway, Ben Leber and E.J. Henderson can all produce at high levels. The secondary is lead by veteran CB Antoine Winfield, but second year CB out of Georgia Asher Allen is primed for a great season in 2010.

Chicago Bears - 6-10
Quarterback Jay Cutler struggled in his first season with the Bears, but Cutler can stil throw the ball with the best of 'em. Cutler has one of the biggest arms in the NFL and I look for him to have a better season in 2010. Unfortunately for Cutler, the Bears haven't put together a dangerous core of receivers. Both of his top pass catchers, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, are Kick Returners turned into Wide Receivers, which doesn't really make sense to me. I am very surprised the Bears didn't make a deal for WR Brandon Marshall, given all the success he and Cutler had during their time in Denver. Running Back Matt Forte is an all-purpose back, he can run the ball like a traditional one, but he is also a very good receiver out of the back field. Forte had a down year in 2009, but I expect good things out of him in 2010. Also, look for WR Devin Aromashodu to emerge as Cutler's favorite target.
On paper, the Bears defense looks just plain scary. Tommie Harris and Julius Peppers are leading the front front four, and those two guys combined in 2009 had 13 sacks. The Linebackers are led by Chicago Linebacking staple Brian Urlacher, whose season was cut short in 2009 due to injury. Urlacher, along with Pisa Tinoisamoa and Lance Briggs create a very formidable group of LB's that should have great success in 2010. The secondary is a combo of really good players. Third year CB Zachary Bowman had six interceptions in 2009, and veterans Danieal Manning and Charles Tillman are always very dangerous.

4. Detroit Lions - 2-14
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is coming into his second year in the NFL, and this one won't get any better than the first one. Stafford had a pretty decent year in 2009, considering the lack of talent the Lions front office put around him. In ten games, Stafford threw for 2,267 yards, 13 TD's and 20 interceptions. I think Stafford himself will have a better year, but the Lions schedule is very difficult and it will be tough to come across wins. Detroit used a first round pick on RB out of Cal Jahvid Best, and by the looks of it, Best will be the starting back in week one. It is very important for a QB to feel comfortable with his RB, and hopefully Stafford can feel comfortable with a rookie in his back field. The Lions receivers are actually pretty good, fourth year man Calvin Johnson has proven to be a legit number one receiver, and Nate Burleson is a nice compliment on the other side.
The guy to watch on defense will be rookie DT Ndamukong Suh. The Lions used the second overall pick in 2010 on Suh and are expecting a lot of good things. Veteran DE Kyle Vanden Bosch enters his first season with the Lions and Detroit will be counting on him to be a defensive leader. Linebacker Julian Peterson will anchor the linebacking unit, he brings a lot of experience and stability. The secondary is a cause for concern, CB's Chris Houston and Johnathon Wade are both entering 2010 as first time starters. Safety C.C. Brown has some experience, but hasn't been a starter in two years, and second year Safety Louis Delmas has unlimited talent and athleticism, but he does tend to make a lot of questionable decisions.

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