A rundown of the NFC North, with analysis of each team, stats on key players, and record predictions.
The Vikings were a sexy Super Bowl Pick last season, but their lack of a starting QB who could take over the game failed them. They addressed that issue this offseason by agreeing to terms with perennial flip-flopper Brett Favre. The Vikings hope that Favre will be the missing piece that will propel Adrian Peterson and a strong defense into the playoffs. The Vikings have a receiving corps similar to some of the Packer wideouts Favre excelled with: under-rated performers who appear primed to break out with the right talent throwing them the ball. There could be warm feelings coming from chilly Minnesota this season.
RB: Adrian Peterson – 363 car, 1,760 yards, 10 TD
QB: Brett Favre – 3,472 yards, 22 TD, 22 INT, 65.7% comp. pct.
DE: Jared Allen – 14.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
Projected Record: 12-4
Denver defect Jay Cutler has looked strong in limited preseason action thus far, and has fans of Da Bears feeling pretty good. Much like the Vikings, many feel that the Bears were a quarterback away from a playoff berth last year. Cutler has a lot to prove after the drama surrounding his exit from Denver, and he has a stronger running back than he did there. Matt Forte exceeded high expectations last season, and is primed to be a star. The Bear’s defense last season was not its standard intimidating self, but hopefully a healthy season from some of the big names will lead to better results.
RB: Matt Forte – 1,715 total yards, 12 TD
LB: Brian Urlacher – 93 tackles, 10 sacks, 2 INT
QB: Jay Cutler – 4,526 yards, 25 TD, 18 INT, 62.3% comp. pct.
Projected Record: 10-6
Green Bay Packers
Year 1 A.F. was a mild success for the Pack. They started out strong, but fell off midway through the season. Most encouraging, however, were the promising signs shown by Aaron Rodgers. Given a few years, and some complimentary players, he could lead the Packers back to the promised land. Ryan Grant was somewhat of a letdown after his breakout 2007 season, but he still performed very well. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver continued to be one of the league’s best WR duos, and their continued dominance is crucial to Rodgers’ continued growth. The Packers need to improve on defense if they want to compete in what is becoming a strong division. They have some strong names on D; they may just need more time to jell.
QB: Aaron Rodgers – 4,038 yards, 28 TD, 13 INT, 4 rush TD
WR: Greg Jennings – 80 rec, 1,292 yards, 9 TD
RB: Ryan Grant – 312 car, 1,203, 4 TD
Projected Record: 8-8
Umm, what can really be said about last season? The Lions went 0-16, finished last in total defense, third-to-last in total offense, and their front office and coaching situation became a laughing-stock. The laws of probability almost guarantee that this season will prove more fruitful. The Lions were very busy in the offseason, but it is unlikely any of their acquisitions will push them over the edge. First overall draft pick Matthew Stafford will likely need a few years before he is ready, and there are still many gaping holes on both sides of the ball. The best thing the Lions have going their way is that there is new leadership and some young talent that could lead to greater success a few years down the road.
WR: Calvin Johnson – 78 rec, 1,331 yards, 12 TD
RB: Kevin Smith – 238 car, 978 yards, 8 TD
LB: Paris Lenon – 121 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Projected Record: 3-13
Title image credits: Niels Timmer and q83
Dan Mason is an accountant by trade only – he would much rather write. He constantly daydreams about being in the woods or on the water, in the middle of nowhere. He resides in the Rochester, NY, area and is thankful the Adirondacks are only a few hours’ drive away. He is happiest when there is a pen (read: keyboard) or a canoe paddle in his hand.