The NFC North, otherwise known as the “Black and Blue Division,” has a long history of tough, hard-nosed football. It has a short history of domination by one team. The Green Bay Packers have finished atop of the division three out of the last five seasons. Last season, the Packers rolled to the division title with a 11-5 record. How dominant are the Packers? In 2010, they didn’t win the division, but won a Super Bowl title, defeating the arch-rival Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game. Here’s a look at how the division should shape up in 2013.
1. Green Bay Packers. 11-5
Additions: Vince Young QB (FA, Buffalo) Eddie Lacy RB (Draft, Alabama) Datone Jones DE (Draft, UCLA)
Subtractions: Jeff Saturday C (Released) Charles Woodson CB, (Released, Signed with Oakland) Greg Jennings WR, (FA, Signed with Minnesota)
The Packers didn’t make that many changes in the offseason, which is a good and bad thing. The positive is that quarterback Aaron Rodgers still leads a high-powered offense, that can score more often than Hugh Hefner in 1975. The negative is that a suspect defense remains intact, despite being exposed by San Francisco in the playoffs last season. The Packers averaged 27 points per game last season, so they know where the end zone is. The problem, especially come playoff time is, keeping the opposition out of their end zone. The Packers conceded 45 points to the 49ers in last year’s playoff loss. The year before against the New York Giants, the Packers gave up 37 points. Green Bay has been fortunate that the rest of the division has yet to step up, so winning the division isn’t the hard part. The question in the land of dairy and milk is, can the Packers get over the hump like they did in 2010? Or is another playoff disaster looming? Head coach Mike McCarthy better figure it out soon, or he could be on the unemployment line faster than Edward Snowden when he returns to the United States.
2. Chicago Bears 9-7
Additions: Martellus Bennett TE, (FA, New York Giants) Jermon Bushrod T, (FA, New Orleans) Steve Maneri TE, (FA, Kansas City) Kyle Long G, (Draft, Oregon) Leonard Pope TE, (FA, Pittsburgh) Trent Edwards QB, (FA, Philadelphia)
Subtractions: Brian Urlacher LB, (retired) Israel Idonije DE (FA, Detroit) Johnny Knox WR/KR, (Released) Kellen Davis TE, (Released) Matt Spaeth TE, (Released)
After a 7-1 start and a playoff berth all but locked up, the Chicago Bears struggled down the stretch and missed the playoffs, despite a 10-6 record. It was enough to cost head coach Lovie Smith his job, and a new ear was ushered in. Marc Trestman takes over the head coaching position, after five very successful seasons with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, in which Trestman won two Grey Cups, and four first place finishes. Trestman does have NFL experience, as he was the offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, when they went to the Super Bowl, during the 2002 season. (Yes people, the Raiders actually appeared in a Super Bowl. Now get your jaws off the floor.) Trestman is known to be a quarterback guru, and his mission in the Windy City is to turn Jay Cutler into a winner. Cutler has shown signs of brilliance, but has shown more signs of flat-out ugliness, as his 14 interceptions will attest. The defense won’t have Brian Urlacher anymore, as he decided to hang up his cleats, and join FOX television as a studio analyst. It will be up to the likes of Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman, to carry on the tradition of a hard-hitting defense that Bears fans crave for. The Bears know how to beat weaker foes, but they must improve on their 2-6 record against playoff bound opponents. If Chicago can’t defeat teams that are ahead of them, it won’t matter if Mike Ditka or Dick Jauron is manning the sidelines.
3. Detroit Lions 7-9
Additions: Reggie Bush RB, (FA, Miami) Israel Idonije DE, (FA, Chicago) Jason Jones DE, (FA, Seattle) David Akers K, (FA, San Francisco) Glover Quin S, (FA, Houston) Ziggy Ansah DE, (Draft, BYU) Rashean Mathis CB, (FA, Jacksonville)
Subtractions: Titus Young WR, (Released) Kyle Vanden Bosch DE, (Released) Stephen Peterman G, (Released, New York Jets) Jason Hansen K, (Retired) Brian Robiskie WR, (Released) Jahvid Best RB, (Released) Jacob Lacey CB, (Released) Lawrence Jackson DE, (Released, Minnesota) Drayton Florence CB, (FA, Carolina)
There is no doubt that the Detroit Lions have talent. However, is the talent being used properly? Or is the talent being guided properly? Head coach Jim Schwartz is on the hot seat and he must make the playoffs, or he will be gone out of Detroit faster than the Edsel. The problem is Schwartz is as intelligent as a Kardashian so expect the Lions to not live up to their potential. Too bad. Calvin Johnson is the best wide receiver in the NFL, and is being wasted on the Lions. Megatron broke the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season. (1,964 yards) Reggie Bush should help the offense, but Matthew Stafford needs to cut down his interceptions. His 17 picks were damaging to the Lions and he drastically needs to reduce that number by half. The defense should be improved, thanks to the additions of Israel Idonije and first round pick Ziggy Ansah. But as long as Schwartz continues to be the dumb ass we all love to hate, the Lions will spend another year in mediocrity.
4. Minnesota Vikings 5-11
Additions: Greg Jennings WR, (FA, Green Bay) Matt Cassel QB, (FA, Kansas City) Sharrif Floyd DT, (Draft, Florida) Desmond Bishop LB, (FA, Green Bay) Seth Olsen G, (FA, Indianapolis) Lawrence Jackson DE, (FA, Detroit)
Subtractions: Percy Harvin WR, (Trade, Seattle) Antoine Winfield CB, (Released, Seattle) Michael Jenkins WR, (Released) Chris Kluwe P, (Released, Oakland)
The Minnesota Vikings are Adrian Peterson, and not much else. OK that isn’t entirely true but pretty damn close. Peterson was amazing in 2012, rushing for 2,097 yards, just eight yards short of the all-time single season record. This, after coming off reconstructive knee surgery! So yes, Adrian Peterson is a great football player. But what else do the Vikings have? Christian Ponder? I don’t trust him to take care of my pet goldfish, let alone lead an NFL offense. (I don’t have a pet goldfish but if I did, I wouldn’t trust Ponder to feed it every day.) The receivers? Greg Jennings will help, but he will realize very soon that Ponder is not Aaron Rodgers. Jerome Simpson is OK, but he won’t make anyone in the Twin Cities think he’s the next Cris Carter. Or Randy Moss. Or Anthony Carter. The Vikings are so desperate at receiver, they’re trying former quarterback Joe Webb as a wideout. Granted, Webb couldn’t throw a football, so maybe he can catch one. The defense is OK, but getting old. How long can Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway last before their aging bodies finally give way? The Vikings were very lucky to make the playoffs last season. Don’t expect a repeat in 2013.
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