2011 NFC North

Well here it is, my annual thread to start the discussion of the NFC North, home of the 2011 Super Bowl Champions, the home of the hosts of the 2011 NFC Championship Game, home of the up and coming Lions, and home of the Vikings. Lets get down to brass tacks…

QB: 1) Packers- Rodgers; 2) Bears-Cutler; 3) Vikings - McNabb; 4) Lions - Stafford

I think one and two are pretty clear cut. I picked McNabb over Stafford, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it. I like Stafford as a young QB, but his injuries last year set him back in my opinion. And while I don’t think McNabb is great, he has proven he can lead a team and so I give him the nod for the third spot.

RB: 1) Vikings - Peterson; 2) Bears - Forte; 3) Packers - Grant (Starks); 4) Lions - Best

Number one here is pretty obvious. Between Forte and Grant I think if Grant wasn’t coming off injury it would be closer, but the truth is Forte had a pretty good year last year with 1600+ total yards and 9 TDs. Grant is coming off an injurey that kept hijm out the whole season, while Strarks had his moments, but not enough to provide me with confidence. I like Best, but he does not have the track record yet to move any higher than 4th.

WR: 1) Packers - Jennings, Driver, Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb; 2) Lions - Johnson, Burleson, Young, Davis; 3) Vikings - Harvin, Berrian, Jenkins Lewis; 4) Bears - Knox, Williams, Hester, Bennett

The Packers clearly have the best depth at WR and that puts them at number 1. As for the other three teams, I went with the Lions because even though they probably aren’t better than the other two top to bottom, they have the best WR in the NFC North by far, so that nudged them up for me. Between the Vikings and Bears, it was really a tossup, but I like Harvin a little better than anything the bEars have.

TE: 1) Packers - Finley, Quarrles; 2) Vikings - Shiancoe, Rudolph; 3) Lions - Pettigrew, Scheffler; 4) Bears - Davis, Spaeth

This position probably highlights my Packers bias more than any other, but I really love Jermichael Finley, so there you have it. It is close between the VIkings and Lions, I like Shaincoe and Pettigrew actually, but I like Shiancoe a little better but I could be convinced otherwise. The Bears, I dunno, they lost Olsen, not sure what happened to Desmond Clark, don’t know much about these two guys.

Offensive Line: 1) Packers; 2) Vikings; 3) Lions; 4) Bears

I went online to see how Offensive lines were being ranked, and quite frankly they were all over the place. One had the Vikings the worst in the league, another had them the best in the NFC North, for example. So this is kind of a WAG. I do like the considerable progress the Packers O-line has made over the last couple of years, but their run blocking still needs work.

Defensive Line: 1) Bears; 2) Lions; 3) Packers; 4) Vikings

OK, this is a loaded area in the NFC North, and it is a little hard to compare the Packers 3-4 versus the 4-3 the other teams run, but I feel pretty confident in picking the bears #1. Julius Peppers is a beast, idonje, etc. Then the Lions who are certainly building a formidable d-line starting with Suh, adding Fairly. The Packers I put 3rd with BJ Raji and Ryan Picket. I have the Vikings 4th, but I could see them as high as 2nd as well.

Linebackers: 1) Bears; 2) Packers; 3) Lions; 4) Vikings

Briggs and Urlacher beat out Hawk and Matthews, but only slightly. The Lions picked up Stephen Tulloch who I like a lot. The Vikings have servicable LBS, Greenway is pretty good, but Not the quality that exists elsewhere in the division.

Defensive Backfield: 1) Packers; 2) Bears; 3) Vikings; 4) Lions

Packers win here with Woodson, Collins, and Williams. The Bears and Vikings have decent d backfields, but the Lions really need help there.

Special Teams: 1) Bears; 2-4) Packers, Vikings, Lions

Basically in this division there is the Bears and everyone else, IMO.

Coaching: 1) Packers; 2) Bears; 3) Lions; 4) Vikings
Well one coach is a Super Bowl winner, so he gets the nod. I know there are a lot of critics of Lovie Smith, but his team did win the division and the other two are too new to get a gauge on. Schwartz is looking promising and Frasier is TBD.

Packers 12-4
Bears 9-7
Lions 7-9
Vikings 6-10

Chicago Bears (9-7)
Falcons (Loss)
@ Saints (Loss)
Packers (Win)
Panthers (Win)
@ Lions (Win)
Vikings (Win)
Bucs @ Wembley (Loss)
@ Eagles (Loss)
Lions (Win)
Chargers (Win)
@ Raiders (Loss)
Chiefs (Win)
@ Broncos (Win)
Seahawks (Win)
@ Packers (Loss)
@ Vikings (Loss)

Detroit Lions (7 -9)
@ Bucs (Loss)
KC (Win)
@ Vikes (Win)
@ Dallas (Loss)
Bears (Loss)
49ers (Win)
Falcons (Loss)
@ Broncos (Win)
@ Bears (Loss)
Panthers (Win)
Packers (Win)
@ Saints (Loss)
Vikings (Win)
@Raiders (Loss)
Chargers (Loss)
@ Packers (Loss)

Green Bay Packers (12- 4)
Saints (Win)
@ Panthers (Win)
@ Bears (Loss)
Broncos (Win)
@ Falcons (Loss)
Rams (Win)
@ Vikings (Win)
@ Chargers (Win)
Vikings (Win)
Buccaneers (Win)
@ Lions (Loss)
@ Giants (Win)
Raiders (Win)
@ Chiefs (Loss)
Bears (Win)
Lions (Win)

Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
@ Chargers (Loss)
Buccaneers (Loss)
Lions (Win)
@ Chiefs (Loss)
Cardinals (Win)
@ Bears (Loss)
Packers (Loss)
Panthers (Win)
@ Packers (Loss)
Raiders (Win)
@ Falcons (Loss)
Broncos (Win)
@ Lions (Loss)
Saints (Loss)
@ Redskins (Win)
Bears (Win)

I have a feeling the Bars fans are going to be not pleased, so be it, its just a prediction and chances are I will get something dreadfully wrong.

OK guys, rip into me, I am wearing the protection of 13 NFL Champiosnhips!

Bears fan here. I have them going 10-6. They overperformed last year. No complaints on your analysis.

Say, Ganster Octopus. Do you happen to know who won the Super Bowl last year? I may have forgotten.

My prediction

1.Packers
2.Bears
3.Vikes
4.Lions

Well last calendar year I believe the Saints won the Super Bowl, but if you mean who is the reigning Super Bowl champs, that would be the Green Bay Packers, aka God’s Team.

I’m not going to pick too many nits with your analysis. Generally I thought it was pretty fair. I have a few comments though, because that’s how I roll and I can’t contain myself.

I think you’re a little too far down on the Bears WRs and I think the Packers WRs get far too much credit that should be given to Rodgers. But, the main argument that I want to make is this: If Roy Williams does anything resembling what he did under Martz in Detroit the Bears might have the best WRs in the division. Mind you, that’s a HUGE if and it may be utter lunacy to even discuss based on how he played the last couple seasons in Dallas, but a case can be made that his situation in Dallas was a mess and that he he must have shown something to keep fending off Dez Bryant from the starting spot.

If the Bears get #1 WR numbers from Williams, something I think is a reasonable possibility considering the reports coming out of camp combined with Cutler’s desire to have a big WR to lean on in the red zone and on 3rd down, even if those numbers are still a distant 3rd behind Jennings and Johnson the Bears will have the best group in the division. Knox, Hester, Bennett would be leaps and bounds ahead of the 2, 3 and 4 guys in the rest of the division. Of course, if Cobb and/or Jones make a big leap for the Packers in place of Driver that would even things up quite a bit in my best case scenario.

Even if Williams is only a middling WR i think it’s a heck of a better foursome than even the best case scenario for the Vikings this season.

Finley, if he’s a 100%, is the best in the division. I’m not convinced he’ll be 100% though. I think Pettigrew is a full measure better than Shiancoe who might never be heard from again now that Favre is gone.

The Bears are actually in really good shape at the TE position. It’s a lightly used position under Martz and after a season trying to force a square peg into a round hole they’ve eliminated the overhead at the position. I love Olsen, but he wasn’t a good fit here any more.

For the last couple years I’ve raved about the upside and flashes that Kellen Davis has shown. He’s huge and athletic for his size. He’s not as dynamic as Olsen, but he’s bigger and a better blocker. He will make more of those midrange throws than Olsen would who was more of a down the field type. Spaeth is a bit of an unknown to me but he’s a lunch pail guy who should improve our protection schemes in max protect situations while not being the complete zero in the passing game that Manumaleuna was. He always seemed to be johnny on the spot in Pittsburgh after all.

The Bears resigned Desmond Clark for the league minimum immediately after the Olsen trade. The Bears were loath to get rid of him because he’s such a pro and so useful on special teams and the expectation was that he’d be gone heading into the lockout, the loss of Olsen opened up the spot that was expected to be closed to him. He still may not make the team since the Bears may (and perhaps should) only keep 2 TEs, but he’ll get a chance to compete. Personally I’d rather the Bears kept an additional WR or RB not named Chester Taylor but that player will have to be more useful than Clark on special teams.

I’m surprised to find myself so bullish on the Bears front 4 this preseason with the loss of Tommie Harris. Harris wasn’t the same player he was before his injuries, but he was steady and a big part of what made us an excellent run defense. He understood the system and was effective. That said, I really like what the Bears have done at the position.

Peppers is a stud and while I’d like to see him get after the QB more, he controls the O line entirely. Izzy is a great Bear who stepped up big last year but I really think the Bears would benefit from a more dynamic player opposite Peppers, at least on obvious passing downs. Izzy should still start, but I’d love them to add a speed rusher to rotate with him. The Bears took a flyer on Vernon Gholston which was the perfect gamble to take. He’s basically free and if he doesn’t make the team it’s no loss, but as a dynamic athlete he’s still special. Finally back in a 4-3 with Marinelli in his ear, there’s a chance that Gholston could be that rotational speed rusher they need. Maybe not, but if that’s the case they are no worse than they were last year. Wootton has apparently come into camp looking like a beast and is quicker off the ball than ever. As most Bears’ fans favorite player from last season solely because the sack heard round the world, he’s going to have an opportunity to win the starting job from Izzy should he and Gholston falter.

Inside things have gotten far more interesting. There’s quite a bit of reason to be skeptical here, and as the regular season draws closer we’ll know more, but I’m initially pretty excited. They retained Adams which was critical, he’s a space eater and a core locker room guy. He’s versatile enough to play both spots but he’s best at the Nose. Opposite him the Bears are going to be depending on Henry Melton at the crucial under tackle spot and while I’ve been skeptical of Lovie’s faith in this guy i’m starting to actually think I was wrong. Melton has come into camp like a monster and has uncommon speed and footwork inside. Again, we’ll have to see what happens when the wear of a full season takes a toll, but he finished the season strong last year and looks downright scary this camp. Behind these projected starters it’s pretty strong, they drafted Paea who I didn’t love as a 3 technique but as a NT he could be perfect. If certainly might be wrong about Paea, but as a backup I like him even if I’m right. Marcus Harrison’s run as another of Angelo’s busts appears to be over so that’s one less big body to work with. The real exciting possibility in Amobe Okoye. Like Gholston it’s essentially a zero risk proposition, but with his youth there’s a legitimate chance he could blossom into a real impact player in this rotation. Maybe not since he struggled with a Peppers-like player along side him in Houston, but the age and athleticism are real. Can a more professional locker room in Chicago and an organization that emphasizes defense and the little things spur some latent growth from him? Ii’m really excited to find out.

Long rambling story short, I think this might be the deepest set of DLs that I’ve seen under Lovie. A couple of them are reclamation projects which could amount to nothing, but in years past those spots were filled by replacement level depth players at best, most who were former draft picks who the staff had a sentimental attachment to. This year every since player has the potential to become an above average starter. It’s a young, healthy and athletic group that happens to be pretty darn cheap. I love it. I suppose every single player could fail to live up to expectations, but if that happens everyone in town is fired.

I got a chuckle checking out last years NFC North thread, including much the same thing you’re saying now about the WR’s.

From last year:

*"They [the Vikings] have the most talented WR class by a pretty big stretch. Harvin’s migraines are a major worry but I think Rice is a complete stud and I really like Marko Mitchell’s potential if Harvin misses time. Berrian is a great 3rd WR. The Vikes have not only the best WR corps in the division but they are one of the best in the NFL. …

The Bears have far more upside than the Packers do. Even worse, the Packers depth at the position is abysmal. …

Hester will be a great, great player in the slot (finally!) and I think Martz will finally exploit his skills properly but those damned soft tissue injuries will potentially crop up again. "*

Not a single one of the Vikings had a thousand yard season, Rice had 17 whole receptions ALL YEAR, and he still had more yards than Bernard Berrian. And here’s what you get when you check out Marko Mitchell’s stats: “This player does not have any statistics…”

Meanwhile Jennings has 1200+ yards, while Driver, Jones, and Nelson all had more than 500 yards receiving. That’s 4 WR’s on the Packers who all had more yards (and 3 of 4 who had more catches) than anyone on the Bears not named Knox. Nelson had 9 and 140 in the Super Bowl. On the Bears, one of the leading receivers was their RB, who led the team in catches, and Hester, who had 40, 475, and 4 td’s, not what I would call a great, great player.

Even if he had the best statistical year of his career (which I’m pretty well convinced won’t happen), Roy Williams would be only less than 100 yards ahead of Jennings last year and 5 td’s behind).

I would’ve thought you’d have learned your lesson about putting your faith in “reports coming out of camp” from the Bears. Last year’s “reports out of camp” had the Bears loving their WR crew, great potential in their O Line, and Cutler was in for his best season ever. Funny how that worked out last year.

I think your “best case scenario” is on par with Shangri La and Atlantis. Their best receiver last year has been demoted for a guy who has, at best, been mediocre the last three years. I don’t think even Martz, in his heart of hearts, thinks they are better than Nelson, Jones, or Driver.

At least you’ve come around on the Vikings WR’s. That’s something.

Here’s more from Omni from last year, as to TE’s:

“You’re fucking nuts on this one. The division is pretty loaded at TE and there’s talent all around it, but the Bears are easily the best at the position.”

Bears TE’s:

Olsen: 40, 404, 5 td’s.
Davis: 9, 84, 1 td’s.

And now Olsen is gone.

Other NFC:

Shiancoe: 47, 530, 2 td’s.
Finley: 21, 301, 1 td. In only 5 games.
Pettigrew: 71, 722, 4 td’s.
Scheffler: 45, 378, 1 td.
Quarless: 21, 238, 1 td.

I’m sure you’re fine throwing in with Davis, Spaeth, and Clark, but they’re still the bottom of the NFC North as far as TE’s go. I agree with you that Shiancoe’s production will drop off and Pettigrew is a good sight better than him. I also like the backup TE’s the Packers have (I fear that TT might be getting ready for Finley to jump ship after this year), in Andrew Quarless (who has another year experience, and especially DJ Williams. Although I questioned the pick, he seems to be a very good receiving TE, one who could be another toy for McCarthy to play with.

More later.

You are both probably right about Pettigrew being above Shiancoe, but keep in mind McNabb loves those tight ends. So don’t be surprised if Schiancoe has better stats by the end of the year.

QB: Packers, Vikings, Lions, Bears. Really, it’s more of a clear number one and a 2A, 2B, and 2C.
RB: Vikings, Bears, Packers, Lions. Similar to the quarterbacks, but there’s less of a gap between Peterson and Forte. The Packers tend to pile up yards on the ground, so there isn’t much of a gap between Forte and the Pu Pu Packers Platter. The Lions are intriguing, with a high ceiling with Jahvid Best and Jerome Harrison.
WR: Packers, Lions, Vikings, Bears. The Lions and Packers have two of the very best receivers in the entire game.
TE: Lions, Packers, Vikings, Bears. The Lions have two very good tight ends and the Packers have one extremely good tight end and a few solid ones. It could go either way. Shiancoe will have a good year, and the Bears gave away their only tight end.
OL: Packers, Lions, Vikings, Bears. This is really muddled. The Lions are surprisingly good at protecting the quarterback, but they may have weaknesses in run blocking. The Packers really do no wrong, and have (always) enviable depth on the line. The Vikings might be past their prime, but there are a couple of folks that need to step up. The Bears’ line is in disarray.
DL: Lions, Bears, Packers, Vikings. The Lions have, potentially, the best defensive line unit in the entire league. The Bears lost Tommie Harris, whose skills eroded, but still plays with a high motor. The Packers are intriguing, but did lose Cullen Jenkins. There’s room for movement here, for sure. The Vikings are aging, but if they put it together, even with the departure of Ray Edwards, have room to move up this list.
LB: Packers, Bears, Vikings, Lions. Not much to say here. Urlacher is a helluva player, and there seem to be some questions around him, but it’s a pretty small gap, and 1 and 2 could quite go either way.
DB: Packers, Vikings, Bears, Lions. The Vikings and Bears might be closer, and respectable. The strength the Lions will have in their corners comes from the very underrated Chris Houston, and how much pressure the defensive line can put on the opposing offensive lines.
S: Packers, Vikings, Lions, Bears. This is a bit of a toss up, for me. I think the Packers have the best safeties in the division, but there’s a lot of wiggle room to me. The Lions have one very good young safety in Louis Delmas, but a promising question mark in the other safety position. The Bears are aging, but a lot of their effectiveness, to me, comes from the strength (and depth) in their linebackers. AS a unit, I think they’re hovering around average. None of the 4 are “bad”.
ST: Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings. The gap between the Bears and Lions is smaller than the gap between the Lions and Packers. The Vikings have room to move up, depending on the effectiveness and migraines of Percy Harvin (who I really like as a player).
Coaching: Packers, Lions, Bears, Vikings. The first and last are crystal clear, and this is a make-or-break season for the Detroit coaching staff.

The Packers are still the class of the division. I can see the Bears and Packers making it into the postseason again. The Lions will be 8-8 +/- 1.

It was a successful opener for the Lions. Stafford walked off the field.

Some thoughts on the Packers …

Oh, excuse me. Sorry.

Some thoughts on the NFL CHAMPION, SUPER BOWL WINNING Green Bay Packers, now that they’ve played their 3rd pre-season game:

  1. I was too confident going into the preseason. The team won the Super Bowl last year, was returning most of their impact players, was getting back impact players from injury, and didn’t need a whole lot of the missed off season to adjust/develop new players and schemes. I’m not down on them now, but there are certainly flaws that shine brightly.

  2. Chad Clifton scares me. His improvement from turnstyle to rock was a huge reason the Packers were able to go on their late run to greatness last year. Now he’s a year older, and has looked more like early 2010 Chad than late 2010 Chad. We may have to see Derrick Sherrod or Marshall Newhouse earlier than I would like.

  3. The run blocking needs work almost as much as the pass blocking. There weren’t many holes to run through this preseason (3.4 ypc) and they don’t have much pop off the line. I don’t think it’s Ryan Grant (although it could be), but I’d like to see a much better running game out there.

  4. I like Matt Flynn, and any team that picks him up this offseason will, I think, be happy to have him. I am also heartened by some nice throws by 3rd stringer Graham Harrell to think that the Packers might break with tradition and keep 3 QB’s on the roster.

  5. Randall Cobb seems like a great addition. It’s been so long since the Packers have had a playmaker in the return game, it will be nice to see if he can be that guy. Of course, he’s injured right now, but hopefully he’ll be fine for the opener. With the Ginger Wolverine booming punts, Ryan Taylor being a dervish, and Cosby hopefully better accuracy, I’m actually excited by the Packers’ special teams this year. And that hasn’t been true for quite a few years.

  6. I’m hopeful the defense can play up to last years’ level again (though it may be tough, they were pretty good). With so many pieces being rested, unsettled, or unused in the preseason, it’s really hard to get a good gauge on how the regular season will go.

  7. If the Packers’ O line can play even adequately, the Packers will be the NFC North Champs this year. Rodgers has looked good (except for that horrible facial hair), the defense seems to be coming together again, Finley looks like a difference maker again, and they might actually be very good on special teams. The O line woes, Mike Martz’s nuttiness, a (hopefully) older defense, and the likelihood of return to the mean on injuries make me think the Bears won’t repeat. The Vikings are all but rebuilding and aren’t scaring me. The Lions, and that manslab Suh, are scaring me a bit. If Stafford is as good as promised and they can keep him up, they may have a potent offense. But I think lack of RB depth (Best isn’t an every down back) and a weak secondary means they still have some work to do.

It should be interesting to watch the remaining 3rd preseason games. There’s a ton of questions still out there.

Man, the Lions are looking pretty good. I know it is only pre-season, but unlike previous years, I am not looking forward to the match-ups this season.

The Patriots looked like the old and slow team. The Lions have never (as far as I can remember) been the young and fast team on defense.

It’s preseason, but there’s a awful lot of Kool-Aid drinking here in Detroit.w

Didn’t the Lions go 4-0 in the preseason immediately before going 0-16 in the regular season in… '08, or whenever? Anyway, Matt Stafford may have incredible potential, but the guy gets hurt standing in a stiff breeze. I’ve never really bought into the “injury prone” idea, except WRT specific body parts that are prone to re-injury, but he makes me rethink my position.

The Vikings are going to a Super Bowl. If not this year, then soon. It’s got nothing to do with the team; it’s just that every other Tony Dungy disciple gets to a Super Bowl.

They did. I’m still holding fast to my fearless 8-8 +/-1 prediction, though.

Buy playoff tickets now. The Lions are a sure thing.

They can have the wild card. :slight_smile:

Kevin Williams of the Vikings has finally given up his appeal of his suspension by the NFL for using a banned substance. I have no interest in re-redebating the suspension (check out last season’s NFC North thread if you like), but at least his case is resolved. Pursuant to the new CBA, his suspension is reduced to two games. However, his fine is 4/17th of his salary, which means he’ll be paying an extra million dollars or so than he would have if he had just sucked it up and taken the suspension when he got it. Add in his attorney fees for 3 years of litigation, and that’s quite a price he paid.

I,as I have for the last 20 years,(when Lion fans spout off about how good they are gonna be this year) am looking forward to another memorable collapse.

Stafford gets hurt,Suh gets arrested,Hanson misses a PAT…take your pick.

I first bought season tickets when they played in Tiger Stadium. I was in the bleacher club where when it rained or snowed, it did it on us.
Then I had tickets at the Silverdome and kept them through Barry Sanders entire career. When he bailed because the Lions were really not committed to winning, I had already renewed. That was the end of season tickets for me.