Season Long NFC North Discussion Thread

I think there are enough Packers, Bears, Vikings, and yes, even Lions fans to create a discussion thread for what should be one of the most intriguing division in football.

My disclaimer: I am a Packers fan.

So I will now give my breakdown of the NFC North, by position:

Quarterback: 1) GB (Aaron Rodgers); 2) CHI (Jay Cutler); 3) MIN (Brett Favre); 4) DET (Daunte Culpepper/Matt Stafford)

QB is where the division gets most of its intrigue, of course. Rodgers had an excellent season last year and has looked sharp in the pre-season, so I give him the nod. Cutler is young and accomplished, but coming into a new situation, with less receiving talent than he had in Denver. Brett Favre is a wildcard, but he is clearly older and doing more dinking and dunking these days. The Lions QB potential is the future, not this year.

Running Back: 1. MIN (Adrian Peterson AND Chester Taylor); 2) CHI (Matt Forte); 3) GB (Ryan Grant); 4) DET (Kevin Smith)

While it is clear that AP is the cream of the crop, the distance between him and Forte is not that great, but t he addition of Taylor in the Minnesota backfield just makes it more intimidating. Grant disappointed for much of last year but came on strong and could pull himself closer to the elite two. Kevin Smith showed flashes last year, but unfortunately for him the team was behind a lot and he didn’t get to showcase himself.

Wide Receivers: 1. GB (Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones); 2) DET (Calvin Johnson, Bryant Johnson, Dennis Northcutt); 3) MIN (Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice); 4) CHI (Devin Hester, Earl Bennet, Joaquin Iglesias)

The surprise here for some would be Detroit at #2. But I think the presence of an elite receiver in Calvin Johnson is the slight difference over Minnesota. Percy Harvin is potential, but it remains to be seen how he will do. GB has the best proven wide receiver corps, I think and I cannot even comment on the Bears as I have no idea who some these guys are.

Tight Ends: 1. CHI (Greg Olsen); 2) MIN (Visanthe Shiancoe); 3) GB (Donald Lee); 4) DET (Casey Fitzsimmons)

Greg Olsen should emerge this year under Cutler, who made excellent use of his TE while in Denver. Likewise Brett Favre will depend quite a bit on Shiancoe. I give Olsen a slight advantage in his play making ability, but its close. Donald Lee is dependable but not a main option. Casey Fitzsimmons is I don’t know.

Offensive Line: 1) MIN; 2) GB; 3) CHI; 4) DET

Bryan McKinnie and steve Hutchinson is all you really need to know about the Minnesota O-line which is one of the best run-blocking lines in the league. The Packers should improve there mid-level O-line do to consistency of playing together in their second year. The Bears are trying to add a few pieces to strengthen a mediocre line. The Lions were probably the worst O-line in the league last year.

Defensive Line: 1) Min; 2) Chi; 3) GB; 4) DET

Jared Allen is a beast and a second-to-none rush defense puts Minnesota easily at the top of this list. While I think GB will be pretty good (hints in the pre-season), they are switching to a 3-4 which presents uncertainty. However, Dom Capers as D coach is probably the best offseason pickup in the Division. The Bears O-line is strong, if not spectacular. The Lions again bring up the rear.

Linebackers: 1) CHI; 2) GB; 3) MIN; 4) DET

The top three here are very close and I would put only the slightest amount of breath between them. Chicago has Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, the Vikings have Chad Greenway and EJ Henderson, the Packers have AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett. These rankings I would not go to the mat over, it is close, but the Bears get the edge.

Defesnive Backfield: 1) MIN; 2) GB ; 3) CHI; 4) DET

Minnesota and GB both have talented, but flawed Defensive backfield. The Vikings DBs are excellent tacklers and can hit hard (Greenway and Winfield) but lag behind in interceptions. The Packers likewise have some good tacklers and some very good ball hawking skills, but are poor in coverage. Chicago and Detroit I don’t even know who they have on DB, so I am guessing there to be honest.

Special Teams Push
If the Bears let Devin Hester return punts, then they would be the number one, but I am getting the impression they won’t since they need him as a receiving option. Other than that, I don’t see any reason to try and differentiate the squads.

Coaching Pass

I don’t think any of the coaches in the the NFC North have particularly distinguished themselves at this point or proven themselves incompetent.

Intangibles TBD

Really you cannot predict intangibles to be honest. What will be the reaction to QB changes in Chicago and Minnesota? GBs new 3-4, will it work? Who is hungry? etc.

Now we know the teams. How will they finish? We need to look at the schedule to really know. Well I am going to assume, for no reason other than I can, that they split the intra-division schedule, so each team is 3-3 (yes, that includes the Lions). It is not a prediction of those games, but more a leveling the playing field:

Chicago Bears 8-8
9/13 – @ Green Bay (L)
9/20 – vs. Pittsburgh (L)
9/27 – @ Seattle (L)
10/4 – vs. Detroit (W)
10/11 – BYE
10/18 – @ Atlanta (L)
10/25 – @ Cincinnati (W)
11/1 – vs. Cleveland (W)
11/8 – vs. Arizona (W)
11/12 – @ San Francisco (L)
11/22 – vs. Philadelphia (W)
11/29 – @ Minnesota (L)
12/6 – vs. St. Louis (W)
12/13 – vs. Green Bay (W)
12/20 – @ Baltimore(L)
12/28 – vs. Minnesota (W)
1/3 – @ Detroit (L)

i have the Bears losing twice when the go out west, especially since they have four days leading up to the 49ers game. On the flip side they get 10 days to play Philly at home.

Detroit Lions (6-10)
9/13 @ New Orleans (L)
9/20 Minnesota (W)
9/27 Washington - (L)
10/4 @ Chicago (L)
10/11 Pittsburgh (L)
10/18 @ Green Bay (L)
7 - BYE
11/1 St. Louis (W)
11/8 @ Seattle (L)
11/15 @ Minnesota (L)
11/22 Cleveland (W)
11/26 Green Bay (W)
12/6 @ Cincinnati (W)
12/13 @ Baltimore (L)
12/20 Arizona (L)
12/27 @ San Francisco (L)
1/3 Chicago (W)

I am giving the Lions three wins outside the division including a road win against Cincy. If I were a betting man I would bet under the six, though.

Green Bay 10-6
9/13 Chicago (W)
9/20 Cincinnati (W)
9/27 @ St. Louis Rams (W)
10/5 @ Minnesota Vikings (L)
10/11 BYE
10/18 Detoit (W)
10/25 @ Cleveland Browns (W)
11/1 Minnesota(W)
11/8 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (L)
11/15 Dallas (W)
11/22 San Francisco (W)
11/26 @ Detroit (L)
11/7 Baltimore (W)
1213 @ Chicago (L)
12/20 @ Pittsburgh (L)
12/27 Seattle (W)
1/3 @ Arizona (L)

A lot of 50-50 games there I think, so the Packers could be 7-9 or 13-3 even. But ten wins sounds about right.

Minnesota 10-6
9/13 @ Cleveland (W)
9/20 @ Detroit (L)
9/27 San Francisco (W)
10/5 Green Bay (W)
10/11 @ St. Louis Rams (W)
10/18 Baltimore (W)
10/25 @ Pittsburgh Steelers (L)
11/1 @ Green Bay Packers (L)
11/8 BYE
11/15 Detroit (W)
11/22 Seattle (W)
11/29 Chicago (W)
12/6 @Arizona (L)
12/13 Cincinnati (W)
12/20 @ Carolina Panthers (L)
12/28 @ Chicago (L)
1/3 New York Giants (W)

Big game potential there on January 3, when the Giants and the Vikes could be battling for NFC playoff position.

So the final standings:
Green Bay 10-6
Minnesota 10-6
Chicago 8-8
Detroit 5-11

Green Bay finishes ahead, I think because of the slightly better NFC record. But it is pure speculation really.

Nice breakdown. I’m a Packer fan too, and I’m looking forward to the season. The NFC North has a pretty easy schedule this year, but then again, who knows in this league? Among GB, Min, and Chi, any team could go 12-4; any team could 8-8; and all three could go 10-6. None of those outcomes would surprise me.

Questions for GB: Is Ryan Grant healthy again? Will the 3-4 work (bearing in mind that Kampman will be lining up on the line a lot anyway)?

Questions for Min: Will Favre play the whole year? Will that be a good thing or a bad thing? Is AP the real deal, and will he stay healthy?

Question for Chi: Can Cutler make those guys look like NFL receivers?

Question for Det: Which legitimate NFC North team’s season will they spoil?

Lions fan here.

Please shoot me.

On a more serious note, I think Kevin Smith is going to end up picking up the pace he started last year. He’ll hit a thousand yards and end up being next year’s skyrocketing running back for fantasy football purposes (Matt Forte is this year’s example). Culpepper should get the nod and Stafford (should have never been drafted first overall) should be holding the clipboard until he clearly surpasses Culpepper. Calvin Johnson is a beast and, barring injury, should cement himself as one of the top, if not, the top, receiver in football. Brandon Pettigrew is going to be an important part of the attack, and probably one of the more important pieces.

Also, I think I’m developing a man crush on Louis Delmas.

Some idle thoughts on your post. I agree with much of it, but some things stood out.

I disagree vehemently. AP is a risk to go all the way on every play. He had runs over 20 yard in 12 of his games. Forte had 5. AP averaged 4.8 ypc. Forte 3.9. AP is Eric Dickerson. Forte is Emmitt Smith. From a fantasy standpoint, Forte is up there with AP because he’s such a huge part of their offense, not because he’s an elite running back. But from a real football standpoint, I’d take AP every day and twice on Sundays.

Forte, Grant, and Smith are all about comparable as RB. But none of them are on APs level. However, I expect them all to do very well this year.

I agree Olson should come into his own this year. Hell, he’s their top target in the passing game. I like Shiancoe, too. But watch out for Jermichael Finley of the Packers. He’s got the build, speed, and athleticism to be a force, but he needed to (and hopefully has) matured this year. He’ll replace Lee as the main targeted TE by game 4.

With the Packers switching to a 3-4, their linebacking corp will be given many more opportunites to make plays. Whether they will or not, I’m not sure.

No frickin clue. There is so much still up in the air. Will Favre help or hurt the Vikings’ chances? (Yes and yes). Will Cutler turn around the Bear’s passing game? (Statistically, yes) Will the Packers D collapse once again? (I don’t think so, but it’s a new system, so there will be letdowns)? Can the Lions stop sucking quickly (No.)

I think the Lions are clearly the lesser team in the division and are likely to win less than 5 games while they rebuild. But the other three teams all have chances to win the division. Both the Vikings and Bears have new quarterbacks that are supposed to lead their teams to more victories. But the Vikings have more difference makers (the Williams wall, AllDay) and I don’t like the Bear’s aging defense (especially their weak secondary) or their O Line, so I think the Vikings will be the team to beat. Luckily, they have an over the hill QB who is just as likely to throw a pick as an interception. I like the Packers to win the division with a 11-5 record. But, then again, I’m biased.

I agree with your assessment of Jeremichael Finley. I think he might have grown up this past year, and he definitely has the tools to be a good NFL tight end.

I really like Jermichael but I don’t think it changes the TE rankings.

As far ahead as AP is of Forte, Forte is ahead of Kevin Smith. Grant trails Smith slightly. There are 3 clear tiers. and the gaps are pretty big.

PS: We’ve got to come up with a better thread title. I can’t bear that typo and generally bland thread title for the next 7 months. How about “NFC North: Black & Blue 2009” Or “NFC Norris: Now The Most Interesting Division In All The Land”

Vikings fan. My prediction for the division

  1. Vikings (12-4) I think the addition of Favre makes the Vikings the best overall team in the division. They were 10-6 last year. I think they can win at least two more games than last year and take the division.

  2. Bears (10-6) A lot depends on Jay Cutler, but he seems to be doing ok so far. I think the Bears’ defense is on the decline, but still solid. I pick the Bears to be a strong wild card contender.

  3. Packers (8-8). I just don’t think they’re very good anymore. Not terrible, just not a contender. Totally average. This is the kind of position where a couple of bounces in close games could mean the difference between a 7-9 season and a 9-7, possible wild card type season, though. I don’t think they’re going to run the ball much, and I don’t think the 3-4 is going to be a panacea for their defensive woes.

  4. Detroit (7-9). I think they’ll surprise by being mediocre. They have to turn around sometime. Maybe they can get #20 to come out of retirement. He’s only one year older than Favre.

You’re really happy with a guy with 3.9 ypc aren’t you. Give Smith the number of touches that Forte has, and he’ll put up similar, if not better, numbers.

Player A - 316 carries, 1238 yards, 3.9 ypc.
Player B - 312 carries, 1203 yard, 3.9 ypc.

And you insist Player A is that far ahead of Player B.

Look, Forte is a solid, dependable back who can play all three downs, has nice hands, and doesn’t fumble. He’s a perfectly servicable RB. But miles ahead of Grant and Smith? Nah. Not in the least.

But don’t let me ruin your Bears good vibes. It will make the Packers victories all that more sweet.

I did email the Admins about changing Lone to Long, but the name could change to something more vibrant.

He dramatically under produced last year and suffered greatly from a poor O-Line and non-existent passing game. He ran into a 9 man front on EVERY play. The O-Line isn’t completely fixed but that passing game is. His YPC will go way up. Grant and Smith don’t have anywhere near his ceiling.

I think the fact that the OP has every single NFCN team beating the Bengals is going to prove his undoing.

There’s just no way. In 2005, we beat ALL of them. Soundly. The Bengals are closer to that form than what they evidenced on Sundays last season.

The Lions beating the Bengals? Really? It is to laugh.

Many Lions fans, myself included, think that Barry could moonwalk and hit 1000 yards right now.

As a Packer fan, The bears don’t really scare me much. The Vikings do. The Vikings had me worried before getting Favre, and I think Favre has a decent chance of making the Vikings better. Not just in the passing game but the running game as well. Compare Grant with Favre to Grant with Rodgers, or Thomas Jones with Favre vs Thomas Jones with Pennington. Of course both teams had some blocking changes as well which is probably a bigger factor.

Everyone and their mother is picking the Bears in the NFC North, which makes me think it’ll be the Packers to win the division with Chicago and Minnesota not very far behind.

I pick the Lions. They beat the Colts last week and that is a harbinger of things to come.
They have decent Qbs this year. Cullpepper cut his toe, 8 stitches worth yesterday. Stafford will start and have a huge day Thursday ,but the league will be awed by the Lions and they will be found out.

I have to dream now, reality for Lions fans is an ugly thing.

I’m a rabid Bears fan and I’m not even picking them. I’ve read a few Fantasy “experts” claiming the Bears D looks good and will be top 10. Its just not even close. The run D will be pretty good, if they tackle consistently, but the passing D is flat out terrible.

I hope Cutler and Forte are dominant enough to compensate, but it’s probably a pipe dream.

Grant ran for almost 1,000 yards, 8 TDs, and a 5.1 ypc in ONLY 7 GAMES, in his first year with the Packers. That ceiling is pretty fucking high. As, apparently, are you.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Forte. He’s a solid running back, a team player, does all that is asked of him, and, by all accounts, a good down to earth guy. I think he’ll be a very good running back (unless the Bears run him into the ground) who, as long as he stays healthy, will have some good numbers. I just don’t see this “high ceiling” that I see when I look at Adrian Peterson, or the speed of Chris Johnson, or the elusiveness of Steve Slaton. There is simply no “wow” to him. Maybe it’s there, hidden, and waiting to pop out at me. But I have yet to see it. And I have seen it in Ryan Grant, and I think Kevin Smith has a good chance to have it too (he had more 20+ yard runs than Forte).

But, just like Cutler, we will see. We will see.

And then never again. He mediocre games far outnumber his good ones.

Much of Forte’s hype is based on watching the games. Certainly he needs to prove it, but he was like Marcus Allen with the way his made his way through holes. The’s not a classic burner or a power guy, but he’s got amazing between the tackle instincts. His vision is amazing.

Now I get it. Forte has a weak O Line, poor QB play and any other excuses, but Grant, who actually has a track record of outstanding play, doesn’t. His O Line was stellar. I’m sure that hamstring injury he had was nothing too. And his holdout probably helped. It makes sense now.

And his statistics certainly bear that out. … Oh wait…