Previewing the 2010 NFL Season – NFC NORTH EDITION

In this segment I am going to preview every team in the NFL, division by division, and predict their level of success throughout the season.  Today, I will cover the NFC North and over the next several days work my way to the AFC East.

NFC NORTH

1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)

(Notable games: Week 7 – October 24th vs. Minnesota, Week 8 – October 31st at New York Jets, Week 9 – November 7th vs. Dallas, Week 11 – November 21st at Minnesota, Week 15 – December 19th at New England)

Looking to build on an 11-5 season from last year, the Packers are now trying to take the step from good to elite team.  The offense should not experience much of a letdown after being the best offense in the NFL last season.  Aaron Rodgers is approaching the Manning-Brady category.  He is one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, and certainly doesn’t have a lack of targets.  Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are both very good receivers and are complimented by up and coming tight end Jermichael Finley.  The big key for Green Bay this season will be the play of Ryan Grant.  If Grant can replicate his performance last season (over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns) then the Packers are my pick to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.  As for the defensive side of the ball, the Packers are stacked.  Their defensive line is one of the better 3-4 lines in the league, while their linebackers are all fast and athletic playmakers.  If Charles Woodson and the rest of that secondary can stay healthy, the Packers defense will be among the best in the league.  My expectations for this group are sky high, as I am looking for the green Bay Packers to be the 2010 Super Bowl champions (just a little “fuck you” to Favre too).

2. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)

(Notable games: Week 1 – September 9th at New Orleans, Week 5 – October 11th at New York Jets, Week 6 – October 17th vs. Dallas, Week 7 – October 24th at Green Bay , Week 8 – October 31st at New England, Week 11 – November 21st vs. Green Bay)

I’ve already done my Brett Favre venting in my August Edition Mock Draft, so I’m going to try to stay somewhat composed throughout the rest of this post.  Favre is back for another glorious season which will consist of 75% of Sportscenter being dedicated to him on a daily basis.  Awesome!  Anyway, Favre’s favorite target, Sidney Rice, is expected to be out for at least eight weeks, and I can’t expect that even when he comes back he is going to be as productive as he was last season.  Favre’s second favorite target, Percy Harvin, is battling some very serious migraine issues.  Apparently, Harvin believes they may have found and addressed an underlying cause for the migraines, but the issue is still concerning.  Adrian Peterson is a freak of nature.  The Vikings should have never gone away from keeping him as the focal point of the offense.  Favre comes in and changes the whole dynamic of the team.  Seven fumbles last season needs to alarm some, but he’s just too good not to give him the ball.  The Vikings defense on paper is among the best in the league.  Pending health, their defensive line is freakin’ scary, their linebackers are very good, and their secondary (including the addition of Lito Sheppard) looks to have a good season as well.  But, I expect Favre’s miscues to be too much for the defense to overcome the entire season, which is why I am predicting a 10-6 season.  I already predicted that the Falcons and Giants would finish the season 10-6 (both not winning their division), so it will come down to tiebreakers to determine the two wild card spots.  Wherever the Vikings land, I expect their season to end on a Favre interception…but I guess that isn’t a very bold prediction.

3. Chicago Bears (9-7)

(Notable games: Week 2 – September 19th at Dallas, Week 3 – September 27th vs. Green Bay, Week 10 – November 14th vs. Minnesota, Week 14 – December 12th vs. New England, Week 15-17 – at Minnesota, vs. New York Jets, at Green Bay)

Last year’s 7-9 campaign was a huge disappointment for the Bears.  After acquiring “franchise quarterback” Jay Cutler (ha!), the Chicago faithful were expecting a big season out of their Bears, but that never developed.  This offseason the Bears went head first into the free agent market, signing Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor.  If Tommie Harris can stay healthy, the Peppers addition will turn out to be huge.  Julius Peppers is a game changer at defensive end, and with a little help from the interior line he could easily pick up 15+ sacks.  The offensive unit as a whole is pretty good.  Assuming Cutler can bounce back from his 26 interception effort last season, the addition of Chester Taylor to a backfield that already has Matt Forte should provide some assistance to Cutler.  His receivers certainly aren’t the best in the league, but I’m looking for Johnny Knox and Devin Hester both to have pretty good seasons.  The Bears’ secondary is their only area of concern on defense, but they should be a top 12 unit.  9-7 is an improvement from last season, but isn’t enough to get them into the postseason.

4. Detroit Lions (6-10)

(Notable games: Week 3 – September 26th at Minnesota, Week 4 – October 3rd at Green Bay, Week 9 – November 7th vs. New York Jets, Week 11 – November 21st at Dallas, Week 12 – November 25th vs. New England, Week 14 –December 12 vs. Green Bay, Week 17 – January 2nd vs. Minnesota)

I am really looking forward to the progression that is going to take place in Detroit this season.  This team is young, athletic, and talented.  Matthew Stafford was only able to stay on the field for 10 games last season because his offensive line could not block anyone.  But his 2009, projected over a 16 game season would have produced almost 3,700 yards and 21 touchdown passes (also 32 interceptions…).  That is a pretty damn good rookie season if you ask me.  Aside from Stafford, Calvin Johnson…well do I even need to say anything.  Johnson is a complete animal that has succeeded with subpar quarterback play.  Imagine what will happen in a couple more season when Stafford improves and the two of them develop a better rapport.  Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler are two good, young tight ends that will help take some coverage away from Johnson.  Rookie running back Jahvid Best is a huge x-factor for this team. If Best can get back to his explosive (7.3 career yards per carry at Cal), injury-free ways, this offense will become good in a hurry.  The addition of Kyle Vanden Bosch (via free agency) and Ndamukong Suh (2nd overall pick in 2010 draft) to the defensive line will help out this defense immediately.  Louis Delmas continues to develop as a safety and Chris Houston is a good player on the outside.  A few additions (especially at linebacker) and this team could be in playoff contention within the next two seasons.

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