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2008-2009 NFC NORTH PREVIEW
The NFC North division is a tough one to get a handle on right now due to the Brett Favre situation in Green Bay. More times than not, a situation like this can only have a negative impact and throw a team into turmoil. But hey, it's Brett Favre. Would anyone be surprised if he gets the starting job and takes this team to the Super Bowl? That being said, as of today, August 6, 2008, the talk is that Favre will be traded to Tampa Bay and the trade may be announced today. Great.....now we have to re-do the NFC South Preview!
Green Bay Packers: Odds 9-4
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (3rd year)
Off. Coord: Joe Philbin; Def. Coord: Bob Sanders
2007 Record: SUR 14-4, PSR 13-4-1, O-U 14-4
** Note - this written before the Favre situation
The Favre era ended in Green Bay period. Realistically, if you look on paper at their roster Green Bay is substantially better than the other teams in this division.
Rodgers gets his shot after wearing a headset for 3 years. In only one game of extended action, Rogers was 20/28 for 218 yds and a TD against the Cowboys. Interestingly enough, that 7.8 yds/attempt average is exactly the same as Favre’s over the entire season. Rodgers sports a 71.4% completion rate to Favre’s 66.5, and his QB rating of 106 tops Favre’s 95.7, too. Of course the samples are wildly uneven, but hey, Mike McCarthy’s system can really click. Remember, Aaron Brooks once thrived with this playbook in New Orleans. With a few potential shootouts on the schedule, plus Ryan Grant slashing away and forcing safeties up, we see good things if Rodgers avoids injuries.The WR group (including second-round pick Jordy Nelson of K-State) is talented and deep, but needs to develop rapport with Rodgers. OL coach James Campen is terrific. Favre was only sacked every 30 tries last year. The running game was lethal down the stretch. Really deep at guard.
MLB Nick Barnett & OLB A.J. Hawk are forces, but LB depth is shaky. CBs Al Harris & Charles Woodson are in their 30s with some of their press-coverage talents diminishing. GM Thompson is hoping rookie CB Patrick Lee (second round), a full-time starter only one year at Auburn, can be the nickel-back G.B. has been seeking, and also that the emergence of Atari Bigby (86 tackles LY at SS) was no mirage.
Minnesota Vikings: Odds 5-6
Head Coach: Brad Childress (3rd year)
Off. Coord: Darrell Bevell; Def. Coord: Leslie Frazier
2007 Record: SUR 8-8, PSR 7-7-2, O-U 8-8
The potential is there especially with Adrian Peterson running over defenses, but they are probably a year away at making the playoffs due to the inconsistent development of their quarterback.
Bryant McKinnie (legal troubles) will get suspended for at least 4 games. Herrera was a beast last year. Hutchinson rules, no missed starts in 5 years. However, depth is a big concern.A couple guys on our staff have a mini-crush on Jackson, who truly does possess that McNair-like combination of arm and feet. Jackson also shares the same Division II pedigree (Alabama State) that McNair had (Alcorn State). The Vikings drafted him in the 2nd round two years ago, shocking draft analysts who thought he'd go in the 4th or 5th round. Yes, he was a star at ASU who threw 67 career TD passes – but was he worth a 2nd-round pick? The Vikings even traded two 3rd-round picks to get to that 2nd-round spot. In his rookie year he took over for Brad Johnson in December and showed promise early. Against the Jets he threw for 177 yards and 1 TD -- but could have had 240 yards if not for a couple huge drops by Troy Willliamson. Last year he had groin, back, & hand injuries and never got into a rhythm, missing 4 ½ games. But he made nice plays when Adrian Peterson started gashing defenses and putting them on their heels.
The Vikings defense was solid last year, especially against the run with tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. Now they get an elite pass rusher in Jared Allen, who was traded from Kansas City this offseason. They also added FS Madieu Williams this offseason from Cincinnati, which will improve the secondary.
Chicago Bears: Odds 7-2
Head Coach: Lovie Smith (5th year)
Off. Coord: Ron Turner; Def. Coord: Bob Babich
2007 Record: SUR 7-9, PSR 7-9, O-U 9-7
Same old Bears with the same old Rex Grossman. The Bears’ organization must be into S&M.
One day someone will come along and wipe away the painful memories of Grossman, Brian Griese, Kordell Stewart, Craig Krenzel, Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, Jim Miller, Chris Chandler, Steve Walsh, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown, Rick Mirer and... well, you get the picture.Hope for improvement arrives in No. 2 pick Matt Forté—the brawny Tulane workhorse who banged out 2127 YR in 2007. HC Lovie Smith notes that Forté has good size, excellent speed, and can make tacklers miss.
The Bears are solid at CB with Nathan Vasher & Charles Tillman, but they need Mike Brown (one of Lovie’s favorite players) and Payne to return from their injuries at safety. Hustling rookie S Craig Steltz arrives from national champion LSU. Thanks to the mercurial Hester (11 return TDs in just two years!) and PK Robbie Gould (84 of 99 career FGs), Chicago STs are a strength.
Detroit Lions: Odds 6-1
Head Coach: Rod Marinelli (3rd year)
Off. Coord: Jim Colletto; Def. Coord: Joe Barry
2007 Record: SUR 7-9, PSR 6-9-1, O-U 11-5
After a good start in ’07, the Lions were tamed in their last 8 matches going 1 and 7. Enough said.
No one behind Raiola so he must (and should) stay healthy. Edwin Mulitalo is aging quickly. Backus is very reliable but didn't thrive in Mike Martz' offense.Kitna started off hot with 1,227 yards and 8 TD passes in his first 4 games, putting him on pace for almost 5,000 yards and over 30 TDs – but he suddenly tanked out with 3 straight TD-less games. It was probably due to the heebie-jeebies and overall body pain suffered from being sacked 22 times from weeks 3-5! It was the most sacks an NFL quarterback had ever absorbed in a 3-week period. Ouch. Kitna managed to straighten out and put up solid numbers in the second half of the season, but the whole offense was wildly erratic and listless at times. One week they rushed for -18 yards on 8 carries, the worst total in the history of the NFL. Kevin Smith was a prolific rusher out of Central Florida who challenged Barry Sanders’ NCAA record 2,628 rushing yards last year. Smith finished with 2,567. Detroit opened the 3rd round by drafting Smith, and they gave up a 6th rounder to move up 2 spots to do it.
Unfortunately, the Lions struggle to defend the run and are suspect at defending the pass prior to the addition of Bodden (they might be especially inept without DT Shaun Rogers, who was traded).
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