Saturday, August 10, 2013

NFL Preview: NFC North

It's been a long time since I've had the ability to make a post. Before I get to the meat of this article, I would like to take a moment to thank all of the readers who have continued to visit this page in my absence. It means the world to me that I have the support that I do, and I promise that regular posts will resume immediately. Now that I have gotten that out of the way, on to the subject of this post, the continuation of my NFL season previews. In an effort to save time and get everything wrapped up before the season starts, the rest of these previews are going to take a slightly different approach, being more succinct and encompassing entire divisions, rather than team-by-team. In today's post, we jump to the NFC North division.Green Bay: The Green Bay Packers have been the class of this division for several years now, being led by arguably the best quarterback in the game today, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers will have a harder time of things this year though, with the departure of one of his favorite targets, Greg Jennings. While the departure of Jennings is a significant loss for the team, the additions of running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in this year's draft should give the Packer offense an added dimension it has been lacking for several years now, a solid running game. This should soften up defenses and make Jennings' departure less noticeable.Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings offense has been sputtering for years, despite Adrian Peterson's best efforts to take the team upon his shoulders. Peterson, and the whole Vikings organization, hope that the maturation of quarterback Christian Ponder and the addition in the draft of wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings in free agency will work to make the offense more balanced, taking the pressure off of Peterson to reproduce his phenomenal 2012 performance. The departure of an electric playmaker in Percy Harvin, however, may be a significant set-back in the Vikings efforts to make a repeat appearance in the playoffs.Detroit Lions: In what turned out to be one of the sadder stories of the NFL off-season, the Detroit Lions cut starting receiver Titus Young, who would go on to be arrested three times in the span of a month and who's career looks to be all but over. While the young man is clearly in need of some serious help, the Lions were right to cut ties with the receiver, and although it gives star quarterback Matthew Stafford one less target to throw to on Sundays, the man's mental health is of far more importance. With all that said, the Lions offense shouldn't struggle in Young's absence, especially with the off-season addition of Reggie Bush. Bush, an electric running back who comes over from the Dolphins, should open up the offense in much the same way that Lacy and Franklin will for the Packers. Add this to the historic season that Calvin Johnson put up last year and the Lions could be one of the surprise teams this season.Chicago Bears: The Chicago Bears have undoubtedly been the most consistently disappointing team in this division. It seems like every year they come out swinging, looking like a real contender, only to fade into obscurity as the season reaches an end. With all the talent that this team has, they rival the Dallas Cowboys as the most disappointing team in the NFL. A big part of that disappointment has been the beating that Jay Cutler has taken due to his porous offensive line. The addition of Jermon Bushrod should go a long way to sure up that line and keep Cutler upright to lead the team. Adding Martellus Bennett to the fray in Chicago should do wonders for that offense as well, giving opposing defenses someone to worry about other than Brandon Marshall or Matt Forte. Having a target down the seam in the middle, as well as a big target in the red zone, should go a long way towards Chicago finally living up to their potential.Prediction: The NFC North (that still sounds weird to me. After all these years, I still want to say NFC Central) should be the most competitive division in the NFL this year. I think that all four teams have the potential to go to the playoffs and make a significant run. With that being said, I think that Green Bay is still clearly the class of the division, despite not winning the division crown last season. I think they return to form and represent the NFC North this season. After that, it's pretty much a crap-shoot for positions 2-4. Even though they won the division last year, I think it's a real possibility that Minnesota ends up finishing last in this division, with the Chicago Bears finishing right behind Green Bay and Detroit finishing a game or two ahead of Minnesota for third.

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