Power Ranking the Best Backfields in the NFC North
The NFC North used to be known as the Black and Blue Division, but as ESPN’s Kevin Seifert often opines, that’s not the case anymore.
The teams in the Frozen Tundra like to throw the ball. In the wind, in the snow, with lightning crashing down around them, they’ll air it out.
Yet this is a division with two premiere running backs and two backfields with tremendous potential.
For a passing division, there’s a tremendous amount of ability in the backfields of the NFC North. We’re going to take a look at each one and rank how they stack up against the rest of the division.
I’m going to warn you—at least one of these rankings is going to tick somebody off.
The Detroit Lions are all potential and upside but also take the "black and blue" moniker a bit too literally. This backfield just can’t stay on the field. It’s either Mikel LeShoure coming off a pretty bad leg injury and facing a potential suspension for his off-season drug arrests or Jahvid Best trying to return from a pair of concussions that knocked him completely out of the 2011 season.
We know both can play, but we don’t know how well after last year. That makes them a backfield with huge potential for good or ill and my No. 4 group.
The Packers don’t run the ball much, at least not compared to many other teams. It’s served them well and kept them going when they’ve been without a bell-cow back the last few years.
James Starks has shown us flashes of great ability, but only flashes. Injuries have played a part in holding him back, but while he has potential, I’m not sold he will ever be consistent enough to reach it fully. Alex Green and Brandon Saine are at least solid backups but also big question marks.
We know the staff likes Saine, and he can catch the ball as well as run well, while Green does a good job running the rock, but we don’t know how good they really are.
That uncertainty, along with a tendency not to care so much about the ground game keeps them at No. 3.
Here’s the ranking most likely to invoke the wrath of the NFC North readers today: My No. 2 backfield is the Minnesota Vikings.
How on earth can a backfield with Adrian Peterson be anything but first? Well, Peterson is coming back from a huge injury, tearing both the MCL and ACL in his leg. When I first saw the footage, I thought about Joe Theismann.
I’m a huge Peterson fan, so I’m glad my initial assessment seems wrong, but it’s still a severe injury. How long will it take him to get back to his old self, if ever?
Behind him is Toby Gerhart, who is a solid ball carrier, but if Peterson is at 75-80 percent, Gerhart isn’t going to make up for that 20-25 percent. Not many could, but it hurt the backfield.
I’d like to be proven wrong, but especially when we look at the Bears, it’s really hard to think I will be.
Really, the Bears’ backfield is a combination that should make opponents more than a bit wary.
Matt Forte is healthy, though unhappy with his contract. While he could hold out, he’ll show to camp and play with a chip on his shoulder going into the season. He was on pace for a big total last year and should pick up right where he left off.
As if that weren’t enough, the Bears signed former Raider Michael Bush. Bush is a very good back who was stuck behind Darren McFadden on the depth chart for too long. While he’s not in Forte’s category, he could start for a lot of teams in the league—a fact probably not lost on Forte, by the way.
With these two guys forming a great one-two punch, there is no way any other team can be at the top of my backfield rankings.
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