Predicting Over/Under Wins for the NFC North
The Green Bay Packers lost only one regular-season game but flamed out in the playoffs. The Chicago Bears were playing some of the best football in the league prior to their starting quarterback and star running back being lost for the year.
The Detroit Lions made the playoffs for the first time since Ford Field opened only to have their pass defense basically fall apart toward the end of the year. And the Minnesota Vikings...well, they had the best pass-rusher in the NFL and may have found a quarterback to build around in Christian Ponder—before watching their franchise running back suffer a devastating injury in Week 17.
Yes, 2011 was a season full of hope and promise that went unrealized for all four teams in the NFC North, and each of them enters the 2012 season looking to build on the promise that we saw last year.
For the Packers, it's tough to see them winning another 15 games. Too many things have to go right for that to happen two years in a row. The team spent a good part of its draft trying to fix their defense, which makes sense after they watched that unit set a record for futility when it comes to defending the pass.
The Lions are either a hungry, young, up-and-coming team or a disaster-prone band of miscreants, depending on who you talk to. There's no denying the talent on this team, and last year showed they have the offense to hang with anyone in the NFL.
Improving their pass defense and keeping their composure in big games will go a long way to getting this team back to the playoffs and making some real noise when they get there.
The Vikings spent half of 2011 wasting time with Donovan McNabb when they should have had Ponder under center all along. While the rookie quarterback certainly struggled, he also showed some elusiveness in the pocket and the courage to make the stick throw.
Though it remains to be seen how effective Adrian Peterson can be this year, the Vikings are always a tough out for the rest of the division when playing at home.
Finally, the Chicago Bears could be a quiet contender in 2012. Quarterback Jay Cutler was playing some of the best football of his career prior to being placed on injured reserve, and the team has protected itself in case of an extended holdout by Matt Forte by bringing in the underrated Michael Bush.
Throw in the trade for Brandon Marshall, and the pieces could finally be in place on offense to complement the team's almost-always sturdy defense.
BR's Lead NFL writer Josh Zerkle and I, Aaron Nagler, tackle the 10-win over/under for the NFC North in the video above. And, as usual, we are at odds on more than a few topics. Let us know who is right and who is wrong—but make sure you give Josh more grief than me.
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