Great Expectations for the NFC North

Harry CombsContributor IMay 14, 2009

The beginning of the season is an extremely stressful time for every professional sports team. 

If the physical demands of getting back into shape are not enough, then the fans and analysts’ expectations for the teams upcoming schedule is usually even tougher.

This year is no different. It is in my opinion that there is only one team in the NFC North with a lot on the line this year. 


The Lions

What can be said?  They hit rock bottom last year.  Or did they?  What would happen to this team if they go 0-16 again?  What if they went 1-15 or 2-14? 

If the Lions don’t put up at least a few wins on the board this year, it could be devastating. Then again, it has been so long since the Lions have had a winning season, but yet they still have a decent amount of fans. 

The fans of the Lions are the most dedicated fans in sports.  Those that are true fans have stuck by their team through absolutely terrible times.

The coaching staff is a good bit different, so they have at least two years of rebuilding time before we can talk about losing jobs.

Even if the Lions fall apart again and don’t meet the very low expectations, they basically have nothing to lose. 


The Bears 

Chicago has a lot on the line this year.  At the end of last year, a lot of fans were not very happy with the performance of not only the players, but the coaching staff.

A lot of the frustration was with the coaching staff.  Many were expecting coordinators' heads to roll.  But they didn’t. This year is do-or-die for the remaining coaching staff. 

In the offseason, the Bears 'offense has been remodeled, so Ron Turner should at least get a free year, since one could easily argue that the team would need longer to click.

Bob Babich is certainly gone next year if the Bears’ defense doesn’t turn around.  Although Lovie Smith will now be handling the play calling during game time, Babich needs to have a good year in order to keep his job. 

Smith is also in a tough position.  His decision to take play calling away from Babich was the right decision, but could prove to be his undoing.

If the defense has another off year, it brings up the debate of whether the defense is really good or just got lucky when they were dominating. 

Either way, if the defense doesn’t produce, we can expect to see a tough decision about keeping Smith.

Last year at this time, the Bears expectations were high. The two previous seasons were completely different, and the expectations were for the Bears to return to the Bears of 2006, not the Bears of 2007.

Now we see a team that is two seasons removed from not only the Super Bowl but the playoffs.  The fans are demanding the team get back to a playoff caliber team.


The Packers

Green bay is a tough team to predict next year.  And because of this, their expectations cannot be as high and as firm as the Bears. The Packers are one year removed from the playoffs. But that one year was a bad one. 

Looking as far back as 2006, the Packers have been on a roller coaster ride.  Since 2006 they have gone 8-8, 13-3, 6-10.  That is two years of average to below-average teams and one great team. 

During 2007, a lot of the credit was given to Favre. Obviously he is gone and Rodgers is here now.  Rodgers put up solid numbers last season, but it was the defense that let the team down. 

Can the defense come back and make the Packers team solid?  The expectations are high that the defense will turn around, but it is a lot for a team to do. 

As long as the offense continues to perform and the new defense holds, the Packers should make some noise.


The Vikings

Minnesota hasn’t really had any major changes in the team during the offseason, as of today. The major issue is at the quarterback position.  Although they may raise the dead and bring Favre in, it just doesn’t seem like it will happen. 

The Vikings are basically looking at picking up right where they left off last season.  The expectation for next year is to basically make the playoffs and maybe even play a good game or two in the playoffs. 

If they continue to perform, they will have no problem meeting this expectation.


Every sports team has expectations.  Whether it is to win a game, to win at least one playoff game, or even get back to the playoffs, the pressure is still there. 

I know I have said many contradictions, because a lot of the comments made about the Bears can be made about the other teams and vice verse, but I feel that the Bears are the only team that will have a hard time meeting their expectations. 

Each teams’ expectations are reasonably set, but I feel that each team, excluding the Bears, should have an easy time meeting those expectations.  Only time will tell if the off season moves will produce the desired results for each team.