Favre, Rogers, and Cutler: NFC North Has Blockbuster Potential
When looking at the potential quarterback matchups in the NFC North this year, you can't help but think these characters come from a blockbuster movie:
The old, grizzled future hall-of-famer who wants to exact revenge on this former team who "wronged" him.
His former apprentice who is trying to take the leap to the next level and permanently move out of the shadow of his mentor.
The newcomer to the division who proved he can play, but tarnished his image by demanding a trade from his former team.
Finally, the rookie drafted at the top of his class, charged with saving one of the worst franchises in professional sports.
When it's put like that, the 2009 season sounds like an epic battle, full of twists, turns, and intrigue. Just like in Hollywood though, these things rarely live up to the hype. Will this year be more like Star Trek or Terminator: Salvation?
The Vikings are one of the teams that looks like it desperately needs Brett Favre, but going deeper you begin to wonder how much Favre could give them. The similarities between the 2008 Vikings offense and Favre's 2008 Jets offense are eerie, just look at the stats.
The Vikings finished 17th in total offense while the Jets came in just ahead of them at 16th. The Jets averaged just under 22 yards more passing and the Vikings averaged just over 20 more yards rushing per game.
New York was criticized at the time for not rushing the ball more, since Thomas Jones was having a career year. With Favre on the team, there is more of a temptation to take the ball out of the hands of Adrian Peterson, arguably the best running back in the league.
Blockbuster or Box Office Flop?
Sorry Brett but I think a trilogy would be a bad idea when the sequel wasn't even that good. Just stay retired and avoid the bust. Please, we Packers fans beg you.
There is potential to salvage the train-wreck, though. If the Vikings commit to running the ball and playing solid defense, they can sneak away with the division once again.
Jay Cutler is the new big thing in Chicago and will try to stabilize the position for the Bears. Cutler to wide receiver Devin Hester has all the makings of a classic combo. Cutler can throw far and Hester can run fast. With a rising star in running back Matt Forte, the Bears could have one of the most improved offenses in 2009.
Defense will be the main issue for the Bears to overcome. It has suffered a massive fall from grace over the past few seasons. It ranked fifth in total yards for 2006, but finished 28th and 21st in 2007 and 2008.
If the Bears can improve their pass defense even a little bit (it ranked 30th last year), it would go a long to improving their chances.
Blockbuster or Box Office Flop?
There's potential for a huge blockbuster here. Easily the most improved team in the division, the Bears' offense could have teeth like Jaws. If a shoddy pass defense and marginal offensive line return, it could end up more like Waterworld.
Is anybody looking at the Lions and Matthew Stafford like the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan last year? Anybody? Hello? Well if you are, there are a few parallels; a downtrodden franchise, a talented rookie prospect, but it ends there.
The Falcons had a running game and were able to put together an average defense for their rookie. The Lions have no running game and would need to make large strides just to get their defense to average.
There is also the small fact that Detroit has not won a game in over a year. The pressure will be on Stafford as soon as he gets to training camp.
The best case scenario for the Lions is that they win three to five games and Stafford shows some potential. The front office will also have to prove they are at least somewhat competent, by having some of their other draft picks and offseason acquisions play well.
Blockbuster or Box Office Flop?
Unfortunately, this is one bad movie that isn't going to improve this year. The actors will get a little better, but the team is at least two years away. They won't go 0-16 again, but will anybody care?
Where the Packers Fit in the Script
For the Packers, all this drama will make for a wide open division race. The first team to 10 wins should take the crown. The Packers, Vikings, and Bears should all be bunched right around there.
If the Packers' switch to the 3-4 takes hold quickly it could give them an edge, but Aaron Rodgers will once again be tasked with outscoring opponents.
The Vikings' schedule is very favorable for the first month and a half of 2009, with games against Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, and St. Louis. Expect them to come back down to earth, though, as they have some tough games down the stretch.
Green Bay and Chicago's schedules are more balanced so expect a battle for second all year with either team capable of stealing the division late.
In an exciting finale to the season, the Bears will move past the Vikings and Packers, possibly in Week 16 or 17, with a 10-6 record. With the Packers revamping their defense entirely, it will be easier for the Bears to fix their issues.
The Vikings will struggle with their offense down the stretch, I don't think it will matter who is under center. With the top three teams beating each other up all year, I do not see a wild card spot coming out of the division.
Don't worry though Packer fans, the Chicago defense will still have enough holes to ensure their trip in the playoffs will not last very long.
The Packers will show promise in the 3-4 and the offense will continue to improve. Expect the Packers to be Super Bowl contenders in 2010.
- Chicago 10-6
- Green Bay 9-7
- Minnesota 9-7
- Detroit 4-12
The AFC and NFC East or even the AFC and NFC South might have better teams, but the larger than life characters should keep the division in the headlines.
- Will Favre return to take on his protege Rodgers?
- Can Stafford resurrect a city and franchise or at least win a game?
- Will Cutler break the quarterback curse in Chicago?
Don't expect an Oscar-worthy season, but be prepared to be intrigued and thrilled with a lot of fireworks. Isn't that what a good blockbuster is about?
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