I'm going to go ahead and avoid all the cliches that everyone else in the sports world has pounded into our heads. Let's take a real look at how the NFC North will fare this year.
In a VERY particular order...
4. Detroit Lions (2008-09 record: 0-16)
Yeah yeah, the Lions didn't win one game last year and besides a brand new quarterback, they didn't make any huge offseason moves to really improve. One look at their schedule tells me that they will win at least one game (sorry, St.Louis), which sadly enough is a marked improvement from last year. Matthew Stafford will be a work in progress and as long as Calvin Johnson continues to improve and Jim Schwartz brings a whole new attitude and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....
Just wait until next year Detroit. Actually, give it about four to five years. Hey, at least they have a fierce new logo. Cool, I guess.
***Projected 2009-10 record: 1-15***
3. Chicago Bears (2008-09 record: 9-7)
So the Bears finally think they've answered the decades long question of "who the hell can actually play quarterback for us?" I'll admit that they are on the right track with Jay Cutler, but in NO WAY does he make them an overnight Superbowl, or even division, contender.
Need I remind all Chicagoans that in Denver, Cutler had good receivers like Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal to throw to? While scouring the Bears' depth chart for their receiving corps, I didn't recognize one name except Rashied Davis, and that barely counts as recognizable (yes, I saw Devin Hester's name. Talk to me when he actually catches TD's consistently, then I'll consider him a legit threat).
The Bears 'D' had one great season and the rest have been decent. Brian Urlacher can clearly still play, but Lance Briggs is the catalyst of that defense. It pains me to admit that the Bears might actually have something going here, but it's not quite enough to take over the division.
***Projected 2009-10 record: 7-9***
2. Minnesota Vikings (2008-09 record: 10-7)
I have uncovered this top-secret script for an upcoming commercial featuring Brett Favre. Enjoy!
Shot fades to Brett Favre sitting on a tractor, wearing a torn up baseball hat, plain t-shirt, and some tattered Wrangler jeans. Staring out over a warm Mississippi sunset, Favre looks to the camera...
"You know, playing football never gets old. I love the game. In fact, I love it so much that I'm willing to take a big dump all over my great legacy as a Green Bay Packer by playing for a mediocre team within the division."
Favre picks a long stalk of straw and puts it in his mouth as he continues to sit on his tractor and stare at the sun...
"I mean, going to play for the Jets was fun and all, but New Jersey smells funny and the fans at the Meadowlands are just a tiny bit different from those in Green Bay. It was great when we beat Tennessee and looked like we could win the AFC championship, but aww shucks, look at how that turned out!"
"Favre sees an old football lying in the grass. He stares at it for a moment then slowly picks it up...
"To be honest, I just want everyone in Green Bay to stop whatever it is they're doing and welcome me back with open arms. Why can't that Rodgers kid just do what that Cutler fella did and whine like a spoiled brat to force his way out of town? That way, mean old Mr. Ted Thompson will be forced to bring me back and let me ride off into the sunset like a REAL gunslinger!"
"Favre rears back and zips the football into the distance. Majestically, of course."
"Heck, who am I kidding? Do you know how fun it is to have ESPN hang on my every thought and action, all while having Chris Mortensen and Ed Werder camp outside my house in Hattiesburg, MS? I'll tell you what, it's better than playing football, that's for damn sure."
Should be a great commercial. By the way, Minnesota has Adrian Peterson and NOBODY ELSE.
***Projected 2009-10 record: 5-11***
1. Green Bay Packers (2008-09 record: 6-10)
Excuse my bias for a brief moment, but someone tell me why the Packers won't be in the first place next year. Aaron Rodgers has a solid year under his belt, the defense is switching to the 3-4, and we had a great 2009 draft.
On the flip side, Rodgers could easily have a sophomore slump, the 3-4 might take longer than expected to actually work effectively, and those draft picks might not pan out as we had all hoped. However, the only snag I could see really affecting us this season is the switch to 3-4, which can have somewhat of a learning curve.
Our wide receivers are as consistent as anyone in the league, and I think they absolutely take pride in the fact that they go relatively unnoticed each season. Sure the defense faltered last season, but lightning striking twice is very unlikely, especially with Dom Capers and his much ballyhooed 3-4 scheme coming to Titletown.
I don't think this is a Superbowl year, but a first-round bye looks absolutely doable. If anything, this is a great year to be a fan of any team in the NFC North. I can guarantee one thing, there will be no shortage of drama.
***Projected 2009-10 record: 11-5***