The NFC North: Tougher Than It Looks

James LittleContributor IMay 29, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 30:  Center Josh Beekman #67 of the Chicago Bears gets ready to hike the ball during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome on November 30, 2008 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Detroit Lions:

Let’s start off with the worst team in NFL history, the 2008 Detroit Lions.  If a team goes 0-16 one season, what are the odds that someone goes 0-16 again? I would say I zero to none and that I would have had a better chance of winning the 200 million dollar Power Ball lottery on Wednesday that the Lions have of going 0-16 next season.  Why?

Let’s take a look at their schedule.  They played in some very close games last season where if one turnover would have went there way, they could have won a couple of games.  This season, they play the Rams, Seahawks, Browns, Bengals, and the 49ers.  They will beat one of those five teams, guaranteed.  Those five teams struggled last season and will continue to struggle this coming season. 

Another question is will Matthew Stafford be ready to go?  I don’t think he’ll be the next Matt Ryan, but he’s definitely better than what they have right now in Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton.

I expect at least 2 or 3 wins from the Lions.

Minnesota Vikings:

Everyone is asking if Brett Favre is going to join the Vikings.  Not really, most people are asking that he just stay retired.  Let’s say Favre stays retired, they have Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels.  They are a couple of career backup guys fighting for the starting job.   But I don’t think they need a Brett Favre type player if one of those two guys can learn to manage the game by handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor.

Will they be able to do that though?  With the suspensions of Pat and Kevin Williams being inanimate for the first 4 game, will that defense still be dominate? I think they will be fine with playing the Browns, Lions, 49ers in the first 3 games and then the Packers in game 4.

They will contend for the division title even without Favre.

Chicago Bears:

Adding Jay Cutler was a bold move.  Will it pay off though?  The defense isn’t as good as it was many years ago but the offense is an immediate upgrade which it needed.  The days of sexy Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, and a long list of bad quarterbacks are over.  Cutler should be enough to make sure the Bears contend for the division title and/or wildcard.  Matt Forte is a stud running back which will give the Bears a solid running effort every game.  I am a little worried about the receivers that the Bears have.  Devin Hester couldn’t do it all last season and Rashied Davis isn’t that much better.  They clearly don’t have a number one wide out.  Cutler helps them out a little bit, better than what Orton did last season.

They will contend for the division along with the Vikings and Packers.

Green Bay Packers:

They have the best offense in NFC North.  Aaron Rodgers is solid quarterback and they have the best wide receiver core in the North.  Ryan Grant wasn’t as good as his 2007 season last year, but is solid enough to put some of pressure off of Rodgers.  As seen last season, you can have a great offense, but it doesn’t matter if your defense can’t close the door.

That is why the 3-4 defense must work for the Packers to win the NFC North.  In my article, The Defensive Savior: Dom Capers (, I talk about the 3-4 defense and how it can work and turn this defense around that failed so badly last season.  If it does work as advertised, they will contend and win the NFC North.  But it isn’t going to be easy. 

The Lions are going to win a couple of games, and the Packers must make sure it isn’t against them.  The Bears and Vikings will be there as well fighting for the NFC North crown.  It is going to be an interesting season.  I fully expect the Packers, Vikings, and Bears to duke it out right down to week 17 with the possibility of two NFC North making the playoffs.