NFC North Preview: Objective Edition
There has been no objectivity when it comes to these predictions. There are some with a strength of schedule idea. Thinking that the teams who have the better schedule will just win. Others are just bandwagon writers from the west coast who are making the trendy pick of the Minnesota Vikings because of the acquisition of defensive end Jared Allen, and second-year pro Adrian Peterson as their sole source of offense.
Well, I got news for all of you; the Vikings are not going to be the NFC North champs. And this OBJECTIVE prediction will explain why
NFC North 2008 Season Preview:
Strength of Schedule: .531 (T-11th Hardest Schedule)
Best Offseason Decision(s): Cutting Benson, Not over paying Berrian.
Worst Offseason Decision(s): Passing on Rashard Mendenhall in the draft. Passing on Brian Brohm in the draft.
Prediction:The Bears begin yet another season with a QB competition. With the release of Benson the Bears placed a lot of pressure on Forte to perform in his first NFL season, although seven-year vet Adrian Peterson (the Chicago edition) is currently penciled in as the starter. The Bears addressed their need to improve their aging offensive line with the first-round selection of Williams, but could have added some pop to their stagnant offense with a selection of Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall (whom the Pittsburgh Steelers selected later in the first round.) They also passed on Louisville QB Brian Brohm (Green Bay)... Twice!
The loss of Bernard Berrian was a necessary one, due to his outrageous contract demands for never having reached his potential in a Bears uniform. The re-acquisition of Marty Booker was more of a desperate move to have a proven veteran receiver on the roster. Expect San Francisco 49ers cast off Brandon Lloyd to fill in at the #2 spot at WR.
The Bears defense has the potential to be as good as it was in 2006, if Mike Brown can stay healthy (or at least stay away from season ending injuries.)
Biggest Concern: The Quarterback position will be the Bears largest focus come training camp. If Rex Grossman wins the battle, expect him to be supplanted around week 8. If Kyle Orton wins the "Which Bear Project?" expect the Bears to challenge the Vikings for the runner-up position in the division
Strength of Schedule: .543 (9th Hardest Schedule)
Key Additions: RB Kevin Smith (3r draft,) OT Gosder Cherilus (1r draft)
Key Losses: RB Kevin Jones
Best Offseason Decision: Not trading Roy Williams
Worst Offseason Decision:Not firing Matt Millen
Prediction: The Lions have arguably the divisions best QB heading into the season. And with the Lions starting receivers Kitna's seemingly annual prediction of 10 wins could substantiate this coming season. Tatum Bell is looking to regain the form he had as the Denver Broncos starter before being traded to the Motor City.
Some would call the Lions draft class "unglamorous" but they did cover key needs in the offensive line and running back. As well as creating depth on defense.
Biggest Concern: Kitna; he tends to play with too much emotion at times.
Green Bay Packers
Strength of Schedule: .531 (T-11 Hardest Schedule)
Key Addition: OLB Brandon Chillar,
Best Offseason Decision: Cutting Robinson
Worst Offseason Decision: Not being more active in free agency.
Prediction: The Packers are, by far, the hardest team to predict in the upcoming NFL season. For the first time in 16 years the Pack will have someone starting under center not named Brett Favre.
Favre produced MVP numbers in an offense that has been designed specifically for Rodgers style of play. If he can stay healthy the Pack should run away with another division crown. Also expect 2007 second-round draft choice Brandon Jackson to prove his value as the back-up to the surprise story of last year Ryan Grant.
The Packers O-line should also improve as there is a heated competition for both of the starting guard positions. Expect Daryn Colledge to win the left side of the line. But don't be surprised if rookie Breno Giacomini finds a way to squeeze into the rotation. The right side of the line is a wide open battle. But remember; just because there is an open competition doesn't necessarily mean a bad thing.
The Green Bay defense still does not get the credit it deserves. They finished the 2007 season ranked 11th in Yards Allowed Per Game, and tied for sixth in Points Allowed Per Game at 18.2, and yet are treated like they are in the lower tier of defenses. The loss of DT Corey Williams may hurt the Pack. But even with their defensive line rotation the Pack will still need solid output from 2007 first-rounder Justin Harrell.
The Pack also have a very intriguing competition for a new kick returner. The job would presumably be handed outright to CB Will Blackmon, if he were healthy. But due to his health concerns the leading candidates for kickoff returner are second-round pick Jordy Nelson, or current #3 CB Tramon Williams (who returned a missed field goal for a TD last year.)
Biggest Concern: There is more than just Rodgers ability to stay healthy this season that the Pack need to rely on. It also relies heavily on the production of one of the NFLs best cornerback tandems in Charles Woodson and Al Harris. If these guys can stay healthy expect the Pack to shut-down the divisions other QBs.
Strength of Schedule: .551 (T-4th Hardest Schedule)
Key Losses: WR Troy Williamson
Best Offseason Decision(s): Trading away Williamson, and Acquiring Allen.
Worst Offseason Decision: Overpaying Bernard Berrian
Prediction: With the acquisition of DE Jared Allen the Vikings created some heated debates amongst the men behind the rather large desk of the "NFL Live" set. "Are they the best defense now?" The answer is resounding "No."
The Vikings have one of, if not the best D-lines in the game. With Pat and Kevin Williams filling up the middle of the line of scrimmage with their combined weight of 628 lbs, this could create some major issues for teams attempting to run against the Vikes. But the Vikes still have under-talented left end Ray Edwards, who gets abused by larger right tackles. Allen's biggest challenge will be Green Bay left tackle Chad Clifton, whom he faced in week 9 last year. Allen recorded half a sack and three tackles. But the expectations are high for this years Vikings D-line. The teams DB are a standard bunch, with Safety Darren Sharper past his prime, and Antoine Winfield will be 31 by the end of the season, the Vikes could find themselves abused in the passing game. The linebacking crew has potential, but could find a power struggle happen between Chad Greenway and E.J. Henderson.
The offense on the other hand is a one-trick pony, with second-year RB Adrian Peterson (the Minnesota Edition) coming off a 1,400+ total yards, award-winning rookie season as their sole source of offensive production. The newly acquired Bernard Berrian was signed with little fight from the Bears. Berrian has the potential to be one of the best deep-threat receivers, but is not worth the 6-year $42 million he was signed for.
For the Vikings to succeed in 2008 they will need current starting QB Tarvaris Jackson to reach his assumed potential, quickly. The Vikings offense seems to be trying to regain the magic it had ten years ago in 1998 when the team drafted Randy Moss and had Cris Carter; both long-ball threats.
With this coming seasons presumed receiving corps of starters Berrian and Sidney Rice with backups Robert Ferguson and Bobby Wade, it appears that the Vikes are looking to stretch the field, while they wear out the opposing defenses with Adrian Peterson like they did with Robert Smith in '98.
Predicted NFC North Standings
(10-6) Green Bay Packers
(9-7) Minnesota Vikings
(8-8) Detroit Lions
(6-10) Chicago Bears
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