NFL Preseason 2010: Predicting The NFC North's All-Division Offense
Things have changed since the NFC North received the nickname "The Black and Blue Division". Once known for it's hard hitting defenses and powerful running games, the division is now currently home to some of the leagues best offenses.
Not surprisingly this list is largely dominated by players on both the Vikings and Packers, two teams that ranked 2nd and 3rd in points per game last season.
Here is a look at the most talented players on the offensive side of the ball in the NFC North.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers transition into the NFL has not been an easy one. Passed over on draft day until the 24th pick, Rodgers sat on the bench behind Brett Favre for three seasons, until Favre retired then later unretired, leaving Rodgers in a precarious spot. Rodgers handled the situation about as well as anyone could of, and even with all the distractions, had a very productive season, passing for 28 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards.
Last season Rodgers was even more productive, again passing for over 4,000 yards, with 30 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. Last year also saw Rodgers lead the Packers to the playoffs as well as being selected to his first Pro Bowl.
This year the expectations are high for both the Packers and Rodgers and if the past two season are any indication, Rodgers will exceed all expectations.
Wide Receiver: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson is the prototypical NFL receiver, 6'5", 235 lbs with sub 4.4 speed, the only problem so far in his career is he has not had anyone equally talented throwing him the ball. That could all change with quarterback Matthew Stafford entering his second season. If Stafford and Johnson can stay healthy, they could become a formidable pairing for years to come.
Even though the Lions went winless in 2008, Johnson was a Pro Bowl alternate with 12 touchdowns and over 1300 yards. Last year in only fourteen games, Johnson had 984 yards, and this year Johnson will have a legitimate threat on the other side of the field in newly acquired receiver Nate Burleson.
Wide Receiver: Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings
Rice is coming off what has been by far his best season. Rice caught 83 passes for over 1,300 yards last season, which nearly doubled his production his first two seasons. Rice also received his first Pro Bowl selection last year.
Much of Rice's success last season can be contributed to the fact that he had Brett Favre throwing him the ball, but with Favre back for one more year there is no reason to believe Rice won't be just as successful this season.
Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers
Jennings is not the biggest or fastest receiver in the league, but he has a knack for getting open. He became Brett Favre's favorite target his last couple seasons with the Packers and is currently Aaron Rodgers go to receiver.
Expectations are high for Jennings, who is entering his fifth year in the league. Jennings has over a thousand yards the past two seasons and could be on the verge of a Pro Bowl selection.
Full Back: John Kuhn, Green Bay Packers
A special teams standout who can also contribute on the offensive side of the ball in short yardage and goal line situations.
Running Back: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Arguably the best running back in the league, Peterson is a bruising running back who lays punishing hits on anyone who dares try tackle him. His combination of speed, strength and vision make him a runner that opposing teams have change their entire defensive strategy for.
Peterson has the best offensive line in the NFC North to run behind, and he has taken advantage of that in his time in the league thus far, rushing for over 1,300 yards in each of his first three seasons. The one knock on Peterson is his penchant for fumbling the ball, but if Peterson can solve that problem he will be undoubtedly the most dangerous running back in the league.
Running Back: Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers
Ryan Grant remains one of the most underrated running backs in the league. Only Adrian Peterson has more rushing yards than Ryan Grant since 2007, and unlike Peterson, Grant rarely fumbles the ball.
After a slow start last season, Grant ended up running for 11 touchdowns and over 1,200 yards. This year the Packers are hopeful that their offensive line will be much improved which should help open up more holes for Grant and allow him to be even more productive.
Tight End: Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers
This was one of the harder choices to make with all the talent at tight end in the NFC North, but Jermichael Finley is poised for a breakout season. Too fast to be covered by a line backer, too big to be covered by a corner, his combination of size and speed make him a match up nightmare for opposing defenses.
Packer fans saw a taste of what's to come in last years playoff loss to the Cardinals, where Finley had 6 receptions for 159 yards. Expect big things out of Finley this season and beyond.
Bryant McKinnie - LT - Vikings - A 2009 Pro Bowl selection, Mckinnie has made as much news off the field as he has on it, but he has the size and talent to hold down the most important position on the offensive line.
Steve Hutchinson - LG - Vikings - Widely considered one of the best guards to ever play the game, Hutchinson is an easy choice for left guard.
Olin Kreutz - C - Bears - A six time Pro Bowler, Kreutz is a little past his prime, but he is still able to anchor the middle of an offensive line.
Josh Sitton - RG - Packers - Sitton was one of the lone bright spots on the Packers offensive line last season. Sitton could become a Pro Bowler in the next couple of years.
Phil Loadholt - RT - Vikings - The second year player started all but one game for the Vikings last season. Although his play was inconsistent at times, with a little more experience, Loadholt could be a staple on the Vikings offensive lines for years to come.
QB: Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings
RB: Chester Taylor, Chicago Bears
WR: Johnny Knox, Chicago Bears
WR: Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers
WR: Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
TE: Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears
TE: Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings
OT: Chad Clifton, Green Bay Packers