2010 NFC North Predictions
The feel of the NFC North has changed tremendously over the last few years. Gone are the days of the "Black and Blue" and gone are the comparisons to the Norris Division.
The NFC North has turned into an offensive storm. Two years ago, we saw Detroit and Minnesota rough it out to a 12-10 final score. Sure, the Lions were inept, but somehow, so was Adrian Peterson. Defense wrote the pages of that game, as well as youngster Dan Orlovsky running out of the end zone in fear of Jared Allen running at him unblocked shortly after the Lions forced a fumble in the red zone.
So what does the 2010 NFC North look like? Well, there's still some good defense left, but the focus and attention have been shifted to cannon-armed quarterbacks.
Chicago Bears: Do the Pegs Fit?
Is this the man with the plan, or should he plan on cleaning out his office?
Lovie Smith has taken the Bears to the Super Bowl. It's hard to argue with someone who's been there, especially coming from a Lions fan whose father wasn't even born when the Lions last went to a championship.
However, I'm not too confident with the 2010 Bears. They're initiating a new offensive scheme, and I'm not sure it works for the Bears. You can put up big numbers with Martz, but is this a square peg trying to fit in the triangle hole? I can't remember a successful Bears team that relied on passing to get it done.
While Peppers is a great addition, will Urlacher come back strong, will he get injured again, or is he finished? It seems that as Urlacher goes, so do the Bears. Will this change, or are we looking at another Bears team that just doesn't make the cut?
I'm afraid Chicago's given up too much for what they got. I'm also afraid that all their changes will blow up in their face. "The Greatest Show on Turf" relies on accurate passing and speed. How many times have you seen Soldier Field screw up passing and speed?
Another thing working against the Bears is their schedule. Their entire December is against playoff-contending teams. After Buffalo, the only easy game is Detroit on the road. I think they have one of the toughest schedules out there, both record-wise and matchup-wise. I do have them beating Minnesota at home, but I almost think it depends on the weather.
Predicted Record: 5-11 (2-4).
Predicted Wins: Detroit (H), Carolina, Seattle, Buffalo, Minnesota (H)
Maybes: Detroit (R), NYJ
Detroit Lions: Insert Maturation Cliché Here
Calvin's pointing in the right direction: towards first place.
There are few holdouts from the 2008 team that hit complete bottom. Aside from that, the house was cleaned, the rules have changed, and they're looking the right way.
Year one was bumpy. Most Lions fans knew that the road was going to be treacherous, but few expected the trials and tribulations of that 2009 season. Stafford was knocked out early, as was Johnson. When they came back, they lost to the Rams, who would otherwise be holding the record the Lions took in 2008 as well as the one from Tampa Bay in 1977.
We watched them improve until the crowning achievement (so far) at the end of the Browns game. However, that was about all she wrote, as the Lions lost nearly everybody important to injury.
The 2010 Lions are better. They've plugged the gaping hole in the line and if that holds, this offense will be something to watch. I'm talking 80s 49ers, 90s Cowboys, 00s Colts type of something to watch. Of course that's a big "if."
The defense has improved as well. However, they're not quite there yet. They plugged the line up very nicely, but still have gaping holes in the back seven. Their best chance to win will be to hurry the quarterback and running game and give those back seven a little cushion. Otherwise, this defense will look nearly as bad, giving up 30 points a game.
This could cause some fun games to watch. If the Lions can fly high on offense, then we might see some 42-35 games. Not really the classic hockey-like "NFC Norris," though.
Their schedule looks tough, but they have some decent matchups where the Bears don't. For instance, I think the Lions match up better against the Jets in Ford Field than the Bears do in Soldier Field.
They also have an advantage near the end of the season with the last three division games all at home, coupled with a road trip to Florida to face the Bucs and Dolphins. And while the Pats may be going to the playoffs, they're not the invincible force they used to be. Look for an emotion-filled Thanksgiving game.
And yes, I have them beating Minnesota at the end. I'm predicting that Minnesota will have clinched a playoff berth by then, but have no chance at the division after losing to Philly. We might see Favre and Co. for a quarter, but I really think that they'll trade a loss on the road to a division rival for some rest going into the playoffs.
Predicted Record: 7-9 (2-4)
Predicted Wins: St. Louis, Washington, Buffalo, New England, Chicago (H), Tampa Bay, Minnesota (H)
Maybes: Chicago (R), New York Jets, Miami
Minnesota Vikings: Can Favre Keep It Going?
Personally, I don't like how Minnesota is relying so much on Favre. Why haven't they found a young QB to learn under Favre like Green Bay did with Rodgers. Okay, we all saw the parody of Favre in 2020, but it's not going to happen.
Last season was arguably Favre's best ever. 107 QB rating, 7 INTs, and 68% percent completion rate were all BY FAR his best ever. Now there are two ways to think about it, and I'm not sure which will come to pass.
1. He's so experienced that with age comes wisdom. He's living in a dome, not outside like all his career. These are the numbers we should expect from Favre.
2. This was the least Brett-Favre-like season in his career. Everything went right, including a miracle TD against San Francisco. Every great player has a freak year that they'll never match, like Brady's 50 TD year. This year, he'll look more like Brett Favre, so expect at best 13 INTs.
If No. 1 is right, then the Vikings have little to worry about this season. They're very solid and the Favre piece just gave them the right tool to go from winning the division on defense (like 2008, sorry T-Jack) to winning on being a complete team. They have the tools, but Favre is definitely the key.
If No. 2 is right, then the Vikings will still be a winning team. However, they're not as good as they would be with No. 1. This is the reason I worry about them not grooming a new QB. You may have the best ever, but there's no way (well...) Favre stays two more years to find a better QB than T-Jack.
They'll be neck-and-neck with Green Bay for much of the season. They have pretty good matchups all around, but the NO game at the start will set them back one pace, and Favre's umpteenth curtain call at Green Bay won't be as warm and fuzzy and won this year.
I do have them losing at Chicago, because that always seems to happen no matter how good the Vikes are and how bad the Bears are. And yes, I have them losing to Detroit at the end, but wouldn't you rather see them rest and go deep in the playoffs than beat the Lions? Well...
I will say the Vikings have a really winnable schedule. Each game is winnable, except maybe the Saints (ask Detroit how tough that one is).
Predicted Record: 10-6 (3-3)
Predicted Wins: Miami, Detroit (H), New York Jets, Dallas, Arizona, Green Bay (H), Washington, Buffalo, New York Giants, Chicago (H).
Maybe: Green Bay (R), New England, Chicago (R), Philadelphia, Detroit (R)
Green Bay Packers: Insert "Student Surpassing Master" Cliché Here
The Packers really did a great job of replacing Favre. Don't blame Rodgers for Favre's situation, because he did his job and now he's the Captain.
When a new Captain is named, I don't know any Fleet Admiral or General Manager who would hamper the confidence in the new Captain by letting the old Captain take the ship out for one last spin. Even if the old Captain is Brett Favre. How can you possibly build a champion if you figuratively or literally tell your future Captain that he's just not as good as the old one.
Okay, time to end that rant. Boy do the Packers look good. The line has closed up nicely and Rodgers is showing the same form that he had last year, which also resulted in a 100+ QB Rating and under 10 INTs.
Our questions are the same as our questions about Favre. While Favre has a pattern of high-risk, high-return, high-interceptions, we just don't know what to expect from Rodgers yet. However, he'll need all his weapons to succeed. Here's hoping Jennings' injury isn't too severe.
Their defense is still formidable. They did lose a big chunk with the loss of Al Harris, but if he's back for the Minnesota game, that may be just enough to keep Favre from claiming another win in Lambeau. Woodson won't get another nine INTs (I can pretty much guarantee that), but I don't think he's too old just yet.
It's not leak-proof, though. You may see a lot of shootouts involving the Packers, but I think they'll come out on top.
I don't really see a game on their schedule that's unwinnable. The Packers will score a lot of points in most of their games, except maybe the New York Jets or Eagles games.
However, there are also a few teams that can score on them, like the Vikings and Cowboys. It should be a really fun season for Packers fans. Minnesota will be breathing down your throats all season, but I think it'll be the Pack in the end.
Predicted Record: 13-3 (5-1)
Predicted Wins: Philadelphia, Buffalo, Chicago (R), Detroit (H), Washington, Miami, Minnesota (H), Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Detroit (R), New York Giants, Chicago (H)
Maybes: New York Jets, Minnesota (R), New England