2011 NFL: The All-NFC North Team
As a proud Vikings fan, I will be the first to admit my bitterness to the Packers, Bears and Lions, but it would be simply ignorant to not recognize that this division as a whole possesses some of the most talented players in the NFL.
This article aims to represent the best players at each position within the division.
Please feel free to leave comments and opinions.
Rodgers is the heart and soul of the Packers and will likely continue to sit atop his throne with the talented group of young Packers around him.
Half Back: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is hands down the best back in the NFL. He combines instinct with pure athletic ability and explosiveness. Even when injured, Peterson puts up numbers that other backs could only dream of. Peterson is a perfect representative for the division at this position.
Full Back: John Kuhn is really utilized well by the Packers. He can lead block, pass protect and run the ball better than any FB in the division. By no means does he top the NFL, but he is the best at his position in the NFC North.
Greg Jennings is, in my mind, more deserving of the Super Bowl XLV MVP. The guy couldn't drop a ball. Jennings is a Packer that I really enjoy watching. He is the best in the NFC North because not only could he put his team on his back, I think he could put the whole division on his back if he really had to.
Calvin Johnson Jr. is probably one of the best, if not the best, member of the Detroit Lions. His number haven't always been league topping, but he certainly has the talent to get there if he can get some consistency at QB. Johnson is second only to Greg Jennings in the division.
Percy Harvin isn't the best wideout in the division, he isn't even the best on the Vikings, but he is the best slot receiver in all of the NFC North, and I would say he is in the top five in the NFL for slot receivers. If he could keep those migraines away and stay on the field, he has the talent to be a pro-bowler. These three guys make up the best receivers in the division.
Chicago Bear Greg Olsen is the top TE in the division, but only because he has stayed healthier than Packer Jermichael Finley. Olsen is great in the open field as well as blocking in the run game.
Jermichael Finley has the potential to be the best of the division, but because of injury, loses the starting spot to Olsen. The Packers' future is bright with a guy like Finley around—he most definitely has the potential to be one of the league's greats some day.
Left Tackle: Chad Clifton is not only the best left tackle in the NFC North, the Green Bay Packer has long been one of the most underrated offensive lineman in the NFL. When you look at the two guys he has protected over the years, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre have always stayed pretty healthy—especially the old man.
Left Guard: Minnesota Viking Steve Hutchinson is one of the best in the league. The 33-year-old, six-time All Pro is one of the leagues most truly gifted veterans. He tops the NFC North at his position.
Center: Packer Scott Wells isn't even close to being one of the top centers in the NFL. Unfortunately, the NFC North is not very deep at center. The Vikings used to have one of the best centers in the game in Matt Birk, but his replacement John Sullivan has been less than impressive. Wells is, unfortunately, the best in the division.
Right Guard: Green Bay Packer Josh Sitton is one of the upcoming stars at guard in the NFL. Sitton is one of the best guards in the NFL, but at the same time, he is no Steve Hutchinson because he has only been in the league since 2008. He is, however, one of the best in the division.
Right Tackle: Bryant McKinnie plays left tackle for the Vikings, he is a six time pro-bowler and is exceedingly talented. His motivation seemed to have lacked in 2010 as he allowed Brett Favre to get sacked so many times, but I still think he is one of the top in the division.
Bears and Lions fans might feel left out, but I just have such a hard time picking one of your offensive linemen because they can't protect Stafford and Cutler long enough to give their respective offenses an edge. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong, but the guys I listed are simply the best in the NFC North.
Julius Peppers is definitely a candidate for best in the NFL, let alone the NFC North. His career saw a major upswing when he joined the Bears in 2010. He will, no doubt, be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame some day. Peppers is one of the best at his position.
Jared Allen definitely owns the other end spot. He is absolutely relentless and can get to the QB like it's nobody's business. If the Minnesota Viking achieves his 2011 goal of 17.5 sacks, he will be in the Hall of Fame someday as well. These guys are two of the best in the entire NFL. The NFC North has traditionally had very strong defensive lines and these two do the division proud.
Kevin Williams is a six-time pro bowl defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. He makes up one-half of the dreaded "Williams Wall." Kevin has consistently been one of the top run-stoppers in the NFL, but his defensive partner Pat Williams, however, has slowed with age. Kevin Williams is still one of the top DT's in the NFC North.
Ndamukong Suh is definitely the other top DT in the division. The Detroit Lion netted Defensive Rookie of the Year and played in his first pro bowl in the same year. The addition of Nick Fairley makes the Lions defensive line that much more scary. For now, though, Fairley remains unproved and thus does not surpass Kevin Williams.
Outside Linebackers: Chicago Bears OLB Lance Briggs and Green Bay Packers OLB Clay Matthews are some of the best in the NFL. Briggs is a six-time pro bowler since 2005. Matthews is one of the rising stars in the league and had one of the highest sack totals in the NFL for 2010 at 13.5. Briggs has shown his consitency year-to-year, and Matthews will probably continue to dominate opposing QBs for years to come. As much as I hate this guy as a Vikings fan, Matthews is simply the best linebacker in the NFL. He had to represent the division.
Middle/Inside Linebackers: Chicago Bears MLB Brian Urlacher and Minnesota Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson are the best at their position. Urlacher is one of the best defensive players in Chicago Bears history and is the heart and soul of their always-strong defense. Henderson was selected to his first pro bowl in 2010, and that was coming off a fractured tibia that earned him the 2009 Ed Block Courage Award. Henderson is surprisingly good in pass coverage, netting two incerceptions in 2010. I realize that both players listed are MLBs, and neither plays in a 3-4 scheme, but I felt the need to list two and these two happen to be the best in the division.
Green Bay Packers star Charles Woodson is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Darelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha as one of the best in the game. That's not to say he shouldn't be. Woodson is one of the best corners in NFC North history. The Packers have been absolutely loaded at this position for the last 10 years, but Woodson is absolutely the best.
Minnesota Viking Antoine Winfield is the other great corner in the division. Maybe he isn't the greatest coverage corner, but he is arguably one of the best tackling corners in the NFL. The three time pro bowler is second only in the division to Charles Woodson and has been the only bright spot in the Vikings horrid defensive secondary since the departure of Darren Sharper.
Tramon Williams get the nickel corner role. The Green Bay Packer is a rising star and shows enormous potential. He came up big for the Pack in the 2010 playoffs. The fact that he went undrafted and played that well as a rookie speaks volumes to his value. The possibility that the Packers could bring in Nnamdi Asomugha to match up with Woodson and Williams is absolutely horrifying to the rest of the division.
Free Safety: Packer Nick Collins definitely has one of the safety spots locked down. I wouldn't go so far as to say that he is a top safety in the NFL, as he barely breaks the top 10. The NFC North is depressingly shallow at the safety position, however. Collins definitely tops the division. He saved the Packers with an interception late in Super Bowl XLV.
Strong Safety: Danieal Manning is the only other logical selection at safety, simply because he is the only other safety in the division to have earned an All-Pro selection. Manning hasn't been amazing since 2008, but solid nonetheless. If Darren Sharper still played for the Vikings or Packers, he would be the pick, but like I said, the division is depressingly shallow at safety.
Kicker: Ryan Longwell has been one of the most consistent kickers in the division. The fact that he has played for both the Vikings and the Packers shows his value in the NFC North. Longwell is great from long distance and rarely misses.
Kick/Punt Returner: Devin Hester is one of the best return men in NFL History. He ranks in the top three in NFL history for punt return yards, punt returns for touchdowns, most non-offensive touchdowns and many others. Hester doesn't have much value outside of special teams, but kickers all over the league fear this guy. He is the best in the division at least, if not the best in the game today.
Thanks for the read guys, please feel free to leave comments and opinions if they differ from my picks.