The NFC North is my wheelhouse. I’ve been living in it for decades as a Bears fan, and nothing gets me ready for football than talking down all the other LOSERS and UglyMcFaces in our division. Let’s do this!
Green Bay Packers
Following a failed session of QB roulette last season after Aaron Rodgers went down with a collarbone injury, Mike McCarthy has decided to keep Matt Flynn around, just in case. Which is better than Scott Tolzein and Seneca Wallace any day of the week. They drafted Davante Adams in the second round, just so they can have another receiver beyond Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. And I think tight end Jermichael Finley is out of the league after he bruised his spinal cord last year. So drafting Richard Rodgers as a replacement was probably a good call, even if it’s adding another Rodgers to the roster. I hate that shit. (I don’t actually, but it’s fun to be perturbed about something in Green Bay.) The Packers could run into trouble early this season because they’re starting a rookie center in fifth rounder Corey Linsley. If the line can stay healthy, Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton can make up for some shortcomings. And maybe they can improve on the 130+ yards a game they averaged on the ground, mostly thanks to Eddie Lacy and NOT Folk Hero/Urban White Legend John Kuhn.
Let’s be honest here, the offense isn’t the issue in Green Bay (well besides the offensive line that might get Aaron killed), the defense is the real reason for the team’s postseason struggles. They ranked 24th and 25th in passing and rushing yards allowed, respectively. In a rare free agent signing, the Pack brought in Julius Peppers from Chicago in order to bring a semblance of balance to their pass rush, which only used to come from whatever side Clay Matthews lined up on. A.J. Hawk is a stat-filling linebacker, but doesn’t bring those big plays to the defense. Tramon Williams is a solid corner, and Sam Shields and Casey Hayward are more than respectable. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix was drafted in the first round, so expect him to crack the starting line-up at safety at some point during the season. They’ll need it.
Non-Record Prediction: I’ll be hazed at some point during the season by “true Bear fans” when I proclaim that I actually like the Packer organization.
2013 Record: 8-7-1
2014 Prediction: 10-6
No ties this year!
You didn’t think I’d be able to run through my longtime favorite team with only a few hundred measly words, did you? You’ll need to check back this week for the in-depth Bears preview and prediction!
2013 Record: 8-8
2014 Prediction: ???
I can always rely on my ability to near-accurately predict the crapitude of the Detroit Lions. It’s why I love them so much. I truly understand them. However, I don’t want to waste 600 words on them. That sounds exhausting. Hiring Jim Caldwell (ex-bag boy of Peyton Manning in Indy) means this team is destined for three years of disciplined mediocrity. Matthew Stafford will throw oodles of interceptions on deep throws to Calvin Johnson, despite the newly-acquired Golden Tate, who will not bring his winning ways with him from Seattle. Reggie Bush will have a few awesome games where he seems worthy of that number two overall pick, but then a hamstring/groin pull will slow him down and he’ll end up with 800 total yards on the season. The Lions drafted an athletic, pass-catching tight end in the first round (Eric Ebron) in an effort to put pressure on their first round tight end from 2009 that doesn’t catch passes (Brandon Pettigrew). Ndamukong Suh is still a crazy bastard, but at least now he’s counting for $20 million against the salary cap. The team declined to extend Nick Fairley, hoping that pressure would spur him to step up in this season. It won’t, no matter if he hired a dietitian or not. The secondary will still suck.
Non-Record Prediction: Calvin Johnson will “just can’t with this shit” after Stafford side-arms his 12th interception in a single half in week seven.
2013 Record: 7-9
2014 Prediction: 6-10
The Lions will suck again. Only less chaotically. Ya know, like the Bills do.
The Vikings threw a twist into their uninteresting quarterback competition when they drafted Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville. He’ll be sitting behind Matt Cassel to start the season, keeping a valuable first rounder off the field. The organization is trying the opposite approach from what they did with Christian Ponder, as if one QB’s development has anything to do with another’s. It probably has more to do with the lack of true receiving options in Minnesota, because Greg Jennings isn;t exactly a game-breaker. Cordarrelle Patterson is explosive, but I have no idea if he’s ready to run a legitimate NFL route or if he’s just Devin Hester 2.0. Kyle Rudolph was signed to an extension in the offseason… off a year when he only caught 30 passes. So… yeah. This offense needs Adrian Peterson more than ever. And now, instead of Toby Gerhart backing him up he has… Matt Asiata? Gross. I’m convinced Peterson is on the decline, after a year where he didn’t break 1300 yards. Team can stack the box and not even care about what Matt Cassel does with the football. Seriously.
Even if Bridgewater doesn’t play this season, the Vikings drafted Anthony Barr in the first round, who should wreak havoc from the strong-side linebacker position. The Vikes paid huge money to Everson Griffen in a new contract extension, so he’ll hopefully prove worth it. (Doubtful.) Linval Joseph was signed to play defensive tackle alongside Shariff Floyd in an effort to recapture what the line had with the “Williams wall” of a few seasons ago. Ya know, without all the PED abusing. Captain Munnerlynn and Xavier Rhodes are probably too old and too young to be a great corner duo, but it’s a start. They have Harrison Smith backing them up at safety, so they’re protected from screwing up too badly.
And everyone needs to remember this fun fact about the Vikings: they’re not playing in a dome for the next two years. They’ll be at TCF Bank stadium until their new indoor facility is built in two years. So enjoy that cold-ass football Adrian Peterson! Seriously. It’s amazing to me that the Vikings team (which is built to play indoors) now has to endure two seasons of WINTER FOOTBALL IN MINNESOTA. I feel bad for those fans.
Non-Record Prediction: A Viking special teamer is injured because of the hard outdoor surface at TCF and the Vikings immediately shut down Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season.
2013 Record: 5-10-1
2014 Prediction: 5-11
Too many QB questions lead to another wasted year of the greatest running back in the NFL.
I know you’re short one NFC North team right now, but it’s okay. I’ll make it up to you. (Until I update this article with the Bears link and then you’ll be complete.) Keep checking back for more division previews!