Tuesday, August 13, 2013
The Preview: NFC North
We covered the East last week, now to the North.
This is not a difficult preview to write. It's the Packers and the Packers' division alone to lose. Here's the problem, Green Bay is suffering injury after injury. They lost their left tackle already, they lost Jordy Nelson for multiple weeks (possibly into the regular season), THEN we saw this on Wednesday:
McCarthy-RB Eddie Lacy was held out of practice because of his hamstring, not been given indication it's going to be long-term.
UH OH. The Packers were really going to put many of their chips onto Lacy's stock. Poor kid is injured *already.* The Packers hope for him to be healthy by opening night.
Now then, for the team overall, I think this is, even with all the injuries, going to be very competitive. The bottom line is *RODGERS* is healthy and motivated. As long as QB Aaron Rodgers is in the offense, the Packers are going to be a pretty good team.
There were definite problems with their defense last year, especially with DB's, but there might be some action at DB this year. Sam Shields is a big candidate to take one of the spots. Tramon Williams is in the thick of things as well. D-line is good not great... Coach and I agreed that BJ Raji is overrated. LB is pretty good with Matthews the most notable name.
The Pack have lost a lot at receiver... Jennings also left to go to Minnesota. You can almost count on Jermichael Finely getting hurt again, but I'm told TE depth is better this year. All of this is trivial compared to Rodgers. If Rodgers is healthy, he'll elevate *any* receivers he has around him to good production.
So despite the defensive question marks and the many losses offensively I like GB to take the division. May not be by a whole lot this year, but 11 wins is quite probable.
On to the rest of the division.
Bears: I don't get the hype with these guys. They're just miserable at finishing a 3rd down conversion or a big passing play. Most of this occurred after Cutler's injury, and up until then he was playing great. I'm going to presume a full season from Jay Cutler... if he gets enough help from the O-line I like his chances. However, the Bears haven't had a good O-line in ages. Skill positions are set with Brandon Marshall (WR), Matt Forte (RB), and Marcellus Bennett (TE). Now the principal issue I have with Chicago is the defense. Urlacher retired.. the rest of that defense looks thin to me... injuries left and right. It's going to take some time to rebuild it to *me.* The Bears also have a new coach after Lovie Smith was (finally?) fired last season. Marc Trestman is now their head coach. Jury's out on him for his rookie season, we'll see.
Lions: The Lions made some pretty tangible improvements this year. We knew that Jason Hanson was already so old and unreliable... after last year he called it quits. His replacement is a pretty good gamble: David Akers. Also new on the team is RB Reggie Bush, some role players, and two safeties: Chris Hope and Glover Quinn. Lions' DB was by far the worst unit of the entire NFC last year, and change of any kind is great, but Quinn might be a sneaky good move for Detroit. The Lions knew they had major issues and give 'em credit -- they assessed their liabilities head on.
Vikes: Oi. I know they got Greg Jennings. I know they *have* Adrian Peterson. Ponder is awful. Whatever skill players you get -- it all goes to pot if Ponder and his wimpy 8 yard throws is going to turn the ball over. Defensively, they might be all right, but the Vikings are BRUTAL team to watch, even still. They made the 'offs last year, remarkably. I'm not convinced they go over .500 this time.
So, with the North I have these rankings for 2013:
1. Packers -- They need to do a way better job covering passes downfield and running the ball, but at least there are signs they can improve both.
2. Lions -- tangible improvement at DB plus Reggie Bush for the "change of pace" back are going to pay off for Detroit. It's still an overrated, tough to root for, club, but they have plenty and I mean PLENTY of talent to compete for a wild card.
3. Bears -- I still don't get it. An already old defense gets even weaker and Cutler's going to be a "?" for health. They'll get schooled every time against the Packers too, as so happened last few years.
4. Vikes -- No way. Even with last year's playoff run to commemorate, I see very little from Minnesota unless Peterson runs for 2000 yards.
Coming up later on.. the NFC South preview!