In part seven of our NFL Divisional Preview series, we take a look at the NFC North. All teams are listed in the order of their projected finish.
Detroit Lions – Yep, I’m calling it. I think this is the year it all comes together for these guys. The rest of the division is banged up or going through serious changes and the Lions are the only team that I truly feel got better in the offseason.
Matthew Stafford should have a healthy corps of receivers not named Calvin Johnson available starting Week 1. That should make Detroit’s already potent passing game much more difficult to defend. On the ground, the addition of Reggie Bush as a compliment to the power running style of Mikel Leshoure should be enough to keep defenses honest and not focus on just stopping the passing game. Expect big things from the Lions on offense.
Defensively, rookie DE Ziggy Ansah is living up to his No. 5 overall draft selection this year and looks to be quite a force alongside Fairley and Suh on the front line. I love the addition of Glover Quin in the defensive backfield next to Louis Delmas. Look for rookie corner Darius Slay to step up and be a full-time starter before the end of the season and play at an All-Pro level.
I love everything about this Lions team heading into 2013 and feel like they are good for 11 wins and the division title if everyone can stay healthy.
Green Bay Packers – Much of Green Bay’s success on offense will depend on Jordy Nelson’s healthy, Randall Cobb’s ability to adapt to being the No. 1 option in the passing game and Eddie Lacy’s abilty to adapt to the NFL and withstand the rigors of a 16 game season. If all goes well on those fronts, this offense will go as far as Aaron Rodgers will take it.
Defensively, I’m interested to see rookie DE Datone Jones in this front seven. If he works out, Green Bay will have on of the best pass rushes in the league in 2013. The guys I’m not high on in Green Bay are the two starting safeties, Jennings and Burnett. I feel like if there is a soft spot in the defense, it’s those two. They’ll need to be on their toes in an ever more pass heavy division.
I like Green Bay to come in at right around ten wins in 2013, likely earning a Wild Card berth.
Chicago Bears – I think the Marc Trestman project is going to take a year or so before it starts to yield results. You’ll see Jay Cutler getting the ball to people not named Brandon Marshall as well as see Matt Forte have a solid campaign. After that, I just don’t know that they have enough weapons overall to keep pace with the Packers and Lions. Will that mean the end of Jay Cutler in Chicago? I hope not, as I’d like to see what he does in an offensive scheme that doesn’t change every year.
Defensively, they’ll still be the same old play-making Bears for the most part. It looks like rookie Jon Bostic might be the heir apparent to Brian Urlacher with the way he’s playing so far in preseason. That said, I’m just not sure the defense will be enough to offset some of the shootouts I see this team getting into.
I think a .500 season is a decent projection on how these guys will finish in 2013.
Minnesota Vikings – Yeah, they made the playoffs last season, but I’m calling it a fluke. They rode the legs of Adrian Peterson on an incredible run, but I’m not sure he’s going to be able to carry that load this year. The Vikings are going to have to air it out to keep pace in this division and I don’t think they have the weapons. In fact, they got older and slower with the addition of Greg Jennings. In addition, I don’t like bringing in another young quarterback who was just recently a starter in the NFL to back up Ponder. I don’t know that he is secure enough with his role for that to not shake his confidence.
Defensively, there’s not much to write home about here. There are a few recognizable names, but guys like Jared Allen aren’t getting any younger. I see them having a hard time hanging with some of the offenses they’ll face in 2013.
I see anywhere from six to eight wins for this team heading into the season. That’s not going to cut it in one of the league’s toughest divisions.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON AUGUST 28, 2013
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