Known as the Black and Blue division, today I will take a look and predict this years edition of the NFC North. This division has had a lot of transition, with three new coaches coming in for 2006, so let’s see how it stacks up:
Chicago – Prediction for 2006 11-5: Rex Grossman is back as the signal caller for the Bears, and if he can generate some offense, this team should coast to its second straight division title. With that said, this team simply must be better on offense in 2006 if they want to advance in the playoffs. The defense still is one of the top three in football, but can have an off day, like last seasons December loss in Pittsburgh, or even worse, in the playoffs against Carolina. The offense put up just 16 points a game last year, and they are looking to Grossman to help that number. If the offense plays better, the Bears can easily make the divisional playoffs again, and possibly go further.
Minnesota – Prediction for 2006 8-8: A new coach, a wealth of new players, and a period of rebuilding awaits the Vikings for 2006. Minnesota is still in the process of putting a nightmare 05 behind them, and got rid of a big link to that with the trade of Daunte Culpepper to the Dolphins. The team turns the offense officially over to 37-year-old Brad Johnson, who last year stepped in and played well down the stretch, throwing for 1885 yards and 12 TD’s against just four INT’s. Look for a very vanilla offense out of new coach Brad Childress, and a defense that is going to try and force plenty of turnovers and put pressure on the quarterback. The team signed running back Chester Taylor from Baltimore, Steve Hutchinson from Seattle, and Tony Richardson from the Chiefs to try and improve the offense. Even with all the moves, it will take some time for this team to find itself, and an 8-8 year is actually a sign in the right direction.
Detroit – Prediction for 2006 7-9: The Lions are another team trying to identify itself, and in 2006, 7-8 wins would be considered a success. The team brought in 11 new players through free agency, including quarterback Jon Kitna, who will be the starter, and Josh McCown, who will be the backup. Corey Bradford will be one of the starters at wide out, and the team must get more out of starting RB Kevin Jones, who ran for just 664 yards a year ago. Rod Marinelli’s job as first year head coach is to try and install toughness and confidence in his squad, but with starting the season with games vs the Seahawks, at Chicago, vs Green Bay, at St.Louis and at Minnesota, a 1-4 start could have the city turning on them in a hurry. Look for progress in 2006, just not much progress.
Green Bay – Prediction for 2006 4-12: After watching parts of the preseason, I think it is safe to say that the Pack will NOT be back in 2006 as a contender for the North title. First there was the saga with Brett Favre on if he would play or not, and considering how he looked in the preseason, that may have been the wrong decision, then there was the head scratching hiring of new coach Mike McCarthy. It’s a team that crawled to a 1-7 start a year ago, and this year does not look all that much better. Favre threw a career high 29 picks last year, a lot which came throwing into double and triple coverage. 5 backs got at least 30 carries last season as they went through a ton of injuries, and the defense allowed 22 points a game and over 125 yards per game rushing. 2006 will not be much better for cheeseheads, as the Pack looks by far like the poorest team in the NFC North.