Other than possibly moving Vikings/Lions home games to outdoors (think: frigid, icy, snowy conditions), wouldn’t it be just as exciting to see all the teams in the NFC North a.k.a. “least feared” Division place their skilled players at the QB spot? Imagine The “Windy City Flyer” (Devin Hester), “All Day” (Adrian Peterson), Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings or Atari Bigby lining up in shotgun formation taking snaps!
Think about the endless options, backyard plays, and opportunities – sure beats watching Kyle Orton or Tavaris Jackson throws pick-6’s or Aaron Rodgers and Jon Kitna airing it out throwing more incompletions than completions. Better yet, envision bringing back Jim McMahon, Bart Starr, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon, or even Barry Sanders to suit up for their former clubs? With that being said, at least there’s an abundance of young talent to keep a close eye on in this otherwise, lackluster two-team fight for the NFC North crown.
Green Bay Packers 10-6: Checklist for success – a recipe with all the proper ingredients: 1. Talented, intriguing defensive unit with no major holes or areas of concern. 2. OL play and RB production that is extremely consistent and dependable. 3. Hunger to get back to the NFC Championship, balanced mix of veterans and youngsters. 4. Home field advantage and reliable place kicker will factor into close contests. 5. A gutsy QB who’s armed with three terrific targets to toss the pigskin around to. You can go back & forth discussing why this squad is clearly in a class of its own in this division.
Minnesota Vikings 7-9: A very predictable leader-less offense, a less than stellar, uninspiring LB/DB group, and a shaky coaching staff equates to a very average year where expectations will not be met. Letdown, disappointment, choke- words that can be used to describe the Vikings’ play down the stretch in their final two games of the ’07 campaign, as they blew a golden opportunity to reach the Playoffs. I don’t see enough plays being made by the pass offense or defense to take advantage of an excellent run offense and defense. Reoccurring old story: Same song, just a different verse in hopes of making it to the postseason.
Chicago Bears 5-11: Disaster is at the doorstep of the punch less offense once again. Beyond Hester there is not a weapon on the offensive side of the ball that will scare you, and that’s a stretch due to his inexperience and rawness. On defense you have a unit that still contains quality players that will standout from time to time, though you get the feeling their tackling is still a major reason to its inconsistency, if you’re watching their performance or lack thereof during the preseason.
The downfall to the Monsters of the Midway remains at QB, with a bigger blame going to the offensive line, which will make matters worse. When the 1st round draft pick you are counting on to start at left tackle (team’s weakest position, toughest position to fill) is out a minimum of 10-12 weeks and you are trying to replace him with a 35-year old lineman you released in the off-season, you know things are not going to go your way. Who’s the protecting the blindside of starting QB Kyle Orton? Your back-up, journeyman tackle? You can go on & on with this offense’s deficiencies, and still find more to comment about. Expect to hear Commissioner Goodell announcing a player sitting in the green room for Chicago, as they invest in a position they forgot to take care of the past few drafts.
Detroit Lions 3-13: In the Motor City you have a team that will be given the chance to select the top collegiate star in the 2009 NFL Draft. Sights will be set more so towards next April than next Sunday this fall. You look at the weaknesses (overall defense, especially defensive backfield and offensive line) to overpower the strengths as usual (Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, and Ernie Sims), which means another long, grueling year for the Lions. Despite all the talk about a rejuvenated rushing attack with 3rd round Central Florida product Kevin Smith, you can still bet on a 60/40 percent pass to run ratio.
I’ve always thought the key to a winning season would be for Detroit to excel in the turnover battle and to put the offense in good field position. Though I’ve found out they lack the defensive line and pressure to generate takeaways, and it’s too much too overcome in order for a successful season for Rod Marinelli’s crew. In an over/under of 7 games in which backups Dan Orlovsky/Drew Stanton will start – take the over, and expect the fans to be calling for either Tim Tebow or Matthew Stafford. You have to believe the team is still another year or two away from jumping up to contender status in the NFC North. Their inability to improve in the trenches, thus eliminating any thought of winning the T.O.P. battle (controlling the line of scrimmage), is something they need to focus and improve on in order to become respectable for the first time since the Barry Sanders Era.