NFC North, No sure thing?

Posted: March 7, 2010 in Sports
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

So, I’ve spent the better part of the last few days reading up on the latest releases and signing on espn.com and I wanted to address a lot of the moves that have been made without having to post a comment to every blog article I read.  First I want to talk about the early moves made Friday that look to make the NFC North a far more interesting division this season.  We saw the Packers and the Vikings battle it out with the hype around the Farve v. Rodgers headlines and both teams making the playoffs while the Lions continued to struggle, winning a sadly improved 2 games and Chicago who had hoped to contend by adding QB Jay Cutler, ended the season just under .500 (7-9)

So what’s changed? Well the Bears seem to have been the most active snagging the biggest name and arguably the biggest talent free agent in defensive end Julius Peppers. There’s been a lot of talk about how Peppers may be more trouble than he’s worth, that maybe he takes plays off, but the bottom line is the guy is explosive and you are adding him to a team that is known for it’s defense, in short being around those players will make Peppers step his game up and realize his potential. On the offensive side of the ball the Bears took two important steps to improving the run game, adding RB Chester Taylor from division rival Minnesota who is a versatile back that will compliment Forte and give him the ability to take plays off and recover and is also a solid pass catcher. They also picked up former Chargers run blocking TE Brandon Manumaleuna who has had success in Mike Martz offense in the past. These are all good steps, but if the Bears are going to have any chance of winning the division Cutler is going to need to play smarter and reduce his turnovers, it can take awhile to get used to a new offense especially when you’re used to having probowl receivers to throw to, if Cutler can become more comfortable behind center the Bears will definitely be a threat this year.

The other team making a solid splash in the first weekend of free agency are the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately Detroit plays in an extremely difficult division, but they are making some positive steps towards improving there team adding defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch to a defensive line that looks likely to improve further with the addition of either McCoy or Suh with the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft, such a high pick also allows Detroit the option to use even the later draft rounds to try and plug holes. On the offensive side Detroit added Nate Burleson, who put together a decent season last year for Seattle and who has long been coveted by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Burleson gives second year QB Matthew Stafford another reliable target to compliment and hopefully take some pressure off Calvin Johnson. As I mentioned this is tough division, so I’m not predicting the Lions to make it to the Superbowl or even the playoffs, but they are a team that is showing they are willing to do what it takes to improve.

A team I see taking a hit this coming season is the defending NFC North champion Vikings. The Vikes are coming off a stellar season, but there are a few question marks, they lost Chester Taylor, who was, believe it or not, an important role player in that explosive offense, but the real question is at QB. The team has already said it will give Farve as long as he needs to make a decision (which means we may not know until Farve shows up in his Jersey for Week 1) but even assuming Farve comes back there’s no guarantee he’ll be the same player, he set plenty of career highs last year which proves he can play yes, but also shows they were not typical results. In short Farve is a year older, and the Bears and Lions both took steps to improve their pass rush. Minnesota will still have the tools to have a good season they are just the team that has the most to lose after last season and if Farve isn’t the guy who is?

Lastly we have the Packers who really haven’t done much, they resigned their OL Clifton after releasing him and some talk that Washington might be interested, but other than that not a whole lot of exciting news for the Pack, they’re a good team, a pretty young team, and don’t have too many needs, and any needs they do have should be able to be addressed pretty easily in the draft. It will be interesting to see if the team does add any big names, but for right now it seems they have chemistry that works in Green Bay and if ain’t broke don’t fix it. They’ll put up another solid year as long as the OL holds up Rodgers continues to do what he does best. But they have now lost DE Aaron Kampman to the Jags which could end up being a bit of a set back as far as that defenses pass rush is concerned

All in all it’s shaping up to be an interesting season for the teams of the NFC North, look for the competition to stretch beyond the Vikings/Packers rivalry this year and beyond.

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