Sunday, August 18, 2013

2013 NFL Previews: NFC North

by Darren Boyd

NFC North

The "Black and Blue" as a infamous ESPN guy named it, is an intriguing and competitive division. Lead by the Green Bay Packers impressive Offense, followed by the Minnesota Vikings and All Day, a new scheme for Cutler with the Chicago Bears and the lowly but talented Detroit Lions.
Green Bay went 11-5 last season, had a great offense but their defense betrayed them against the read-option and Colin Kaepernick in the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings finished a surprising 10-6, lead by the amazing comeback of MVP Adrian Peterson. They made the playoffs but were bounced in the Wild Card Game
Chicago Bears also went 10-6 last year but missed the playoffs and cleaned house. A new head coach in Trestman and QB Jay Cutlers on the last year on his deal have hopes high in the Windy City.
Detroit Lions fell apart last year and finished 4-12.  But they still have Megatron (aka WR Calvin Johnson) and QB Mathew Stafford, who just got a huge contract extension, and are looking to improve.
Green Bay Packers
can be found at GameDay Cloth
The Green Bay Packers were exposed to the read option by the 49ers in the playoffs. They had no answer for it and they gave up 45 points. As usual they did next to nothing in free agency but had a stellar draft class once again. Lead by the best QB in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, the Packers offense racks up an avg of 27 points a game. The Packers invested 2 draft picks in RB Eddie Lacy and my favorite back in the draft RB Johnathan Franklin. He fell to them in the 4th round and should be a steal. They lost Greg Jennings to free agency but they have a good young corps in Jones, Nelson, and Randall Cobb. The biggest concern for the Packers is how to replace LT Bryan Bulaga, who blew out his knee in training camp and his out for the year. They drafted David Bakhtiari in the 4th round out of Colorado but in my scouting opinion, he is not a NFL starting Left Tackle.  
    On the defensive side of the ball, they had another good year, till that playoff game where their ends could not set the edge.  This defense can get after the QB with 47 sacks a season ago. They were lead by Clay Matthews who had 13.  They used their 1st round pick on DE Datone Jones from UCLA. He will set the edge and can get after the QB. 2nd year man OLB Nick Perry will be counted on to produce as he was injured a lot of his rookie season. The secondary grabbed 18 interceptions last year lead by Casey Hayward with 6. Strong Safety is a question mark as they have a collection of nobodies, loosing the venerable Charles Woodson in free agency. Somebody will have to emerge to become the starter in camp.
    They nailed the draft again, on paper that is. They upgraded the running back spot. Keep an eye on Jon Franklin for fantasy. He will get a lot of reps due to the fact Eddie Lacy is always dinged. Plus Franklin can catch out of the backfield for ppr leagues. Vegas is high on the Packers with 10 wins for over/under and 12-1 Super Bowl odds.
Minnesota Vikings    
The remarkable return of Adrian Peterson from an ACL tear, 2097 yards and 12 TDs, lead the Vikings to a 10-6 and a wild card playoff berth. Unfortunately their starting QB is Christian Ponder. Ponder is destined to be a backup. He is always hurt and when he plays at his best he is a barely a caretaker at QB. The Vikes brought in Matt Cassel to back up or replace Ponder, but he is really no better. They were 31st in passing last year with a staggering 172 yards a game. The Vikings traded the headache WR Percy Harvin to the Seahawks. The deal looks even better now that Harvin is out for the year. They added WR Greg Jennings and traded up to get the Human Highlight reel Cordarrelle Patterson out of Tennessee. Minnesota has one of the NFL's best and youngest O-Line. Matt Kalil made the Pro Bowl as a rookie left tackle. They resigned right tackle Phil Loadholt to keep continuity on the o-line. 
    On the defensive side of the ball, they are outstanding against the run and had a ton of sacks. They had 44 last year lead by Jared Allen's 12.  They got a gift in the draft when somehow DT Shariff Floyd fell to them at 23 (thanks Jerry!). The linebackers are suspect but they do have Chad Greenway, who lead the team with a 148 tackles last year. The Vikings secondary, who are not ball hawks anyway, released S Antoine Winfield for salary cap cut. The secondary on had 10 interceptions last year. They used 1st round pick acquired from the Harvin deal on Cornerback Xavier Rhodes. I like Free Safety Harrison Smith, I think he will have a break out year. Strong safety is an area of concern though. I seldom talk kickers but what rookie Blair Walsh did last season was incredible. He was 35-38 in attempts and hit 10-10 from 50 plus yards.  Hands down he is a top kicker in FFL. 
    I am not a GM Rick Spielman fan for what he did to my Dolphins but I give credit where credit is due. He has had a very successful last few drafts. He has made some bold moves and infused this team with a lot of up and coming talent. Vegas expects a drop off with Ponder at QB and a tough schedule, the over under total wins is set at 7.5 and 50-1 odds of going to the Super Bowl
Chicago Bears 
The Bears finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs. Thus it marked the end of the HC Lovie Smith era. The Bears hired Mark Trestman "Offensive Guru" as the new head coach. His mission is to fix Jay Cutler. Cutler is in the last year of his deal and the Bears will not extend him during the season. Cutler was bad last year and may have worn out his welcome in the Windy City. Brandon Marshall had a monster year with 118 catches 1508 yards and 11 TDs. The Bears are counting on WR Alshon Jeffery to have a break out year after he did little as a rookie. The Bears signed former Cowboy Martellus Bennett to start at tight end. One could make a case that the Bears O-Line was the worst in the NFL. They did sign Jermon Bushrod at Left Tackle. They spent their 1st round pick on the very raw Kyle Long whom they want a left guard. At least they run block pretty well and Matt Forte should have a good year.
    The Bears defense is top notch. DE Julius Peppers is still a force to be reckoned with. DT Henry Melton has blossomed into a star and is playing under the franchise tag. Who would have thought that Texas Longhorn fans? The Linebackers will look different this year. Gone is the face of the franchise Brian Urlacher, although from a pure football perspective, he was on the downhill of career for several years now. Former Bronco DJ Williams has been brought in to replace him as well as rookie Jon Bostic out of Florida. The question for this group is how well Lance Briggs will play at age 33. Tim Jennings had 9 INTs last year! He is in the last year of his contract and will get a massive deal one way or another at the end of the season. The Bears lead the NFL in INTs with 24. I like Major Wright in the Strong Safety spot.
    I did not like the draft. I felt they reached on Long and might not have netted another starter out of the 6 picks they had. Vegas expects a fall back from 10 wins. The Over/under for total wins is set at 8.5. They have 30-1 odds at going to the Super Bowl this year. Outside of Forte and Marshall for early FFL Picks, take a late rounder on Marty B. He did have 5 TDs last year with the Giants.
Detroit Lions 
The Lions had an awful year last season, 4-12. Somehow head coach Jim Schwartz kept his job. Their 10-6 season from 2011 looks like a fluke. So because they are the Lions they reward Matt Stafford with a 3 year 50 million dollar extension. I'm not breaking news here but Calvin Johnson is the most unstoppable wide out I've ever seen in my lifetime. He had 122 catches, 1964 yards and somehow only 5 TDs last season. The Lions have no other viable options for the rest of the receiving corp who can make a difference. They picked up RB Reggie Bush from the Dolphins. As a pure running back he will frustrate the hell out of you. He will run for 5-6 carries of little to no yards then break a long one, he dances around looking for the home run instead of finding the gap and settling for 4 yards. At least the Lions will throw to him, which is when he is at his best. The Lions O-line has a lot of new faces. Former first round pick Riley Reiff is taking over at Left Tackle and that could be scary. 3rd Round Pick and monster of a man Larry Warford is in play to start at right guard.
    On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions did not execute at a high level. Their total defense was 13th but they can't rush the QB or create turnovers. They were 20th and 23th in the NFL last season. They have 2 young outstanding defensive tackles in Suh and Fairley. Yet no one had double digit sacks, DE Cliff Avril had 9.5 but they let him walk. They spent the 5th overall pick on DE Ziggy Ansah, a man beast but is very raw in terms of playing football. If he developes in a hurry he can have a huge impact. The Lions secondary was average at best last year. They spent a 2nd rounder on cornerback Darius Slay, who is a burner, ran the fastest time at the combine for all of the defensive backs. They also added Glover Quin at the safety spot from the Texans in free agency. 
    I liked their 1st 3 draft picks in Ansah, Slay and Worford. All will come in and start right away. The rest of the draft was sketchy at best. Vegas has them at 7.5 wins in the over/under and 50-1 odds of going to the Super Bowl. Of course everyone will take Megatron in FFL, Reggie Bush in ppr leagues but take a late rounder on Mikel Leshourse, he will get goal line looks and had 9 td's last season.

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