Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2009 NFC North Preview

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears (9-7)
Key Additions: QB Jay Cutler, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, OT Orlando Pace
Key Subtractions: QB Kyle Orton, S Mike Brown

The Bears were the talk of the NFL when they traded Orton and a pair of first-round picks for Cutler, and rightly so. Cutler is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback who should help what's been an anemic passing game for years. Unfortunately, he won't have nearly the receiving corps he had in Denver. Greg Olsen is a developing talent at tight end and Devin Hester has big play ability, but there isn't a legitimate #1 or, really a #2 that you'd be happy about having. Second-year player Matt Forte should again be a beast.

Chicago's defense wasn't as awesome last year as it's been in the past, but it was still solid. Brown was a useful player in the secondary, but the team makes their hay with a dominant front seven. Perhaps if the offense can keep the defense out of bad situations and help with overall field position, the new Monsters of the Midway can get back to being one of the more prolific defenses around. Of course, since I drafted them in my fantasy football league, another year of disappointment is probably in order.

Projected 2009 record: 7-9

Detroit Lions (0-16)
Key Additions: QB Matthew Stafford, RB Maurice Morris, LB Larry Foote, LB Julian Peterson, DB Phillip Buchanon, DB Anthony Henry, S Marquand Manuel, TE Brandon Pettigrew
Key Subtractions: QB Jon Kitna, WR Shaun McDonald, LB Paris Lenon, DB Leigh Bodden, DT Cory Redding

If any team needed an overhaul, it was the record-breakingly bad Detroit Lions, and boy did they get it. Stafford comes into a not horrible situation, though, with talented youngsters Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith already established. Morris will be a reliable backup to Smith, and Pettigrew should be a solid producer over time. Depending on quarterback play (Stafford or Daunte Culpepper), the offense could actually be halfway decent.

Personally, I like everyone they acquired on defense. Julian Peterson is still a contributor, Larry Foote has a pair of Super Bowl rings, and Buchanon and Henry will step in and start immediately. I know it sounds ridiculous, but Detroit looks like a .500 team. They're still the Lions, though, so they'll have some psychological barriers to overcome, but I like the direction they're heading.

Projected 2009 record: 5-11

Green Bay Packers (6-10)
Key Additions: DT B.J. Raji, LB Clay Matthews
Key Subtractions: none

The Packers are an interesting team to look at, because they're fairly young on both sides of the ball, and made virtually no changes to their roster outside of the draft. Raji and Matthews should provide depth in their front seven, with Raji developing eventually into the big body in the middle of their 3-4 defense. But neither rookie is being leaned on heavily this season, which means we're going to see mostly the same team we saw last year.

Aaron Rodgers has (or at least by now should have) made people forget about the Brett Favre saga (even with Favre donning purple and yellow this season), because he's blossomed into a legitimate star. Don't be surprised if he leads the NFL in passer rating this season. Ryan Grant needs to get more consistent and make sure he can stay on the field all season if he wants to be the man in Green Bay. Greg Jennings is a stud. And I mean that in every way you're thinking.

Projected 2009 record: 10-6

Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Key Additions: QB Brett Favre, QB Sage Rosenfels, WR Percy Harvin
Key Subtractions: S Darren Sharper

The Vikings were one of the most talked-about teams this offseason, largely due to Favre's hemming and hawing about whether or not he wanted to return to football or stay retired. Inevitably, the deadline for Favre had passed and he had declared he wouldn't be playing, and then two weeks later he was signing his new contract with Minnesota. I'm not even sure this is a good thing for the Vikings, though. Rosenfels seemed to be a pretty good fit for the Vikings, a guy who can manage a game and make the occasional big play. Favre puts the whole offense on red alert, in both a good and bad way. They'll have more big plays, but also more turnovers.

Harvin might be the key to the whole season, though. If he can be productive as a rookie and give opposing defenses someone to watch out for besides Adrian Peterson, the whole offense could open up. If not, the Vikings will still be a wide receiver away from having a meaningful receiving corps. And if you can't get the ball downfield, the only All Day we'll be talking about is how there were 9 in the box against Peterson, all day.

Projected 2009 record: 8-8

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