A dominant season for Green Bay? Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) gives us his thoughts on the NFC North.
NFC North | 11th September 2016
My team. I really don’t like writing about the Bears. Not just because they made me fall in love with this great game but it means I have to find something positive to say about Jay Cutler.
33 year old Cutler (not long now) was apparently the 11th highest rated Quarterback in football last term. A passer rating of 92.3. That probably says more about the lack of elite signal callers right now as it does Cutler’s skills.
Ok, to be fair he lost Brandon Marshall, missed Alshon Jeffrey for large parts of the season and was a little unlucky when first round wide out Kevin White went down in preseason with a fractured shin.
Jay however is shall we say, a little precious. One piece of good news is that Jay is a creature of habit and is delighted that his former quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggins is now the Offensive coordinator after the departure of Adam Gase to Miami.
Matt Forte is undoubtedly a huge loss. The Bears deciding to release a guy who has made himself into a bit of a legend with his stellar all round game in the eyes of Bears fans.
Jeremy Langford did well last year but will need to step up a little on his 3.6 yards per carry and try to emulate Forte when it comes to pass protection.
Vic Fangio has upgraded the defence with Danny Trevathan from Denver and Jerrell Freeman from Indianapolis. Defensive end Akiem Hicks was acquired from the Patriots. he has impressed in pre season and at 6ft 5ins and 336lb will bring some much needed bulk and power as will Line Backer rookie Leonard Floyd a 240lb 6ft 6in monster.
Prediction: I’m hoping for a miracle 9-7 will settle for a miracle 7-9
Detroit lose an even bigger club legend than Chicago after the retirement of Megatron himself. However, I have a feeling that the Lions could be in for a fairly positive season. I wonder how many people have said that over the years.
It’s goodbye Calvin Johnson and hello Anquan Boldin and Marvin Jones. That’s not bad back up to Golden Tate and whatever faults Matt Satfford has, he does tend to find his receivers.
Stafford was also finding opposing players in the opening weeks of 2015. That all changed once the brilliantly named Jim Bob Cooter took over as Offensive coordinator in Week 7.
After throwing 11 interceptions in his first eight games, just two balls were chucked away in the last eight. Jones is capable of challenging Tate for the lead receiver spot whilst Stafford will welcome a first round draft pick to his protection.
OT Taylor Decker will certainly improve a leaky Offensive Line. Second year running back Ameer Abdulllah and Tight End, Eric Ebron will need to step up on last time but are capable.
Defence is improving. Ziggy Ansah had a breakout year in 2015. The Defensive End ranked 3rd in sacks in the NFL with 14.5 to his name. 21 hits on quarterback ranked 5th in football. The return of Andre Levy is another huge plus. Jim Caldwell will need this unit to stay healthy if he is to improve on an abject 7-9 season.
Prediction: 9-7 and Caldwell survives another year
Green Bay Packers
It is hard to see anything but another season as major contenders for Green Bay. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. Mike McCarthy is a top head coach but THE man in Green Bay is the wonderful Aaron Rodgers. If you don’t love Aaron Rodgers, we probably shouldn’t be friends.
10-6 was kind of ok last year and at the same time, very not ok for Rodgers. Jordy Nelsons ACL spelt not just the end of his season before it had begun but also kind of killed any hopes the Pack had of major success. Nelson himself was a huge loss but it had an unforeseen effect on the whole offence.
The entire receiving corps was hurt at various points of the season but even when fit, they just could not get open and even when they did, balls were dropped with alarming regularity.
It wasn’t just the loss of a massive threat downfield but it happened to coincide with Eddy Lacy being unable to regulate his weight below that of a Mr Blobby tribute act and James Starks often bursting into the backfield without the ball. Dear Mr James Starks, the first rule of running backs is take the ball with you.
Clay Matthews is a huge addition to the defence. I know Matthews hasn’t been anywhere but returning to the edge as a pass rusher after two seasons inside means they have twice the player they did. BJ Raji has retired from the Nosetackle position and will be replaced by first round draft pick Kenny Clark
Jared Coom and Tony Horton give Rodgers new options at Tight End after the lumbering Richard Rogers departed and the superstar under centre could be a good shout for top passer.
Prediction: Easiest schedule in the NFL. Anything less than 12-4 disappointing. Deep playoff run. Potential champions
This was supposed to be THE year for Mike Zimmer and the Vikings. Moving into the brand new billion dollar US Bank Stadium and a second year Quarterback who exceeded all expectations last time out.
Then boom. Teddy Bridgewater goes down in practice with a season ending injury and it now looks as though journeyman/veteran/bloke off the street Shaun Hill will lead Adrian Peterson and the rest just a few months after a missed field goal ended their 2015 season.
That’s really cruel. Peterson tops quite a few of those ‘best player never to win a championship’ lists. All Day doesn’t have too many seasons left in his legs and after so so long it looked like the Vikes could run everyone close this time.
Teddy was all set to lead a 14th ranked rushing attack, backed up with the number five defence. Jerrick McKinnon can be this year’s hero and make Minnesota think the unthinkable and not renew Petersons contract in 2017 but in truth, everything kind of fell on the shoulders of the quarterback and Shaun Hill is little more than a game manager.
A bonus for Hill or whoever ends up taking over from Hill by game five is a huge improvement to the Offensive Line. Alex Boone from the 49ers and Andre Smith from the Bengals are a nice upgrade.
The Defence is boosted Anthony Barr at Linebacker. Trae Waynes has impressed in training camp and the team have big hopes for his second season.
Prediction: 8-8 would be acceptable under these circumstances.