NFL

NFL Preview: NFC North

Is Kirk Cousins the upper-tier arm Minnesota needs to make a Super Bowl run? Can Matthew Patricia incorporate the ‘Patriot Way’ in Detroit? Will Mitchell Trubisky make the leap? These questions and more dissected in our NFC North preview.

It’s that time of year again, when every average Joe and typical Tammy make their bold predictions for the NFL season. I’m not sure which I qualify as, since this is my first attempt at writing my predictions down versus drunkenly spewing them at anyone who would listen. That being said, I am right. More often than not, I am right. Experts and amateurs alike are throwing out their way-too-early power rankings and playoff picks, so I’ll be doing the same. Except for one thing, I’m not going to base my picks on talent, roster depth, key offseason additions, and coaching alone. I will take into account the one thing that doesn’t lie, doesn’t waver, and often disappoints: feel. I’m going to look into the eyes of the men determining the result on the field and use what I see to predict how 2018 will end.

Let’s start with the battle for the NFC North. Here we go.

NFC NORTH

2017 Standings

  1. Minnesota 13-3
  2. Detroit 9-7
  3. Green Bay 7-9
  4. Chicago 5-11

Minnesota ran away with the division last year, largely due to the poor quality of play within the division. The Packers lost Aaron Rodgers in week 6. He did return from injury late in the year when the playoffs looked like a slight possibility, but was clearly not the Rodgers we are accustomed to seeing. Detroit fired coach Jim Caldwell after a winning season, opening the door for Matty Patricia to slide into the HC position in Detroit. On paper, the Lions are an offensively talented team with an average defense. According to the ultimate eye test, I don’t think they come anywhere close to competing as they adjust to a new style of play and a new defensive-minded rocket scientist for a coach. The Bears were the Bears. Injuries and a rookie quarterback earned them 5 wins. The Vikings overperformed with a sub-par quarterback and their first-round running back only playing 3 games due to injury. Is Kirk Cousins the upper-tier arm Minnesota needs to make a Super Bowl run? Can Matthew Patricia incorporate the ‘Patriot Way’ in Detroit? Will Mitchell Trubisky make the leap? Let’s take a look.

Green Bay Packers

Key Addition: Aaron Rodgers

I know, I know. “But they didn’t add Aaron Rodgers, he’s played his entire Hall of Fame career in the Green and Yellow.” True. While they did add Jimmy Graham as a weapon on offense, I don’t see his impact being near as much as getting Rodgers (my early MVP pick) back from his broken collarbone. This is the year of Rodgers. We haven’t seen 50 TD’s since Old Man Manning did it a few years back, and we won’t see it again this year, but Rodgers will put up 40+ and at least 4 on the ground leading this team to the NFC North title once again.

Eye Test: 20/20

Rodgers is in love once again (hello Danica), and he’s ready to take this team back to title town. A serviceable defense will make huge improvements with their youth movement in the secondary. Look for this squad to make a run deep into the winter months.

Prediction: 11-5

Minnesota Vikings

Key Addition: Kirk Cousins.  

Cousins has been serviceable at QB throughout his career with Washington, but is he really the top-tier elite quarterback that Vikings fans are hoping for? No, he is not. While he may be a slight upgrade from Case Keenum, I see the Vikings being carried heavily by second year back Dalvin Cook and a defense that ranked near the top of the league all season in 2017.

Eye Test: Near-sighted.

We forget that this team never should have appeared in the NFC Championship game last year, and several key teams in the NFC have improved as much or more than the Vikings.

Prediction: 10-6

Detroit Lions

Key Addition: Matt Patricia

We will see how the ‘Patriot Way’ translates to blue-collar Detroit with the subtraction of Jim Caldwell and the addition of fat-boy Patricia. Matt is not Bill Belichick. While he may be the smartest head coach in the league based on ACT scores, he was carried by an all-time great offense in New England and rode the coattails of Tommy Brady to a head coaching job.  I could be wrong, though, the Lions could adjust well and win, oh, say 6 games? Doubtful, though.

Eye Test: Cataracts

A team that won pretty consistently under the tutelage of Jim Caldwell’s skeleton looks like they are aging in all the wrong places. Back to less than mediocre for the Motor City Mannequins, because they’ll be undressed all over the field by opposing teams all year long.

Prediction: 6-10

Chicago Bears

Key Addition: Roquan Smith

One of my early favorites for ROY honors is linebacker Roquan Smith. He’ll slide right into the middle of that classic Bears 46 defense. Well, sort of. He’ll have a shot at making the biggest impact of any rookie not named Baker and I expect him to come downhill hard on the rest of the league.

Eye Test: Far-Sighted

The future may be bright in Chicago, but not this year unfortunately. A defense anchored by a rookie LB and an offense that show promise for improvement will not be enough to get out of the NFC North cellar, I’m afraid.  With 3rd year rookie wideout Kevin White and 2nd year QB Mitchell Trubisky, I would suspect that the Bears offense will be improved, but not good. But hey, they’ll be better than the Browns.

Prediction: 5-11

 

 

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