The Detroit Lions could be a hard team to beat; finally. The Vikings got another aging quarterback hoping he will lead them to the promise land, and the Bears are just that, bears. How will the NFC North shape up in 2011?
NFC North Predictions
1. Green Bay Packers (11-5)
This could be the year Aaron Rodgers wins the NFL MVP. He has been an elite quarterback since Brett Favre left in 2008. With 86 touchdowns to 31 interceptions in three seasons as starter, the sky is the limit for Rodgers.
The Packers were decimated with injuries in 2010 and still won the Super Bowl! Running back Ryan Grant, a two time 1,200 yard runner, and the emergence last year of rookie James Starks (led NFL with 315 rushing yards in playoffs), will make life easier on Rodgers.
Green Bay added a Desmond Howard type playmaker in rookie receiver Randall Cobb (no.64 overall in 2011 draft) to handle return duties. Cobb set a SEC record with 2,396 all-purpose yards in 2010. He adds more firepower to an already elite receiving corps as well. Moving the ball won’t be a problem for the Packers in 2011.
The defense is thriving in the 3-4 under coordinator Dom Capers, ranking no.5 last year. The secondary is loaded with ball hawks like cornerback Charles Woodson (92 tackles), and Tramon Williams (6 INT). Linebacker Clay Matthews (23.5 sacks first two seasons), gives opposing QBs nightmares while DT B.J. Raji almost single handedly stops the run game.
The Green Bay Packers should have no problem winning the NFC North in 2011.
2. Detroit Lions (9-7)
Yes, the Lions will be a threat to teams in 2011. If QB Mathew Stafford and RB Jahvid Best stay healthy, Detroit could make a playoff push.
Stafford has missed 19 games the past two seasons with shoulder injuries, but has showed promise and heart to be a NFL starter. With a weapon like 6’5″ 236 pound receiver Calvin Johnson, the duo could put up points at a record pace.
As a rookie in 2010 RB Jahvid Best started the season with 5 TD his first two games but finished the year with six. Best also showed he can be a star with flashes of brilliance like the September 19 game versus Philadelphia where he ran for 78 yards, caught 9 passes for 154 yds., and scored 3 TDs. The Lions offense could be one of the most explosive in the NFL in 2011.
Detroit’s defense is becoming a group to be feared. AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh (10 sacks) has become the leader with confidence and determination the Lions have been lacking. With veterans like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams and rookie Nick Fairly, the Lions have a deep and powerful defensive line. Wisconsin native and alum, linebacker DeAndre Levy is also a star in the making with leadership abilities.
The Lions secondary is a little suspect, but should hold up well enough for Detroit to be much improved in 2011.
3. Chicago Bears (7-9)
Jay Cutler doesn’t appear to be the QB Bears fans thought he was when the team acquired him in ’09. He did take them to the 2011 NFC Championship but ended up getting knocked out of the game early. Truth be told, the defense carried them more in 2010 than Cutler did. He’s going to have to put up or shut up this season or he may be shown the door.
Running backs Matt Forte and Marion Barber should help Cutler out with a solid run game, but when it’s time to throw who will catch it? With no real no.1 receiver and TE Greg Olson gone (Panthers), Roy Williams is going to have to bounce back after three so-so years in Dallas and show why he was once an elite wide out and become a reliable target for Cutler.
Besides DL Julius Peppers and LB Lance Briggs, the Bears defense is on the decline. The secondary is o.k. but not good enough to stop Green Bay or Detroit. I think it will be tough times for Chicago in 2011.
4. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
Here is the deal with the Vikings; they need to rebuild. Donovan McNabb is 34 and his better days are behind him. After the Brett Favre fiasco, signing McNabb was a bad decision. He doesn’t even have any real quality receivers and the weak offensive line is going to have him running scared like Favre last year.
Adrian Peterson is going to know why Barry Sanders retired early by the time this season is over. He too will be overused and abused while playing for a loser.
The Pat and Kevin Williams defensive tackle tandem that stuffed the run for years is gone. Pat retired and Kevin is suspended for the first two games and DE Ray Edwards is now a Falcon. That leaves Jared Allen; he is a pass rusher not a run stopper.
The line backing corps, led by E.J. Henderson is average at best; and the secondary is small and aging. The Vikings need to rebuild now while Peterson is still young if they ever want to compete in the NFC North again.
So the Green Bay Packers will once again stand alone atop the NFC North in 2011. The Lions will be on the rise while the Bears and Vikings decline. These are the predictions; let’s see what the season will bring.