The Electric Commentary

Friday, September 09, 2005

NFL Preview, Part 8: The NFC North

This is one messed up screwy division filled with strange and incomplete teams. A few weeks ago if you would have asked me who was going to take the North, I would have told you the Detroit Lions. After watching them play in the preseason, I'm not sure what to think.

Let's ignore the preseason though, and go with what we know, Joe. (Whoa.) We know that Joey Harrington isn't very good. We also know that Jeff Garcia was clotheslined into broken-fibula-land. (Not that it really matters. The preseason made him look completely washed up.) So we have an inconsistent QB all year.

Kevin Jones, I still believe is very good, as is Roy Williams. But that's all I've got. The defense, which I thought was improved (and will still give the Packers fits just because of their huge defensive tackles) has looked lack luster. This team has talent, but I could see them finishing anywhere from 4-12 to 12-4. As the NFC North is terrible, they'll probably finish at least 6-10, and with some luck they might squeak out a few more victories. I think that they finish 3rd in the division with a middling record.

Just ahead of the Packers.

You guys aren't going to like this. I think the Pack will have a very, very bad year. Before you excommunicate me and put up border guards to keep me from coming back up there, let me explain. Let's look at the facts:

Last year the Packers went 10-6. Of those 10 wins, 5 were against the NFC North. I think the Packers are clearly worse than last year. Same defense (unless Jim Bates can work miracles). Worse offensive line. Older Ahman Green (who is already in steep decline). Bad special teams. All of this will hurt us.

The Lions are a bit better. Roy Williams is healthy. They get a full season of Kevin Jones. Charles Rogers is still intact. Marcus Pollard has joined the team. When you picture the Lions playing the Packers, does anyone see Kevin Jones having anything less than 150 yards and 2 scores? They've always been bad at running against the Lions too. Bad news.

And let's not forget that the Bears did beat the Packers last year when Grossman was still healthy. What do we know about the Bears? They have a good defense with good LBs. Kyle Orton cannot possibly be worse than Hutch or Krenzel or Quinn. Even if he's only average, heck, even if he's bad, he's still better than what they had last year. They were bad at WR. They signed Mushin Muhammad. They had a bad O-Line. They signed a few of those. None of these players are terrific, but they are all HUGE improvements over last year. Finally, they improved their kicking game with the strong-legged Doug Brien.

Again, we are worse, and they are better.

What about the Vikings? The loss of Moss will hurt the offense, no question. But will it hurt them very much? More than what they've gained on defense? I recall them playing pretty well when he was hurt last year. And their defense is much much better, because let's face it, it couldn't get much worse. The Vikes last year were probably worse than the Pack on D, as evidenced by two narrow 34-31 victories by the Pack. (And against the Packers D, is there really that much difference between Moss and Burleson?)

Now they have Darren Sharper. They have Fred Smoot. They have Corey Chavous and Antoine Winfield. They added Sam Cowart from the Jets to play Middle LB, and landed Napoleon Harris in the Moss deal. The line looks formidable as well, with the still developing Kenechi Udeze, Kevin Williams, Darrion Scott, and Pat Williams. This is not just a better defense. This is a good defense.

Again, they got better, while the Packers got worse.

Maybe the general weakness of the NFC will save them. Maybe Mike Tice's incompetence, Matt Millen's brilliant Personnel moves, and the Bear's general "Bearness" will elevate the Packers. But I look at there schedule, and this is what I see:

Sep 11 @Detroit 4:15pm L
Sep 18 Cleveland 4:15pm W
Sep 25 Tampa Bay 1:00pm L
Oct 3 @Carolina 9:00pm L
Oct 9 New Orleans 1:00pm W
Week 6 BYE
Oct 23 @Minnesota 1:00pm L
Oct 30 @Cincinnati 1:00pm L
Nov 6 Pittsburgh 4:15pm L
Nov 13 @Atlanta 4:15pm L
Nov 21 Minnesota 9:00pm L
Nov 27 @Philadelphia 4:15pm L
Dec 4 @Chicago 1:00pm L
Dec 11 Detroit 8:30pm W
Dec 19 @Baltimore 9:00pm L
Dec 25 Chicago 5:00pm W
Jan 1 Seattle L

That's 4-12. Now I'm probably overly pessimistic. I get like that sometimes. Maybe they sweep the Lions and the Bears. Maybe they beat Tampa. Maybe they beat Seattle. But at Carolina? At Cinci? Pitt? at Philly? At Baltimore? No way. That's five losses right there.

So what do I see in this division?

1. Minnesota: Between 10-6 and 12-4

2. Chicago - 8-8 or so.

3. Detroit - 7-9 or so.

4. Green Bay - Between 4-12 and 6-10.

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I will be.

Winning on Sunday would be a good start.

At least Will's still has free cheese curds.


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:45 PM  

  • The one thing you forget is the 2 minute drill factor with Favre. Now Favre isn't what he used to be, but when Ray Rhodes was coach, GB went 8-8, but should have been 3-11. In the 2 minute drill, you don't need to run, you don't need to pass protect very long, and the D line of the other team can't sub out. Plus on D you just stack to stop the run. More importantly you get 4 passes to get 10 yds. Admittedly Favre will screw up many times doing this, but if he doesn't bonehead 33% of the time GB will still pull out 2-3 games that were lost going into the 4th quarter. Most likely these wins will come against suspect defenses, such as Det. Chi. Seattle or Cinci. So 4-12 is realistic, 6-10 or 7-9 is more likely.

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 1:37 PM  

  • I take issue with you on Sharper -- let the Vikes have him. He can't cover anymore, and his tackling has reverted back to his rookie days. And while I agree Green is in decline, he can still give us 1,000 yards if he stays injury-free. Then again, that may be a problem if our guards don't pan out...

    I was surprised they didn't keep Walt Williams and then trade Fisher and Ferguson for some defensive help...or at least some draft picks.

    I see 'em as 4-12 also.

    By Blogger Will, at 2:07 PM  

  • I think it's the weakest division in the NFL. I'm very down on the Lions right now, after feeling cautiously optimistic (as a Lions fan) about a month ago. The offensive line looked awful in the preseason. I know, preseason doesn't mean anything, but when two linemen go up against each other and one manhandles the other, I think it's reasonable to draw some conclusions from that. And the Lions' offensive linemen were getting manhandled. My pick is the Vikings, but more because I dislike the rest of the division than because I like Minnesota.

    By Blogger MDS, at 2:24 PM  

  • I'm with you on the Lions. I try not to let preseason sway me too much, but they just look terrible. At least when I was watching. I really though they had a shot to win the division (I guess in the North they probably still do) until I saw them actually play.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 2:32 PM  

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