2009 NFC North Predictions
2009 NFC North preview from MadduxSports.com. After studying the NFL teams get signed up for our Free Football Picks for the top handicappers on the internet.
2009 NFC North Division Preview
By Adam Barone
The NFC North is all about a quarterback revolution—especially if Brett Favre changes his mind and decides to play. If not, then it’s probably about the Vikings hoping that Sage Rosenfels doesn’t do that helicopter-fumble thing in their uniform. This should be a three-way dogfight, but all three teams have some questions to answer.
Chicago Bears (11-5): The addition of Jay Cutler will open things up on both sides of the ball for the Bears, taking some pressure off the aging defense. The defense was a disappointment last season, allowing 19.6 first downs per game—10th worst in the NFL. The unit was also 30th against the pass, and finished 22nd in the league with just 28 sacks. There’s plenty of talent on that side of the ball though, and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, a former Ram who’s played under Lovie Smith, was signed as a free agent. Former Lions’ head coach Rod Merinelli was brought in as the defensive line/assistant head coach, and is expected to motivate a front line that was sluggish last season.
The Bears’ offense promises to be an exciting one this season for the first time… well… ever. Even with Matt Forte’s breakout rookie campaign and Kyle Orton’s perceived quality season, this was still the 26th ranked offense in the league. Cutler’s presence will free up space for Forte to run, and make the mediocre wide receivers look like they can actually play. Third-year tight end Greg Olsen figures to benefit the most from the acquisition of Cutler, as he’ll be the starter for the first time this season.
Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Brett Favre says he’s not playing, which leaves Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson to fight for the starting job. Favre was good to start last season, but would likely falter down the stretch for the Vikes just like he did for the Jets. It’s called “old age.” Favre is prone to throwing interceptions, something he did 22 times in 2008. He’s certainly better than Rosenfels, Jackson, and John David Booty, but his return wouldn’t have necessarily made the Vikings the favorite in the NFC. This is still the Adrian Peterson show no matter what, and he’s likely to score more than 10 touchdowns on the ground in the coming season. Versatile rookie receiver Percy Harvin figures to add a spark to the offense as well.
The defense was the league’s best against the run last year, as usual, and is expected to be again this season. Linebacker E.J. Henderson is healthy heading into the season after missing time in 2008. He’ll make plenty of tackles behind the enormous Williams’. The addition of defensive end Jared Allen proved to be a good one, as he accumulated 14.5 sacks and elevated the pass defense from last in 2007 to 18th in 2008.
Green Bay Packers (8-8): Despite Aaron Rodgers’ breakout season in 2008, the Pack finished with a disappointing 6-10 record. Rodgers showed plenty of promise though, throwing 28 touchdown passes and finishing with an impressive 93.8 quarterback rating. The Packers still had the eighth-ranked offense, despite the struggles of running back Ryan Grant. Grant started the season with a hamstring injury, but got his carries and eventually finished the season with over 1,200 yards. Grant can be a workhorse—he carried the ball over 30 times twice in 2008—but doesn’t get into the end zone much—just four touchdowns on the season.
The defense plummeted to 17th overall last season, but is an extremely talented as a group. New coordinator Dom Capers is installing a 3-4 front, with powerful rookie B.J. Raji at nose tackle. The linebackers will be the strength of the unit. The group includes Aaron Kampman, Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, and rookie Clay Matthews.
Detroit Lions (4-12): Unfortunately for Detroit fans, this was an easy pick. The Lions are still clearly the worst team in this division, possibly the entire conference (we’re looking at you, St. Louis). Receiver Calvin Johnson is simply a freak, and will produce no matter how bad the team is. Johnson caught just 78 passes last season, and finished with 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns, despite the Lions never winning a game. He’ll have either Daunte Culpepper or rookie Matthew Stafford throwing him the ball, but, again, it doesn’t matter. The offensive line is still a weakness, which doesn’t bode well for young running back Kevin Smith or whoever plays quarterback. Smith finished 24 yards short of 1,000 in 2008, and will be looking to add to his eight rushing scores.
New head coach Jim Schwartz will install a 4-3 scheme similar to the one he ran in Tennessee, though he has quite a bit less talent. The team did trade for linebacker Julian Peterson, and added some quality players in free agency. Cornerbacks Philip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, linebacker Larry Foote, and defensive tackle Grady Jackson were all signed. That side of the ball should be improved, but there’s really no where to go but up from last season’s 32nd ranked defense.