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NFL Pro Football 2010 NFC North Preview

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Fearless Rick's NFL Preview - NFC NORTH

Rick Gagliano | July 21, 2010


Green Bay Packers 2009 record: (11-5) Projected 2010 record: (13-3)

Predicted finish: 1st, NFC North, Advancing to NFC Champioship

Head Coach: Mike McCarthy

Departed: RB Ahman Green; S Matt Giordano; LB Aaron Kampman

Incoming: rookie S Morgan Burnett; rookie OT Bryan Bulaga; DE Mike Neal; FS Charlie Peprah; rookie RB James Starks; rookie DE C.J. Wilson

Strengths: Quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is making Packer fans quickly forget the Brett Favre legacy. Rodgers threw for 4434 yards in 2009, with 30 TDs and only 7 INTs. In just two years as a starter, he's entered the ranks of the elite at his position. He also has the luxury of having what may be the best receiving corps in the league, with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver outside, Jermichael Finney and Donald Lee at TE, and James Jones in the slot. Defense. The Packers were tops in the NFC defensively, at 284.4 ypg in 2009, and they're going to be even better, especially in the secondary, where rookie Morgan Burnett and FS Charlie Peprah will get added playing time.

Weaknesses: Special teams. Mason Crosby hit just 75% of his field goal attempts (27 of 36). The return game was less-than-spectacular. Jordy Nelson and Will Blackmon will vie for KR honors. Tramon Williams may handle punts, but his hands are suspect. Rushing. Ryan Grant has to produce because there's nobody else in the Packer backfield.

Key Games: 10/24 vs. Minnesota - getting the Vikes at home in the first of two meetings is a plus; 10/31 @ NY Jets - Top defenses collide; 11/7 vs. Dallas - could be a playoff preview, last game prior to GBs bye week; 11/21 @ Minnesota - first game back after bye.

What if?: The Packers win their four in a row, tough mid-season games? If the Packers beat Minnesota twice and sandwich wins over the Jets and Dallas in between, crown them the North division champs and likely #1 seed in the playoffs. They could be looking at a perfect, 16-0 record as well.

Minnesota Vikings 2009 record: (12-4) Projected 2010 record: (11-5)

Predicted finish: 2nd, NFC North, Wild Card

Head Coach: Brad Childress

Departed: RB Chester Taylor

Incoming: rookie RB Toby Gerhart; rookie DE Everson Griffen; rookie CB Chris Cook; CB Lito Sheppard

Strengths: Defensive Line. Probably the best in the league, with Pat and Kevin Williams in the middle and Ray Edwards and Jared Allen disrupting from their end positions. Running Back. Adrian Peterson is often unstoppable, and the Vikings added rugged Toby Gerhart for more inside work. Quarterback. If Brett Favre returns, the Vikes will be set.

Weaknesses: Quarterback. If Favre gets hurt or decides not to play another season, Tarvaris Jackson becomes the #1, or, possibly, Sage Rosenfels. Both are a few grades below Favre. Defensive secondary. A good unit, but Antoine Winfield may be losing a step and safties Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams are often not much help.

Key Games: 9/9 @ New Orleans - rematch of last year's NFC Championship; 11/11 @ NY Jets; 11/17 vs. Dallas; 11/24 @ Green Bay; 11/31 @ New England - three tough road games with a home meeting with Dallas will make or break the Vikings' season. The schedule gets easier down the stretch. Minnesota could easily win their last six games.

What if?: The big question: Will Favre return for another season at QB? All indications are that he will. He's been working out in Louisiana, and is not likely to make an announcement until training camp opens or even later. If he comes back, there's still some question about his soundness, but certainly not his toughness. If Favre decides to call it quits - unlikely - the Vikings will struggle mightily, but that scenario still seems unlikely.


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Chicago Bears 2009 record: (7-9) Projected 2010 record: (8-8)

Predicted finish: 3rd, NFC North

Head Coach: Lovie Smith

Departed: DE Alex Brown; OT Orlando Pace; CB Nathan Vasher; RB Kevin Jones

Incoming: rookie S Major Wright; rookie DE Corey Wootton; rookie CB Joshua Moore; rookie QB Dan LeFevour; rookie RB Harvey Unga; TE Richard Angulo; CB Tim Jennings; TE Brandon Manumaleuna; DE Julius Peppers; RB Chester Taylor

Strengths: Defensive front. The addition of Julius Peppers at right DE and the return of a healthy Brian Urlacher solidifies the front seven of the Bears. Returns. Devin Hester is still dangerous returning punts and Johnny Knox proved a capable kick returner with blazing speed in 2009.

Weaknesses: Offense. Jay Cutler threw a league-high 26 INTs in 2009, but should improve on that mark. He tries to fit balls into spaces that aren't there and generally attempts to do too much when the Bears are behind and he doesn't have much to work with either. Secondary. The Bears were tied with the Rams for last place in passes defended (53) in 2009.

Key Games: 9/19 @ Dallas; 9/27 vs. Green Bay. The Bears are not expected to win either of these games, but if they aren't completely blown out in either, it may be a sign of things to come. 11/7 @ Buffalo. It may not seem like much, but the Bears will be coming off a bye week and host the Vikings the following Sunday. A win could provide second half momentum, a loss could cripple them for the rest of the season.

What if?: Brian Urlachler plays the full season? That would be a huge plus and possibly put the Bears in a position of spoiler. He's important to the defense, but hasn't been at full strength in a long time. Having Urlacher in the middle makes this defense very tough.

Detroit Lions 2009 record: (2-14) Projected 2010 record: (5-11)

Predicted finish: 4th, NFC North

Head Coach: Jim Schwartz

Departed: QB Daunte Culpepper; CB Phillip Buchanon; DT Grady Jackson; CB DeAngelo Smith; CB Kevin Hobbs; LB Larry Foote; DE Robert Henderson; TE Casey Fitzsimmons; CB Will James; LB Ernie Sims

Incoming: rookie DT Ndamukong Suh; rookie RB Jahvid Best; rookie CB Amari Spievey; WR Nate Burleson; rookie OT Jason Fox; rookie WR Tim Toone; CB Dre' Bly; OG Trevor Canfield; WR Brian Clark; TE Tony Scheffler; DE Kyle Vanden Bosch; CB Chris Houston; LB Landon Johnson; S C.C. Brown; DE Corey Williams

Strengths: Quarterback. Matthew Stafford will return for his second season, and the future is bright, though not necessarily this season. Stafford has enormous talent and is the key to the Lions' success, if there is any.

Weaknesses: Confusion. The Lions made so many off-season moves that the coaching staff will spend most of preseason just trying to remember who's who and what position they play.

Key Games: 9/12 @ Chicago. A season-opeing win over a division rival could do wonders for this team's confidence. 10/17 @ NY Giants. Another winnable game heading into the bye week. It would also mark the 4th road game in the first six weeks, a tough schedule for a team that needs a break. 10/31 vs. Washington; 11/7 vs. NY Jets; 11/14 @ Buffalo. Three straight after the bye, a mid-season stretch which will make or break the young Lions.

What if?: Ndamukong Suh becomes a dominant force right away? That's the best scenario for the Lions, as they've retooled almost every aspect of their team. If top draft choice Suh can inspire some confidence on defense, the offense might be good enough for this team to get out of last place, but it's a long shot.

Copyright 2010, 2011, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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