NFC North prediction

The NFL’s NFC North division has most recently been a three team division, the Packers, Vikings and Bears, with the Lions just being two wins on the schedule for those three teams. This year could be different. When the Packers lost to the Lions in Detroit last year they unleashed a beast that hasn’t lost since. The Lions are no longer pushovers.

Do the Lions have enough to overtake the 2010 division winning Bears or Super Bowl champion Packers, not likely, but they should easily take third place in the division. I think the Packers will overtake the Bears to win the division this year with the Vikings again brining up the rear.

I do think much like last year the there won’t be much separation at the top and I doubt the Packers win more than 11 games. I mainly think the Packers overtake the Bears because I just don’t think the Bears are that good. They always find a way to win a game or two more than they should though so 9-7, 10-6 is probably in the offing for them.

The biggest difference between the Packers and Bears is at quarterback obviously. In Aaron Rodgers’ biggest game he won MVP honors, in Jay Cutler’s biggest game he took himself out with a minor injury. Cutler has the arm and the respect of his teammates but like another guy with a big arm and respect of his teammates, Brett Favre, he can’t win the big one. Plays his worst at the worst time. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t bet your life on it.

The Packers have a few question marks going into the season starting with the Super Bowl hangover. The Packers of 1996-1997 were the last team to win back-to-back NFC Championships and most defending champs miss the playoffs completely. The Packers are a young team though not built for a one or two year window but built for the long haul. There is enough veteran leadership to keep the Packers on an even keel and those veterans know the importance of helping the young guys. It’s all about one.

I am much more concerned about the offensive line giving up sacks in wholesale fashion so far this preseason. If they don’t jell as expected Rodgers could be in for a beating. But all things considered and barring another run of injuries like last year the Packers should hold off the Bears for the division but likely won’t get home field for the playoffs. I don’t think the Bears will make the playoffs as I think the wildcard bids will come from the NFC South and East.

The Vikings added Donovan McNabb and nothing else. They also lost a ton and are old as sin. I can’t see anything better than the 6-10 they were last year. I like their coach now, but he is taking over a team that missed its window. The franchise is in disarray and probably will be moving to another city first chance they get.

So it’s Packers, Bears, Lions, Vikings. Book it.

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  • Steve

    I think that you are giving the Bears more credit than they deserve. I personally think that if the Lions can keep their QB healthy this year they will overtake the Bears in the division standings.
    Packers – Lions – Bears – Vikings

    • http://www.scotrstone.com Scot

      I agree, Steve.

  • chris

    Packers 11-5
    Bears 9-7
    Lions 9-7
    Vikings 6-10

  • Jake

    11-5 for us is a very good guess. I feel like most of the Packer websites I read, people are generally overly optimistic (who isn’t this time of year except the Bengals?) and say we do no worse than 13-3 or something. The last two years we’ve had a lot of hype only to struggle early in the season leading to losses that we shouldn’t have like the Dolphins and Redskins. I’d like to dominate the whole regular season and get homefield advantage, but McCarthy seems to know what he’s doing having the team peak at the right time.

    It’s funny, as great as Rodgers has been, in his time starting we have yet to win the division. That should be the main focus before everyone gets ahead of themselves saying we dominate the entire league.

    I’d also like to hear your breakdown of the Lions, as everyone else is majorly hyping them and saying their D-line is gonna eat every QB in the league… I still think their secondary is going to hold them back. That being said, they shut down our offense at the end of the season last year, and most of the second half in the first game…

  • http://www.kevinroth.com Kevin Roth

    Did anyone see the Lions beat up on the Patriots the other night? If that is how they are going to be this year, the Packers will have a tough time with them to say the least. I think at this point they look far better than the Bears. I am optimistic that the Packers can win the division, but they will likely have to battle Detroit for it this year. Packers, Lions, Bears, Vikings.

  • http://Orlando Mark

    The Lions remind me of us two years ago. A team on the way up but too young and injured, third place. We always underestimate the Bears and they usually play us tough but the kickoff rule and the overall improvent in our special tems leaves them at #2. I predict the division, 10-6 or 11-5. But if we can’t pressure the passer we take a step back and lose away in round two of the playoffs.

  • iccyfan

    I hate playing the prediction game, especially in pre-season where you don’t really have any idea what each team will bring to the table this season. Having said that, I see six games on the schedule I feel relatively confident I can write in as a W in ink (@ Carolina, Denver, St. Louis, @ MN, MN, Oakland).

    I don’t think divisional games against the Bears and Lions are gimmes; while I hope to sweep them both, I don’t expect it.

    That leaves six games against playoff or near-playoff quality opponents, namely New Orleans, @ Atlanta, Tampa Bay, @ San Diego, @ NYG and @ KC. As if being SB Champs doesn’t put enough of a target on our backs, Atlanta and the Giants will have huge incentive to play us hard! We know the Saints are amped for a SB Run; the Bucs are up and coming with Freeman and Blount; might this be the year the Chargers finally play to their massive potential?; can Eli cut down on his costly interceptions?; are the Chiefs just a one-year wonder?

    Having gone thru it game by game, I think 10-6 is a realistic expectation, with 13-3 kinda a pie in the sky target. If Rogers can stay healthy, last year tells us we’ll be within striking distance in the fourth quarter every week. I’m gonna be optimistic and say 12-4…

  • Rick

    Packers 10-6 Has the target of being the team to beat and will be played tough by everybody
    Lions 8-8 Up and coming with solid defense and a decent schedule
    Bears 8-8 Solid defense and a tough schedule
    Vikings 6-10 Aging with an unproven offense and an underperforming defense

  • JeffN

    Pack 13-3 This is the caliber of team the pack is

    Lions 9-7 Get a bit better and turn half of their close losses from last year into close wins this year

    Bears 7-9 Implode this year

    Vikings 4-12 Vikings just suck realy bad and they could be worse than 4-12

  • Bob

    Packers
    Lions
    Bears
    Vikings

    I believe the lions will take 2nd if Stafford stays healthy! Don’t care as long as we kill the vikings both times :-)

  • JeffN

    Since I gave the Vikings such a low mark let me justify……. they were 6-10 last year so how do they get worse?

    Let me start out with this team has been on such a downward spiral which has not stopped through the lockout or their training camp. Everytime this team turns around something bad is happening to them, either the Metrodome roof collapses, or their pro bowl LT eats his way out of a job.

    Losing their pro bowl WR Sydney Rice is going to be very devastating to this team. Not only do they loose his production but I think this loss will also decrease the production of Percy Harvin and TE Shanko (I’m going to spell Shanko wrong I know). The OL is already bad enough but the one pro bowler they do have and the most important position LT Mckinney comes into camp at around 400lbs and get’s cut from the team. McNaab is going to be running for his life.

    Well they didn’t really add anything to their team through draft or FA and they have a lot of guys on their Rostor that are old and declining on top of that.

    The QB that they reached on isn’t going to help them this year, the TE they drafted will have little impact with Shanko already the starter, and they didn’t have a 3rd pick becuase they P!$$ed it away on Randy Moss last year. Their OL is so bad I’m not even going to debate whether or not McNaab is washed up, I don’t think it really matters what QB they put behind that O-Line. So anybody want to take guesses on which of their starters turns out washed up this year besides McNaab? This team is old and coming apart at the seams.

    • Packer’s Advocate

      I don’t know how to spell it either. Better to have a WR named Shanko than a place kicker named that.

      Anyway, agree. Thye’re in for a dry spell and I couldn’t be happier!!!

  • I Luv Brats

    The Lions are a team just bursting with overconfidence. They had a 4 game win streak at the end of last year. That doesn’t mean much. They beat the Packers which is a confidence booster…..I’ll give them that but 2 of the other teams they beat were the Dolphins and the Vikings. Beating those two teams is by no means a measure of success.

    • http://Orlando Mark

      Brats, you’re talking about the LIONS. They usually measure success as winning 6 games and then not totally sucking in the draft. They’re definitely improved. If healthy, they’ll be tough on Thanksgiving Day.

  • I Luv Brats

    Yes they will be tough on Thanksgiving. If I could only watch one Packers game this year, that one would be it. I sure wish we would play the Lions in the opener instead of the Saints.

  • I Luv Brats

    Packers, Bears, Lions, Vikings

  • Packer’s Advocate

    Pack, Lions, Bears, and Vikes. The Lions are getting better and last year the Bears got all the calls and played alot of teams at the right time.

  • roy jamison

    The key to repeating: Pad level. “He’s still growing,” Campen said, referring to McDonald. “The thing is, he has to keep his pad level down when he has guys in his face.”

  • 4205

    My two cents

    Packers 12 – 4
    Lions 8 – 8
    Bores 7 – 9
    Viqueens 5 – 11

  • Rick

    Tonite’s Packer matchups
    Chastin West Versus Tori Gurley -Is either one really ready to be a 6th WR on the 53 roster? How does their performance on Special Teams factor in?

    So’oto versus Lattimore – They are fighting the ghost of Brad Jones for a real roster spot at Back up OLB.

    Campbell versus Domingez – Which is a practice squad keeper?

    Sherrod verus Newhouse – Can Sherrod jump to back up LT?

  • Mel e Mel

    I would love to agree with you 4205 but the Motor City Kitties are at least 9-7 if not 10-6.
    I would like to know if Newhouse is ready now to play LT with the ones. Clifton misses time every year. Also Andre Gurode is out there as a FA C/G the multiple pro bowler has to be an upgrade over the unknowns at the position.

    • Rick

      Good thought Mel. I think EDS is better for depth though at G/C and is young.

  • Jeff

    Only losers pay attention to pre season , who cares that we gave up sacks in pre season , we gave up alot of them in 1996 too and we won it all.
    This team is too talented not to win 13 games,,,
    Packers are going 13-3 with the #1 seed.

  • I Luv Brats

    I’m looking at the Packers going 11-5 or 12-4.

  • Jeff

    Vikings will never move , they will get it done. I hate the Vikings but we have to keep things that make the league great and the Packer /Viking rivalry is oone of the best not to mention the Packers’#2 rival.

  • Marc

    I think the Lions have the potential to overtake the Bears for the #2 spot in the NFC North.

  • Reid

    I thought Sherrod looked pretty good last night against the Chiefs and, of course, So’oto made the team and may be looking at starting if he keeps that up. Everyone jumped on Sherrod after the first game. Good athletes adjust, improve, and step up their games. It just takes a few games against the better competition and they figure it out. He had no OTA’s, etc. to work on it. Sherrod is the back up LT. The more he plays the better he’s going to get and he will eventually take over for Clifton. Probably next year, but who knows how long Clifton’s body will hold up. I feel sorry for that guy’s kidneys and liver, the anti-inflammatories gotta be taking their toll. You don’t give up on a guy like Sherrod after 1 or 2 games.

    I think we will be no worse than 10-6 and no better than 12-4, depending on how the ball bounces, so I’ll predict 11-5. The rest of the teams in our division will be 8-8 at best. The Bears defense and special teams somehow always keeps them in games. Lions and Vikings are perennial losers so that will continue. Doubt either will be over .500.
    Packers 11-5
    Bears 8-8
    Lions 7-9
    Vikings 5-11

  • Reid

    ….and Graham Harrell will not make this team. We need another receiver, fullback, tight end, linebacker, offensive lineman, or defensive back more than a 3rd QB who is highly unlikely to ever play.

    • iccyfan

      I agree with you Reid! After last night’s performance by our backup QB’s, we’re not going anywhere if ARod goes down. Therefore, why carry two “contribute-nothing” players when you can get by with one and use the roster position elsewhere? I have no idea why anybody thinks another team would pickup Graham Harrell!?! If so, who cares? The only good thing about Flynn’s performance last night might be that it’ll keep him in a Packer uniform at a reasonable backup QB salary next season! Any team watching that tape is going to think twice before offering him a significant raise and a chance to start…

      • Packer’s Advocate

        Bart would un-retire and help his beloved Packers in a pinch if needed, right?? 3rd QB spot may be more valuable used elsewhere.

        Looks like 5 TE’s, is my guess. Quinn Johnson may lose out to D.J.Williams (TE/FB) and the 6th WR may not happen because of Finley’s (TE/WR) capabilties.

        So’oto may end up w/Brad Jones’ spot at LB. I’m guessing they carry Zombo if he’s going to be ready in 6 weeks or less. I was thinking they could PUP him but I think I read that he’d need to have began the season injured.

        DB’s and OL, who knows how that all comes out. Can never have too many good DBs, but how good are they?

        Either way, I’m ready for some FOOTBALL!!!!!

        • iccyfan

          Right PA – PUP not an option for Zombo because he practiced in TC. I’m enamored of Tori Gurley as much as the next guy, but Swain barely saw the field as a #5 WR, so why would we keep six? I just can’t see why other teams would clamor to claim undrafted free agents off our cut list; I think Packer fans tend to over-value “our own” too much. We’ll see…

          I had truely never thought of Bert coming out of retirement to play for the Packers should ARod be injured; that’d be one way to “salvage” his damaged reputation with the Packer faithful. Even a crusty old hater like me would cheer BrInt Faver if he was back in the Green & Gold! :)

  • Mel e Mel

    One knock on Harrell coming out of school was small hands, well he definitely proved that last evening. The Chiefs are awful without Charlie Weis. We get to play that division this year where the only team is the Chargers and they are very average. So’oto made more plays in the preseason than Poppinga made his career in Green Bay. Walden may be good for the regular season, but combo like Matthews and So’oto will put fear into the league.

  • iccyfan

    Hey Rick – The Broncos cut Perrish Cox; as I recall, you REALLY liked him…

    • Packer’s Advocate

      And I believe it was Rick or Mark that wasn’t too excited about Quinn Johnson….. gone. Think we can use Raji (The Freezer) in that spot and he’s already a game day active every week, so that saves having to activate Johnson for a few plays.

      • http://Orlando Mark

        P-A I liked Johnson. I was hoping he would turn out to be another Vonta Leach who’s a good blocking fullback for good running teams. Of course, if we’re not going to feature the run we don’t need him. I couldn’t tell anything from the KC game. They kept changing the O-line around and kept out so many starters but So’oto stepped up which is a plus.

      • Rick

        Quinn Johnson may be a great FB road grader but we do not run that type of offense and he knocked more Packer players down on ST then opponents- remember the Patriots game, he single handedly knocks down two Packers in the center and allows the biggest KReturner at 313lbs to rumble almost for a TD.

    • Rick

      I did. He was a 5th round draft pick that played majority of his rookie year and looked great at cb and KR duties.

      This lockout offseason he has not one but two felony criminal sexual assualt charges pending. He is looked like poop this training camp.

  • Larry

    Weighing in on the “final roster” I find myself worried about the exact same elements of the team as last year. 1. The defensive backfield and 2. the offensive line…I’m OK at safety but if an injury occurs at CB we’re back to JB and PL…not a very good place in my book (see Arizona and Pburgh). I’m hoping House comes up to speed in a hurry.

    I gotta think we’re looking to get an established guard for one of the TE’s…I’ve been wrong before (and often)..I question what happens if Wells goes down, bring is D-S, and a guard cramps up for a play or two. What’s left are two tackles? Maybe Baluga gets practice time at guard every week and Tauscher is kept on speed dial.

    In the end the Packers proved its not the number of injuries but the position of the injuries that matters most. I’ll raise the first glass to the health of the CB’s and OL. CHEERS!

    • iccyfan

      I read yesterday that MM has regularly kept SEVEN game-day active OL (McDonald and Newhouse were on the 53 all year and never active in 2010). How does having an extra lineman on the 53 help if only seven are ever active?

      As for the CB position, I think you’re going all “Chicken Little” on us. I don’t think any other NFL team matches our top three (maybe the Jets), and JB / PL earned their stripes in the SB when we needed them. I know I thought JB was out of position on his INT (let the TE go free) but later articles have said he “recognized the route” and jumped it). Whether his play dictated it or Roethlisberger was just dumb, Pat Lee all but removed Hines Ward from the game.

      I’m kinda excited about all these TE’s and young LB’s on the roster; our offense and defense are already top-notch – these guys should signal a significant improvement on special teams!

      I believe TT / MM kept the BEST 53 PLAYERS and didn’t sacrifice quality for the sake of positional numbers. That’s awesome! JMHO

      • Rick

        If active in 9 games they can no longer go on practice squad. So you protect them by putting developing player like O or D lineman on the 53 and not activating them unless injuires make it necessary or you are out of it and want to try your younger talent out. Standard tactic.

        Also Lawrence Guy looked great but concussion issue allows Green Bay to IR and keep him til next year training camp, Shaky is the same but he tore up his knee a lot. TT wants to take care of him with his issues of taking care of his brother.

        • iccyfan

          C’mon Rick – We’re not talking about ultra-basic team make-up issues! Larry says he wants the team to go out an get an established guard because ED-S is our only experienced guy and what would happen if Wells AND a G were injured in the same game? I countered with we generally only have seven active OL for any given game anyway. Our discussion has NOTHING to do with protecting a developmental player.

          • Rick

            iccy – I may not have said what I was thinking clearly. Your arguement is keep the best 53. I agree with you. I see Larry’s concerns as valid but I guess I was adding that you can use IR and 8 inactive gameday spots on the 53 to help hide developing players so you protect your team from being picked over out of future depth.

            That is why I had Harrel, West, Gurley and Borel projected as practice squad. I am concernd that TT and MM decided on 1 to many LBs and 1 to few CB. But looking at MD Jennings on the roster inactive and Ross on practice squad Green bay still has developing depth.

            I was dissapointed that Sampson Genus stuck and Josh Grody did not on the practice squad but again with Dominguez and Genus there is more Oline depth if needed.

  • Larry

    Iccy….how many of the 10 LB’s and 5 TE’s are going to be game day active? I’m not sure which SB you watched but Bush was turned 360 on the second half TD by Pburgh and had Rburger gone at Bush on the last drive or anyone but Williams I’m not as confident of the outcome and yes Bush made a nice interception.

    Although I can appreciate the sky is falling allusion, GB proved it can absorb an injury at DL, LB, safety, RB and TE due to scheme and backup talent…and against Arizona in the 2009 playoff it proved it could not absorb poor CB play and not much has changed there if one injury occurs.

    On special teams…the rule change will have more of an impact than the players. I’m guessing 2/3 of KO’s won’t be returned and we’ve seemed to have improved in directionally punting toward the end of last year anyway.

    Let’s bring on the Saints…and get this season underway!!

    • iccyfan

      We’ll never know why RBerger kept going to Mike Wallace versus Tramon Williams at the end; all I know is he didn’t throw at Hines Ward (versus Pat Lee) or whomever Jarrett Bush was supposed to be covering. I’m no Jarrett Bush fan; just don’t think there’s a team in the NFL that goes four deep with quality cover corners (in short – you’re being unrealistic in your expectation).

  • Larry

    As I indicated earlier, I’m hoping House comes along quickly because he has the potential to be better than either Bush or Lee at CB. I’ll be interested to see if Gordy is picked up. I do trust that MM and TT have kept their best 53 and frankly if we can stay healthy we’ll be in great shape.

    • Rick

      Other than his ST efforts, Bush is more of a safety then CB.

      Pat Lee is not a great cover corner but he does what TT originally brought in Shields for, a fast gunner that makes returners fair catch when in on ST.

      I agree with you on hope for House. He showed little in camp because of injuries. He is on the team because of draft position and the hype he was drafted with. House may outstrip them all, it will be fun to watch how he develops during the season.

  • Packer’s Advocate

    The seven O-linemen activated for games jumped out at me also, Iccy. Guess what popped into my mind was ” I wonder which two of the three will he activate?”. The best two are Sherrod and Newhouse but neither can play center.

  • TRIP

    Packers, Lions, Vikings, Bears