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.