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- Breaking Down the NFC North: 2007

Chris Pokorny August 13, 2007
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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The NFC North was represented in the Super Bowl last year, as Rex Grossman and the Chicago Bears fell to the Indianapolis Colts. The Bears are returning as a strong team in the entire NFC, and the major question this year will be if any team in the division can make a run at them. Let's find out where I project each team will finish:

1. Chicago Bears - It's a shame that after the Bears' defense and special teams were so incredible last year, the lack of productivity from Rex Grossman seemed to overshadow everything. Grossman is at the forefront of discussion this year, but quite frankly it's too difficult to project whether or not he will sink or swim in the offense this year. The team lost their best offensive weapon last year in running back Thomas Jones, and are putting their faith in Cedric Benson to finally come through. The only real offensive weapon the team added was rookie tight end Greg Olsen. If Grossman is going to improve, it will have taken an offseason of maturity mentally. We won't find out about the real Grossman until the mid-way point of the season either.

Defensively, the Bears still have nothing to worry about. They have both of their star cornerbacks, Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman, returning for another year. There was concern that Brian Urlacher would be affected if Lance Briggs continued his holdout into the season, but that issue was already settled. The only risk they are taking involves Antonio Garay on the defensive line, who is trying to fill in the void left by Tank Johnson. Devin Hester shouldn't have as many returns on special teams this year, as punters should realize they should just cut their losses and kick it out of bounds, which will still create shorter fields for Chicago's offense. The rest of the competition in the NFC North doesn't even compare to Chicago yet, although one team could give them a little scare.

2. Green Bay Packers - The Packers used a late run in the season to put together an 8-8 season, but it seems as if people aren't taking them seriously this year. I don't think many people know that the Packers have quietly been building a good defensive team over the past several years, and that's the reasoning behind Brett Favre not having as many weapons offensively. A unit that ranked 12th defensively in the league last year was led by core players like A.J. Hawk, Cullen Jenkins, and Aaron Kampman. The Packers worked on improving their defensive line by drafting Justin Harrell in the first round, passing up the opportunity to draft a running back or tight end early.

Favre lost running back Ahman Green in the offseason, meaning the team will probably go with a committee at running back between Vernand Morency, Noah Herron, and Brandon Jackson. The Packers would like that approach to succeed, but nothing is going to stop Favre from taking his chances and firing the ball down the field on a consistent basis. Donald Driver is the go-to-guy still, but he'll need second-year receiver Greg Jennings to step it up a notch this season. The Packers are ready to be in the running for a playoff run again, but unfortunately 8-8 won't be good enough to get in this year.

3. Detroit Lions - The Lions made the right move by not drafting a quarterback. Although Jon Kitna's quarterback rating was only 79.9, he threw for over 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns without having many known receivers besides Roy Williams. Kitna helped provide an identity for the Lions, and he'll try to expand upon that this year with Calvin Johnson added to the lineup. After the numerous failed receiving options that the Lions have gone through the past several years, you hate to get too optimistic about Johnson's potential. Based on everything he did in college though, Johnson has a golden opportunity to make the biggest impact for a rookie receiver in the history of the NFL.

While the Lions' passing game will be explosive, the same can't be said about the rest of their team. The running game will be without Kevin Jones for awhile, and even with him in the game, the ground game isn't a primary focus of attack. The defense ranked 28th in the league last year, and didn't do very much to improve in the offseason. Drafting Ikaika Alama-Francis was a solid find in the third round, but the only other thing that happened was the loss of Dre Bly. The Lions will be involved in several shootouts this year, and because their defense isn't downright horrible, they should actually put together a "good" season resulting in around six or seven victories.

4. Minnesota Vikings - I'm sure Vikings fans do not want to hear this, but everyone else believes it: Minnesota is going no where this year. The team is riding their entire season on quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, a player that has not shown any offensive spark whatsoever. I know that Brad Johnson struggled with the offense last year too, but it looked ridiculously anemic when Jackson took over. Then, when you look at the team's receivers, you can somewhat understand why Jackson isn't providing a spark: there are no threats. The team's top two receivers on the depth chart are Bobby Wade and Sidney Rice. Wade has never done much in the league or had a starting role and Rice is a rookie from the second round. The Vikings should be the worst passing offense in the NFC, and possibly in history.

It's unfortunate that their passing game is so bad, because their ground game has two featured backs ready to break out. Chester Taylor did his job and ran for over 1,000 yards last year, finally providing a stable back for the Vikings. Rookie Adrian Peterson won't have the same leisure that Reggie Bush did last year, because teams will overload on defending the Vikings ground game and simply dare Jackson to throw the ball. Minnesota will play some very low scoring games this year, but still have a chance to be competitive due to their run defense. Their four men up front do not allow any running backs to walk over them. The only thing to be concerned about is the fact that the offense will put the defense in so many poor situations throughout the season.

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