2012 NFC North Outlook
Green Bay Packers
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: C Jeff Saturday, DE Anthony Hargrove, TE Jermichael Finley
-Rookies: DE Nick Perry, DT Jerel Worthy, CB Casey Hayward, DT Mike Daniels, SS Jerron McMillian, OLB Terrell Manning, OT Andrew Datko, QB B.J. Coleman
-Key Departures: FS Nick Collins, QB Matt Flynn, CB Patrick Lee, RB Ryan Grant
-Outlook: As usual, the Pack is still locked and loaded on offense. With the best QB in Aaron Rodgers and plenty of targets to throw to, the offense will have no problem scoring points. The only question I have for them is, who will run the ball? With Ryan Grant no longer on the team, the Packers options are James Starks and Alex Green. I think if the Pack wants to have a solid run game, they need to pick up someone like Joseph Addai or Cedric Benson. But then again, Rodgers will probably just throw the whole game. And on the other side of the ball, the Pack’s secondary went from bad to worse. Coming in as last years worst pass defense, the Pack lost their FS Nick Collins to free agency and replaced him with rookie Jerron McMillian. The Pack also made no moves to sign a better CB, so I think this year is going to be another year of shootouts week in and week out. But it will be no problem for the Pack as they will be the one scoring more every week and taking home the divisional crown.
-Prediction: 1st in division, 11-5 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: WR Brandon Marshall, RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell
-Rookies: DE Shea McClellin, WR Alshon Jeffery, SS Brandon Hardin, FB Evan Rodriguez, CB Isaiah Frey, CB Greg McCoy
-Key Departures: DT Amobi Okoye, QB Caleb Hanie, S Brandon Meriweather
-Outlook: The Bears had a great offseason offensively. Trading for Brandon Marshall reunites him with Jay Cutler, his old QB in Denver. And the Bears didn’t stop there as they signed Jason Campbell to back Cutler up and added Michael Bush to take some carries away from Forte. But I think the biggest pickup was Alshon Jeffery in the draft. Jeffery has the body and size to be a good wide for the Bears, and he has a chance to learn from one of the games best hands in Marshall. The Bears had put together a solid offense for 2012. As for their defense, the Bears really didn’t make too many changes. The dominant veterans Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers all return for another year. The only question I have is in the secondary. The starting safeties for the Bears, Major Wright and Chris Conte, are young, inexperienced, and not very good. If they can prove themselves this year and make stops against the stacked divisional foes they will face, the Bears have an outside shot at winning the division.
-Prediction: 2nd in division, 10-6 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: DE/OLB Everette Brown, CB Jacob Lacey, WR Calvin Johnson, ILB Stephen Tulloch
-Rookies: OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles, CB Dwight Bentley, DE Ronnell Lewis, OLB Tahir Whitehead, CB Chris Greenwood, CB Jonte Green, OLB Travis Lewis
-Key Departures: OLB Bobby Carpenter, QB Drew Stanton, CB Eric Wright
-Outlook: The Lions were a tough team to predict. I understand the duo of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson is unstoppable, but Stafford playing another full season is a 50/50 chance. And another question for them is the run game. Mikel LeShoure is a good back, but he is coming off a missed rookie season due to injury. Though he is 100% now, he still has never taken a snap in the NFL and he may not till week 3 after being busted for marijuana charges. And if that isn’t enough of a problem, the actual starter, Jahvid Best, hasn’t played a full season either because of concussions. Kevin Smith is the only back left, and of course, he is injury prone too. I think in order to keep defenses from double teaming Johnson and focusing on the pass game, the Lions are going to have to find a decent running back who can step up and stay healthy. And on defense, the Lions are talented and loaded, but they have a lot of problem players who draw flags on the field, and get in trouble with the law off the field. If the Lions have any chance at doing something this season, they will need to find a run game, keep players healthy, and keep players from causing trouble.
-Prediction: 3rd in division, 9-7 overall
-Key Additions/Re-Signs: WR Jerome Simpson, TE John Carlson
-Rookies: OT Matt Kalil, FS Harrison Smith, CB Josh Robinson, WR Jarius Wright, TE Rhett Ellison, WR Greg Childs, S Robert Blanton, K Blair Walsh, ILB Audie Cole, DE Trevor Guyton
-Key Departures: OLB Kenny Onatolu, OG Anthony Herrera, S Tyrell Johnson, LB EJ Henderson, CB Cedric Griffin
-Outlook: As a Vikings fan, I can sadly say this is going to be a long year. I even think I was generous in saying the Vikings would win five games. The offseason wasn’t very good for the Vikings who decided to go with Matt Kalil on the O-line instead of Morris Claiborne at CB or Justin Blackmon at wide. Kalil isn’t bad, I just wish the Vikings went elsewhere in the draft this year. But then again, the Vikings needed help everywhere. The biggest question I had for them though was why they didn’t make anymore additions. The additions of John Carlson and Jerome Simpson will help the pass game, but Christian Ponder will need to progress as the QB of the future to make the signings worth anything. The biggest question of course is Adrian Peterson’s health. Peterson thinks he is ready to go, but the Vikings are saying Toby Gerhart is going to be the starter early in the year. If that’s the case, I think the offense is going to have a tough time scoring every week, which brings me to the other question mark of defense. The Vikings lost starting MLB EJ Henderson and CB Cedric Griffin and filled those spots with their backups. But the bigger question is most obvious the safeties. I don’t know what the Vikings front office is doing, but they have some sort of love for Fighting Irish because both starting safeties are rookies from Notre Dame in Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton. The only logical explanation I can think of is they are doing this because they will have good chemistry together. Other than that, all I see is two unexperienced safeties in a division of passing teams. To wrap it all up, I think my first claim of this being a long season has been solidified, and if you are a Vikings fan like me, prepare for lots of losing.
-Prediction: 4th in division, 5-11 overall