2014-15 NFL Breakdown: NFC North

Posted on 26 August 2014


 

Another season is about to commence in the NFL, and to no one’s surprise, the Packers should win the NFC North.

 

Green Bay Packers (12-4)

 

I’m expecting big things from the Packers this season.  Aaron Rodgers is a game-changing playmaker who will have this team in serious contention.  Eddie Lacy will look to improve off his outstanding rookie season that saw him garner Offensive Rookie of the Year honors along with being named to the All-Pro Second Team.  Lacy is physical, has good size and speed, and was a steal in the second round of last year’s draft.  Jordy Nelson has become Rodgers go-to guy at receiver, and Randall Cobb has game-breaking potential every time he touches the ball.  Bryan Bulaga returns from an ACL injury that cost him all of last season, but that injury was suffered early in training camp so it will have been 13 months since the injury by the time the season starts.  So, that means he should be as close to full strength as you can be following that injury.  The defense has some questions marks now that B.J. Raji will reportedly be out for the full season.  Clay Matthews can be spectacular but appears to rely on his talent a bit too much at times and does not seem to pay full attention to the details of the game.  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix should be a very nice piece for them at safety.  Clinton-Dix has good size and was well coached under Nick Saban at Alabama.  You can’t be sure what you’ll get from Julius Peppers at the age of 34, but Peppers has been a spectacular pro for his entire career, and in situational pass rushing situations, should be very good for the Packers.  I believe this team will be in serious title contention and that will help with Matthews focus.  This team should be hungry since it is now going on four years since their last Super Bowl Championship.  Enough of the key players from that team are still here for this team to have everyone playing at a championship level.

 

Chicago Bears (10-6)*

 

It has become a make or break season for the Chicago Bears.  The only question I have with Jay Cutler is whether or not he can stay healthy.  Yes, he does have his moments when he turns the ball over and makes bad decisions.  But, you simply can’t teach that cannon for an arm he has, and Cutler makes plays.  Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Josh Morgan are all big and physical receivers who will be a tough cover for most defenses in this league.  Santonio Holmes is an experienced player who can fit a niche as a slot receiver for this team as well, and Matt Forte makes a ton of plays both in the receiving and running game.  The offensive line needs to come together and keep Jay Cutler upright.  Last season’s first round pick Kyle Long has to become an anchor for this unit that has not afforded Jay Cutler the protection he needs.  The defense does have some question marks and that is because of the age of their prime players.  Charles Tillman (33), Tim Jennings (30), and new addition Jared Allen (32) are proven professionals who are likely to have a solid season, but at that age, there are no guarantees.  First round pick Kyle Fuller alongside Charles Tillman make a good cornerback duo for this team.  Chicago has not lived up to their talent since acquiring Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall.  Now is the time.

 

Detroit Lions (7-9)

 

The Lions have potential to be a very good team if they can ever get their act together.  Training camp has given indication that they are not on that track just yet.  Jim Caldwell should get this offense to be efficient and bring out the full potential of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.  A case could be made that Calvin Johnson is the best player in the league because of how dominant he is.  Reggie Bush still has life left in his legs and while he has not been as spectacular as expected out of USC, he has carved out a nice career and makes plays in the running and receiving game.  The defense, on the other hand, has its question marks.  Ndamukong Suh is outstanding but outside of him there just isn’t much that takes your breath away with this team.  Nick Fairly has been demoted to practice squad for showing up out of shape to camp (showing that the goof factor is still prevalent with this team), and Rasheen Mathis has been a solid professional but is up there in age.  If the Lions get their act together, they can turn heads this season.  Just don’t expect it.

 

Minnesota Vikings (5-11)

 

The Vikings begin and end with Adrian Peterson.  While Peterson is certainly a guy to hitch a wagon to, every other team in the league knows it.  The Vikings will have a choice at quarterback between Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater.  I don’t think Cassel has gotten a fair shake since leaving New England, but all accounts are Bridgewater is competent and, if a rookie quarterback is not overwhelmed, there is no reason not to start him on a team that isn’t going anywhere.  Kyle Rudolph is an above average tight end, Cordarrelle Patterson has to play better than he did in his rookie season, and Greg Jennings numbers were respectable for his contract.  Yet, their collective efforts were not good enough at the receiver positions.  Sharrif Floyd did not have a solid rookie year at defensive tackle and has to improve in his second season.  First round pick Anthony Barr at outside linebacker is highly regarded and should be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year.  Xavier Rhodes at cornerback was another first round pick from last season who did not live up to the promise; however, Rhodes has the size needed for a corner in today’s NFL (6’1”, 210 lbs.) and corners tend to struggle in their first seasons.  This year is make or break for him.  Adrian Peterson could have another MVP season and help this team surprise everyone like in 2012.  But, the odds against that happening are long.  The Vikings should be bottom dwellers in the NFC North this year.

 

*Denotes Wild Card Team





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