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2010 NFL Preview – NFC North

The Viking trio that traveled to Mississippi to fetch a quarterback was successful. The trio got Brett Favre, and steaks and breakfast casserole too. Will that be enough for Minnesota to repeat as NFC North champions? Favre that is, not the steaks or casserole…

In case you’re new to the party or simply forgot, we’re previewing the upcoming 2010 NFL season division by division. To assist me, I’ve called my younger brother up from the education world for our 2nd annual, “we used to do this as kids in our bunk beds, but that would be weird now” NFL forecast. Read carefully, take notes, and be confident that whatever I predict will probably never happen, ever.

1. Minnesota Vikings
Surprisingly, I have no disdain for Brett Favre. If you love the NFL, it’s hard to argue the league is better off without Favre around. You can say a lot of things about how Favre handles the offseason, but you absolutely cannot question the excitement and passion he brings to the sport. I can’t remember how many times I watched the Vikings last year and was simply amazed at Favre’s love for the game. It’s fun to see a professional athlete enjoy what he does even after accomplishing everything there is to accomplish and making millions along the way. While his should I stay or should I go act is immature, I encourage you to enjoy the way he performs. In a world where too many superstars are “too fly to try,” Brett Favre gives the game his all, and loves every second of it too. With that said, Favre isn’t the reason I think the Vikings win the division. No sir. I pick the Vikings because they are superior to the Packers in two very important areas; the running game, and defense. With the Favre hoopla it’s easy to forget that Adrian Peterson is arguably the best back in the league. Furthermore, the Viking defense had a lot to do with the team’s success in 2009. I know the trend is to pick against Favre and his bum ankle, but the truth is Minnesota doesn’t need to rely on Favre as much as they think they do. The Vikings simply need consistency and leadership from their quarterback and Favre should be more than adequate in both areas to defend the division title.

DWC’s Take: Packers – I am a big Aaron Rogers fan. Thanks to Brett Favre’s escapades, Rogers might make the Lambeau faithful forget number 4 altogether (alright so that won’t ever happen, but boy I wish it would). He’s got an arm, leadership qualities, and plenty of weapons around him. This offense should be one of the league leaders. Driver and Jennings are among the top receiving duos in the league, and Ryan Grant can carry the load. The only problem will be if the offensive line can’t protect Rogers. If he spends most of the time on his backside, the offense will struggle significantly. Truth be told, if that problem was fixed last year, the Packers may have been the team left standing. Their defense is tough too. They ranked in the top five in both stopping the pass and rush in 2009.

2. Green Bay Packers
There’s no questioning the potency of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ aerial attack. Next to Drew Brees, Rodgers is head and shoulders above the rest of the NFC quarterback crop. Unfortunately, I’m not a believer in Ryan Grant if I need to grind out a win on the ground. If the Packers aren’t successfully winging the ball across the tundra, they’ll struggle to win. As a lifetime Eagle fan and Andy Reid torture victim, I refuse to believe in a team that can’t rely on a running game to bail the offense out. On the defensive side, the Packers are a very solid unit, ranking second in overall defense in 2009. Regardless, I like Minnesota’s defense slightly more because the age and injury problems in Green Bay’s secondary worry me. I’m not even convinced the Packers are as good as they appear. In 2009, Green Bay benefited from a relatively soft schedule. Their 2010 slate won’t be so kind.

DWC’s Take: Vikings – Brett Favre is the most narcissistic, egocentric person in the NFL. Yup, more than TO, Ochocinco, Chris Johnson, Darrell Revis, and anyone else you can name. I have lost all respect for him as a person after all he continually drags the Vikings through. I have also lost respect for the Vikings for allowing themselves to be this desperate. They’ve done little to address their need at quarterback for the past two seasons, enabling Favre to play them like a fiddle. Truth be told, I’ve enjoyed watching Brett take a beating in the preseason. I don’t think Favre will make it through an entire year at the level he was at last season. When you’re limping around the field and spending most of the game picking yourself up, there isn’t much you can do to help your team win. The defense will keep them in games, and Adrian Peterson is an animal. However, if Peterson continues to handle the ball like a hot potato, opposing offenses will have short fields with which to overcome the Vikings tough defense.

3. Chicago Bears
It wouldn’t shock me at all if the Bears surprised us and won the division. Chicago’s 2009 season was a perfect storm of awful. Brian Urlacher went down early to injury. Matt Forte forfeited the 2009 campaign to spite me. And Jay Cutler struggled to embrace the concept of keeping the ball away from the opponent. It’s nearly impossible that all three happen again in 2010, at least on the same level. With Urlacher back and the addition of Julius Peppers, the Bears defense should return to respectability. Offensively, it will be difficult for even an amazingly erratic quarterback like Cutler to duplicate his 26 interception performance of 2009. The addition of Chester Taylor will improve the backfield and provide insurance should Forte disappear again. The wide receivers still won’t scare a defense, but they’ll be sufficient enough for the Bears to compete for a playoff berth. Just don’t count on them getting one.

DWC’s Take: Bears – The Bears spent a lot of money in the offseason upgrading their defense and offense. Julius Peppers is a one-of-a-kind athlete who has the ability to take over any game. However, this only happens roughly 2 times a season. For the amount of money he received, he had better put forth that kind of effort in all 16 games. My biggest problem with this team is Jay Cutler. He is what Brett Favre is (arrogant and cocky) only in a more outspoken and unattractive manner. He’s never won a thing, and walks around like he is John Elway. Throw in his lack of weapons, and the offense is looking like it will struggle once again. On defense, Brian Urlacher is another year older, and one more significant injury away from becoming completely ineffective. The guy has a heart of a champion, but when the body starts to break down no amount of heart can make up for it. Unfortunately, all of this means the end of the Lovie Smith era in Chicago as patience in that city has grown rather thin.

4. Detroit Lions
I just checked again to make sure, but nothing has changed in the Barry Sanders situation. He’s still retired. Ok sorry, that was mean. After a bazillion years of paper-bag-over-the-head embarrassment, the Lions may finally return to respectability in 2010. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is steadily becoming one of the best in the game. If second year quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to develop as the organization stockpiles young talent, the Lions could be a legitimate playoff threat in 2011. I certainly hope they get there because the good folks of Michigan could use an emotional lift right about now. I watched a lot of Detroit last year because I like Matthew Stafford. This year, I’ll tune in because rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is fascinating to watch.

DWC’s Take: Lions – On a positive note, the Lions will not be as bad as they have been in years past. Personally, I wanted to put them ahead of the Bears, but I didn’t have the stomach for it. They’re young and inexperienced, but have talent at important positions. Stafford won’t have a sophomore slump simply because he never really took off his first year. I think he will take another step towards being an above average quarterback in the league. Calvin Johnson is a top-notch receiver who continues to get better and better. Jahvid Best is young, but I like what he brings to the running game. On defense they aren’t quite as set, but Suh is going to be a force for years to come. I don’t watch college football, but when I did I remember being amazed at his strength. They will be playing the role of spoiler as the season comes to a close, so don’t be surprised if some teams see their playoff hopes dashed by these Lions.

If you’re wondering, last season’s NFC North predictions were:
Me: GB, CHI,MINN, DET
DWC: GB, MINN, CHI, DET
Actual Results: MINN, GB, CHI, DET.

Thus, DWC 3, Me 0, No Winner 1

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