Both our NFL Crystal Balls see victory for Green Bay, but only one of us thinks it will come easy. Is the NFC North really predetermined? Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate in part two of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.
As I laid out in part one, the NFC North champion this season will be the Green Bay Packers. The offense is superb. With full returns from Rodgers (the best all-around quarterback in the NFL) and receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, along with the maturation of Eddie Lacy, there is no way to game-plan against Green Bay. And on defense, Julius Peppers was added to play opposite Clay Matthews. While the overall unit isn’t without its faults, the defense as a whole should be better than it was a season ago. I’d be surprised if the Packers don’t clear double-digit wins.
On the other end of the North sits Minnesota. Any team who doesn’t know who their quarterback is will have its struggles to stay consistent. Even if Teddy Bridgewater comes in and is a revelation, rookies still make mistakes and lose ballgames they should win. On the defensive side, this team is a far cry from the run-dominating units of the early 2000s. Anthony Barr was a questionable draft pick by a lot of analysts; Everson Griffen received a questionable contract according to a lot of analysts; the defensive backfield is a question mark all by itself according to everyone. The Vikings are finishing last, with a similar record to last year.
In the middle sits the Lions and Bears. It’s almost a coin flip as to who finishes second and who third. Last year, Chicago finished a game ahead. This year, the order will be the same, but the Bears will extend their edge just a tad. Jared Allen, Jay Ratliff and Lamarr Houston come in to solidify the front four. A reconfigured front seven is really what Chicago was in dire need of. Running against the 2013 Bears was like going against a JV squad. Even a slight improvement would do wonders to their overall team performance.
There isn’t really much to add about the Lions. Everything comes down to Stafford. He has a magical arm that occasionally leads him astray. He throws a ton of incompletions and a ton of interceptions. It would be fascinating to see where this team could go with someone a bit more dependable behind center, even if the upside takes a step back.
A repeat of last year from top to bottom in the NFC North wouldn’t be surprising, but it’s not going to happen. We agree that Green Bay is the best team, and with Rodgers back (presumable for a full season, baring another injury) they should run away with things. But what a team should do and what they actually accomplish are often two very different things.
This division is stronger than you are giving credit. The Lions and Bears do appear even, but not evenly mediocre. Both teams field a veteran quarterback, with the Lions trotting out the best wide receiver in the game to match. And in Minnesota they don’t need Teddy Bridgewater to be a revelation. They simply need him to not make mistakes. I realize this has been historically challenging for rookie quarterbacks, but the trend is shifting.
You’ve thoroughly frustrated me with your well thought out points full of examples. No matter how much sense you made, my instincts scream you are wrong. This division will be a dogfight from week one through seventeen. The cold and the wind and snow are always a great equalizer once November hits. Aaron Rodgers is worth at least two victories for the Packers and that’s why they ultimately win the division. Everything else, it all feels pretty equal heading into the pre-season.