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2011 NFC North Preview & Predictions

Green Bay Packers

The defending Super Bowl champs haven’t made much noise on the free agent market but that’s because they really didn’t have to. Aaron Rodgers is a legitimate MVP candidate while Clay Matthews leads one of the NFL’s most feared defenses. With all that being said, the Packers play in a tough division, have a pretty rough schedule, and have offensive line issues. However, I still think they’ll come away with the division crown.

Key Arrivals – none really, get back Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley from injury

Key Departures – Cullen Jenkins, Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga, Daryn Colledge, Korey Hall, Brandon Jackson, Donald Lee

Prediction – 11-5/First in NFC North

Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler and the Bears look to improve on their impressive 11-5 record last season, but it’s going to be a lot tougher this time around. The Bears play a very unforgiving schedule, not to mention being in one of the deepest divisions in football. Jay Cutler looks to rebound from a disappointing NFC Championship loss in which his pride and heart were questioned. I look for the Bears to still be a viable team in the NFC, but their tough schedule will get the better of them.

Key Arrivals – Roy Williams, Amobi Okoye, Marion Barber, Sam Hurd, Vernon Gholston, Matt Spaeth

Key Departures – Tommie Harris, Brandon Manumaleuna, Devin Aromashodu, Rashied Davis, Olin Kreutz, Danieal Manning

Prediction – 9-7/Second in NFC North

Detroit Lions

Whether the Lions emerge as a potential NFC North contender or not depends solely on the health of quarterback Matthew Stafford. If, and that’s a big if, Stafford stays healthy the young and talented Lions can compete for the division title. Detroit has one of the NFL’s best defensive lines to go along with some explosive weapons on offense. Look for the Lions to surprise many, but again, only if Stafford plays a full season.

Key Arrivals – Nick Fairley, Maurice Stovall, Stephen Tulloch, Eric Wright, Rashied Davis, Justin Durant, Maurice Leggett

Key Departures – Zack Follett, Bryant Johnson, Turk McBride

Prediction – 8-8/Third in NFC North

Minnesota Vikings

Donovan McNabb looks to re-establish his career in Minnesota with arguably the NFL’s best running back in his backfield. But McNabb and the Vikings have plenty of issues. The offensive line has some holes, the secondary is inexperienced, and the receiving core is less than stellar. Couple all of that with a tough division and even tougher schedule and the Vikings’ season looks bleak at best.

Key Arrivals – Donovan McNabb, Devin Aromashodu, Michael Jenkins, Remi Ayodele

Key Departures – Bryant McKinnie, Madieu Williams, Tarvaris Jackson, Ray Edwards, Ben Leber, Sidney Rice, Frank Walker

Prediction – 6-10/Last in NFC North

  1. Brett Kincaid
    August 23, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    I disagree with Chicago, but otherwise I came to almost the exact same conclusions you did for the NFC North.

    Thanks for the note, Matt. Correction has been made, adding Arizona to the Super Six.

    Using advanced metrics, you could argue Chicago was a 6-7 win team last year that caught every possible break along the way. They have less talent this season (losing Manning is huge on D and ST) and a difficult schedule as you mentioned.

    I like the Lions, but I don’t love their schedule. In a conference with a a weak bottom half, I could definitely see them advancing to the playoffs but don’t feel confident making that prediction. I have Detroit as a 9-7 team that will be in the hunt until the very last.

  1. December 13, 2011 at 2:41 PM

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