2013 NFC North preview
Here’s a team-by-team rundown of how the NFC North is shaping up for 2013.
Chicago Bears – Very seldom does a team’s identity shift so drastically in so short a time. Gone is defensive whiz and longtime Chicago figurehead Brian Urlacher, and now running the offense is mysterious guru and alleged x-factor Marc Trestman. The offense is stacked with talent, and now Jay Cutler has a solid left tackle to watch his blind side and a solid safety valve at tight end in Martellus Bennett. Don’t sleep on the defense, though, as Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs are still in town and still form the backbone of a potent unit. Overall, though, this is a team in transition and in this competitive a division that could very well be a weakness.
Detroit Lions – The North’s true wildcard team. Will we see the 2011 team that made the playoffs, or will we see the 2012 team that completely bombed? On the outset, many signs point to the latter. Both of last year’s starting offensive tackles are gone and have been replaced by two players with a combined one year NFL experience. Their leading pass rusher from the last three years is gone and has been replaced by a rookie who’s only been playing football for a few years. Their big offseason acquisition was perennial disappointment Reggie Bush and even then he’s an upgrade in the run game. All that being said, this team is still loaded with talent. Between the game’s best receiver, best defensive tackle, and one of its most underappreciated quarterbacks, this team can hang with anyone. Whether or not they parlay that into season-long success will depend on their ability to close out games.
Minnesota Vikings – A huge question mark hangs over this team: how far can Christian Ponder take them? They got to the playoffs on the back of Adrian Peterson, but when they needed Ponder to control the game in the postseason he couldn’t handle it. Peterson, Kevin Rudolph, and the new receiving corps headed by the newly-acquired Greg Jennings and explosive rookie Cordarrelle Patterson will most likely be enough to keep the Vikings in a fair share of games, but will the defense be able to hold up against some of the NFL’s – and this division’s – more explosive offenses? Much like the Bears, the Vikings are a team that is loaded with talent, and their season could be won or lost depending on how consistent that talent is this season.
Green Bay Packers – Is the Pack back? Well, they’re healthy and that’s a start. The offensive line has been jumbled to better protect Aaron Rodgers, the running game’s been bolstered for the same reason, and the receivers, despite losing two long-time standouts in Jennings and Donald Driver, are still among the NFL’s best. However, it’s the defense that will truly signal the Packers’ fate this year. The defensive line now includes rookie Datone Jones, who many are assuming is a shoo-in for 10 sacks in his rookie season. Nick Perry has another chance to show what he’s got opposite Clay Matthews, who’s back and healthy himself. Casey Hayward may be the best cornerback in the NFL that no one seems to talk about, coming off an extremely impressive rookie season. Factor in returning injured players like Morgan Burnett and Desmond Bishop, and the unit looks primed to get back to Super Bowl form. They’re pretty much a playoff lock, but time will tell if they can make anything of a playoff appearance this time.