2013 NFL Preseason Predictions: NFC North (Yanotchko)
Here are my 2013 NFC North preseason predictions:
1. Green Bay Packers (schedule): 12-4
The Packers had one of the best offenses in the league last year, and they just got even better through this year's draft as they selected two running backs. The Packers have the best quarterback in the league in Aaron Rodgers, and they boast a trio of great receivers in Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones. The Packers struggled to run the ball last year, and they have landed two solid prospects in Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin to take the pressure off Rodgers.
Green Bay struggled on defense last year, as they were blitzed in the playoffs by the 49ers zone-read attack. The Packers hope to have Clay Matthews healthy this year, and he is joined by stalwarts B.J. Raji and Sam Shields.
The Packers will once again reign supreme in the the crowded NFC North.
2. Detroit Lions (schedule): 9-7
After making the playoffs the year prior, the Lions skidded back to their usual position of last place in the NFC North with a 4-12 record. Although the Lions boast some of the best talent in the league, it seems that they are always one of the most penalized and worst-coached teams out there.
Although the Lions have one of the league's best offenses, they really seem to struggle on the defensive side of the ball. The Lions have been adding draft picks to the defense for years, and they have a stacked front-four led by Nick Fairley, Ezekiel Ansah, and Ndamukong Suh. Where the Lions really struggle, is in the secondary, and hopefully the additions of Glover Quin and Darius Slay can shore up that unit.
Same story for the Lions as the Redskins, so much talent, yet such a difficult division.
3. Minnesota Vikings (schedule): 7-9
What the Vikings did last year was a borderline miracle, riding the game's best running back on a rebuilt knee into the playoffs. This year, the Vikings will be playing a much more difficult schedule, and I still think Christian Ponder is not the answer at quarterback for them. The Vikings have added more weapons for Ponder this year as Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson join All World running back Adrian Peterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
The Vikings do have some quality pieces on defense, as they have one of the best pass rushers in Jared Allen, and one of the best run stuffers in Kevin Williams on the front lines. The Vikings also have two tackling machines in linebacker Chad Greenway and safety Harrison Smith.
Although the Vikings have the best back in the game with Peterson, finding a return trip to the playoffs will be difficult this year.
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4. Chicago Bears (schedule): 6-10
The Bears have made some coaching changes this year, as the highly successful Lovie Smith has been replaced by Marc Trestman.
The Bears have certainly addressed their main problem, as they have upgraded one of the worst offensive lines in the game with Jermon Bushrod, Kyle Long and Matt Slauson. I really like the chances Jay Cutler will get this year, as he will now play in a passer-friendly offense, and he is in a contract year. The Bears still have quality pieces on offense with Brandon Marshall, running back Matt Forte, and they have added tight end Martellus Bennett.
When you think of the Bears recent teams, of course you think of their stifling defense, and they still have three great leaders in Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, and Charles Tillman. To me though, the Bears defensive unit was run by Brian Urlacher, and also the schemes were from Lovie Smith and I think it will be difficult for the Bears to sustain that level of quality.
This is a step-back year for Chicago, as they will miss the steady coaching hand, and the presence of their leader in Urlacher.
All of our contributors will make their division and Super Bowl picks and we will track those on this centralized predictions page.