NFC North preview

Ethan Sample

Sport’s Blogger

@ethanjsample

Minnesota Vikings

Coming off a first place finish in the division and a solid 11-5 record, the Vikings can only continue to push forward. The Vikings have most of their best playmakers returning this season. Minnesota can be expected to perform and capitalize on offense. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will continue to lead the offense this season. Bridgewater threw for 3,231 yards with a completion rate of 65.3 percent. Expect him to target players Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Jarius Wright, who all played exceptionally well last season. The run game could be something they want to improve on, and that starts with the offensive line. Having running back Adrian Peterson rush for an average of 4.5 yards a carry isn’t good, even though he rushed for 1,485 yards last season. Defensively, the Vikings finished last in the NFC North, and with most of their arsenal returning, expect Minnesota to fly around to the ball this season. Expect a well put together offense and a tough defense this season for the Vikings.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers plan to stay on top of the NFC North. (Mike Morbeck, Flickr)
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers plan to stay on top of the NFC North.
(Mike Morbeck, Flickr)

Green Bay Packers

At 10-6, the only thing the Packers should look forward to is getting back on top. After being ousted by divisional rival Minnesota, expect the Packers to come out with a chip on their shoulder. The Packers defense ranked seventh in the NFC, which isn’t all that bad. Despite the loss of defensive back Casey Hayward, the defense can be expected to play both the rush and pass game relatively well. Offensively, expect quarterback Aaron Rodgers to pick out tight end Richard Rodgers and receiver Randall Cobb. The pass game will be strong for the Packers, but the run game will be slightly different. With running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks, it’s imperative that the offensive line shore up the blocking this season if they want to have a decent run game. Expect this team to come out guns blazing.

Detroit Lions

The Lions will want to shrug off last season after finishing 7-9. Offensively, expect quarterback Matthew Stafford to try to rally his team to victory despite the retirement of star receiver Calvin Johnson. Stafford played well last season throwing for 4,262 yards and a completion rate of 67.2 percent and 32 touchdowns. Throwing 13 interceptions was his only downfall. Expect him to come out better prepared this season. With the acquisition of veteran receiver Anquan Boldin, the pass game may stutter only slightly due to the loss of Johnson. Expect players such receiver Golden Tate and tight end Eric Ebron to get the job done. Both were targeted frequently. The Lions struggled in the run game last season, so expect that they will to attempt to improve on what was a dismal unit. Defensively, the Lions have to learn to finish. The Lions defense was ranked 18th in the NFL. If they want to improve off of last year it should start with the defense. Expect a team with a “nothing to lose,” attitude.

Chicago Bears

Ending the season 6-10 was not one of the Bears highlights. Defensively, the Bears played well as a team and rallied to the ball. Chicago finished sixth in the NFC North last season. Expect the Bears to attack with the same ferocity they did last season, despite the loss of linebackers Shea McClellin and Pernell McPhee, two of their better tacklers. Offensively, Chicago may struggle with the loss of running back Matt Forte in the backfield. He put up some good numbers for a stagnant running offense. Running back Jeremy Langford is expected to replace Forte this season after rushing for 537 yards last season. Expect quarterback Jay Cutler to target tight end Zach Miller and receiver Alshon Jeffery.

ozone@ocolly.com

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