Forecasting the ‘black and blue’ division as the season begins

Lucas Smith

Lions, Packers and Bears…oh my. The NFC North is stacked with playoff potential this season. Notice how I failed to mention the Minnesota Vikings? Not by mistake. It is going to be a long and agonizing year for fans of the purple and gold…but I guess I will talk about them anyway.

Minnesota Vikings

Okay, I admit it. I am one of the unfortunate Vikings fans who must suffer through another rebuilding season. Last year, the Vikes finished 3-13, which was last in the NFC North and the third-worst record in the NFL. So what can Viking fans hope for in 2012? As much as it pains me to say, not a whole lot.


The Vikings offense was mediocre at best last year and will only see improvement if All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson can stay healthy. Peterson tore his ACL and MCL on Christmas Eve last season in a meaningless game against the Redskins. Since A.P. is a freak of nature, he made a speedy recover and intends to start the season opener on Sept. 9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It usually takes a year and half or even two years to recover from that type of injury. If it were up to me, I would sit him for the entire season to ensure a full recovery. Minnesota gave Peterson a $100 million contract last season making him the highest paid running back in the NFL. Why rush him back when the Vikings are nowhere near playoff contention? The Vikings are making an ill-advised move by hastily bringing back A.P. for another inconsequential game. Backup Toby Gerhart showed improvement last season and should see considerable time in place of the ailing Peterson.

One bright spot for the Viking offense is second year quarterback Christian Ponder who showed signs of promise in pre-season. As a rookie last year, Ponder replaced a pathetic looking Donavan McNabb in a feeble attempt to resurrect his career. Thank god. Vikings fans have high hopes for the young QB as he enters a crucial sophomore season with only Joe Webb and McLeod Bethel-Thompson behind him on the depth chart, Yikes.

Besides Peterson and standout slot receiver Percy Harvin, the cupboards are pretty bare on offense. Minnesota signed free agent wide receiver Jerome Simpson from Cincinnati who will serve a three-game suspension for pleading guilty to felony drug charges. Great. Throw in wide receiver Michael Jenkins and tight end Kyle Rudolph and that is a recipe for…crap.

To protect Peterson and Ponder, Minnesota drafted left tackle Matt Kalil with the third overall in 2012. He will join a rickety offensive line that lost seven-time pro-bowl guard Steve Hutchinson to the Tennessee Titans in the offseason.


You probably won’t take the Vikings defense in your fantasy draft. That being said, Minnesota’s defensive line is solid with perennial pro-bowlers Kevin Williams and Jared Allen holding it down. Allen is a beast. He led the league with 22 sacks last season, one away from the single season record.

South Dakota native Chad Greenway made his first pro-bowl last year but will not get much help from the other linebackers.

The weakest link for the Vikings is the defensive backfield who ranked 26th in the NFL last year versus the pass. Aside from an aging Antoine Winfield, the Minnesota corners and safety’s are pitiful.

Prediction: 6-10

Vegas Odds to win SB: 150 to 1

Green Bay Packers

The Packers finished 15-1 last season but were upset by the Giants in the playoffs. Last year’s MVP Aaron Rodgers put up crazy good numbers and carried a ridiculous QB rating of 122. Rodgers is spoiled sick with weapons on offense including receivers: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver along with tight end Jermicheal Finley. The Packers also signed washed up running back Cedric Benson who could see a resurgence in his numbers alongside Rodgers and their high-powered passing attack.

Defensively, the Packers ranked dead last in 2011. Do not be fooled by the numbers. The Packers defense was on the field more because their offense was scoring at will. Clay Mathews and Charles Woodson are turnover machines.

Look for the Packers to win the NFC North and contend for a Super Bowl. I’m nauseous right now thinking about it.

Prediction: 13-3

Vegas Odds to win SB: 6 to 1 (Best in NFL)

Detroit Lions

The Lions finished 10-6 last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 1999. QB Mathew Stafford and WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson made for a deadly combination. Johnson has emerged as the game’s best receiver and led the NFL in yards last year while Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards, becoming only the fourth player in history to do so. Look for this dynamic duo to continue to light it up in the air, especially considering the Lions’ lack of a running game.

The Lions defense on the other hand, not so much. DT Ndamukong Suh is an absolute nightmare for offensive lineman. If he can manage to stay away from suspensions, he is an All-Pro no doubt. Other than Suh, the Lions do not have much on defense.

Look for the Lions to give the Packers a run for their money in the NFC North. The days of the Lions being a joke are over. They will most likely snag a wild card spot and can make some noise in the playoffs. Last year, I found myself rooting for the Lions. Anybody but the Packers as some might say.

Prediction: 10-6

Vegas Odds to win SB: 25 to 1

Chicago Bears

Da Bears went 8-8 last year and missed out on the playoffs. Jay Cutler played ten games last season and was average at best. The Bears have re-signed star running back Matt Forte to a four-year deal to solidify the running game. They also signed free agent wide receiver Brandon Marshall to give Cutler another weapon. Marshall and Cutler shared success in Denver several seasons ago.

Defense is the Bears Backbone. Veterans Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs anchor an unyielding front seven that includes defensive end Julius Peppers. Peppers is an unblockable monster that spreads mayhem on the opposing teams. Look out Aaron Rodgers.

Some experts have the Bears as a playoff team and a possible Super Bowl sleeper. I do not consider myself an expert, so I am saying they miss the playoffs again this year. The Lions and Packers are better teams and I cannot see the North getting both NFC wild card spots.

Prediction: 9-7

Vegas Odds to win SB: 15 to 1