While Jeff is getting drunk and golfing in Ireland, I have been put in charge of doing NFC North Previews for DBB. To help get knowledge on some of the other teams, I called up a pair of colleagues and they had the same thought about the NFC North standings this year: The Packers will finish first and the Bears will finish last.
While my attempts to record podcasts with both failed, I spoke with Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Jeff Risdon of RealGM and ESPN 961 and they both were in agreement on how the division would shake out.
When asked if anyone could challenge the Packers, McGinn pointed out that the Lions were close to beating them last year and he could see that scenario happening again. He also pointed to the Vikings as being possible contenders, noting the poise of second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but did not mention the Bears.
Risdon’s reasoning behind the Packers was simple: As long as they have Aaron Rodgers behind center, they should be the favorites. Both Risdon and McGinn agreed that losing Jordy Nelson to an ACL injury was a big blow, but that the Packers had the talent to overcome it.
McGinn admitted that he hasn’t been able to study the rest of the teams in the NFC North yet, but said that he has some general knowledge of them. When talking about the Bears, he said that new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could have a big impact, but was surprised when I mentioned them as possibly finishing 8-8.
Like McGinn, Risdon saw the Lions and Vikings as being key challengers to the Packers with both fighting for a playoff spot.
Risdon pointed to Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin as being the key reason why their defense will still be tough, despite losing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Risdon figures Austin will be a head coach within the next few years.
Risdon had far more concerns about the Vikings, noting issues on their offense, specifically at offensive tackle. He isn’t as high on Teddy Bridgewater as McGinn, saying he needs to see more before anointing him as a great player. He also wondered if Minnesota’s defense can take the next step.
As for the Bears, Risdon sees a transition year. He thinks Cutler will be better, but doesn’t think the team has enough help around him, most notably on defense. While he sees Fangio as having a positive impact, he doesn’t think they have enough talent to compete in the NFC North. He did say he likes the potential of safeties Adrian Amos and Brock Vereen.
Risdon thinks the Bears are headed in the right direction, but it’s going to take a while for them to get there.
What does all of this mean? Who the hell knows? Both McGinn and Risdon thought the Bears would be good last year. Hell, almost everybody did and we were all wrong.
Over the next week I’ll go over each team, telling you why they will and why they will not win the NFC North. Nobody really knows how the season will turn out, if they did, they’d make a ton of money, but, what the hell, let’s try to figure it out anyway.