By Will Robinson

Finally, it is here: my final NFC division preview! Admittedly, this one may be a little less than my others, but they are done. I plan to have a season preview sometime next week before the first game on Sept. 8. Here are my other previews:

AFC West

NFC West

AFC South

NFC South

AFC East

NFC East

AFC North

 

 

Chicago BearsJayCutlerSidelineGetty-300x225

2010 Record: 11-5

Notable Additions: Gabe Carimi (OT), Stephen Paea (DT), Roy Williams (WR), Marion Barber (RB)

Notable Team Free Agents/Possible Departures: Greg Olsen (TE), Danieal Manning (S), Tommie Harris (DT), Olin Kreutz (C)

Strengths: Special teams, strong defensive unit

Weaknesses: Terrible offensive line play, minimal proven, consistent playmakers on offense

2010 Season Summary: Well, I wasn’t sure if the Bears would perform well last year, but uh, they did; they won 11 games and the NFC North. Hmm. It was a successful season for Chicago, even though they bombed out in the NFC Championship game, featuring very peculiar sideline behavior by an injured Jay Cutler. Undoubtedly, the story of their 2010 campaign was the play of their dominating defense. Last off-season, Chicago signed arguably the top free agent, defensive end Julius Peppers, to immediately reinforce their defensive line. Although Peppers only recorded eight sacks – a good, not great number – his impact was immeasurable by any metric: demanded double teams. The Bears didn’t have to blitz to achieve pressure, and for any team, that’s a remarkable asset. Mike linebacker Brian Urlacher had another spectacular year after coming off a season where he only played part of one game. Switch to the other side of the ball: While Mike Martz was supposed to revolutionize the passing game and turn Cutler into an instant elite quarterback, the fact is that did not happen last season. While the Bears as a team succeeded more, Cutler was worse in just about every category but interceptions (2009 – 26, 2010 – 16). Of course, it didn’t help that his second receiving option was return ace Devin Hester, and his most reliable receiver, tight end Greg Olsen, was massively underutilized. However, third year running back Matt Forté did emerge from his sophomore slump as he racked up 1,616 all-purpose yards and nine total touchdowns.

2011 Prospects: This may sound like a hater talking, but I think the Bears overachieved last year. They really did. For one, their offense was pretty poor overall (by yards, points, and Football Outsiders) and they lacked consistency week to week (according to FBO’s metric for consistency, Chicago was 30th). The big problem was their offensive line: could they keep Cutler upright? They added Gabe Carimi, but other than him, they haven’t done much to strengthen the line. Also, longtime leader and center Olin Kreutz was released to the chagrin of some members in the locker room. Overall, I don’t like what the Bears have done to fix their roster, especially releasing Kreutz without a suitable replacement on hand. This will be a step back for them as I think they have a great chance to miss the post-season.

Sleeper Fantasy Player to Have: Roy Williams (WR) [don’t overpay though!]

Fantasy Bust to Avoid: Marion Barber (RB) [even though he may usurp Chester Taylor for the backup role, Barber’s recent history is discouraging]

 

 

Detroit Lions

2010 Record: 6-10

Notable Additions: Nick Fairley (DT), Titus Young (WR), Mikel Leshoure (RB), Eric Wright (CB), Stephen Tulloch (LB), Jerome Harrison (RB)

Notable Team Free Agents/Possible Departures: None

Strengths: Youthful exuberance with a mix of vets, defensive line

Weaknesses: SECONDARY!!!!!!!!!! Health

2010 Season Summary: Since approximately the dawn of time, the Lions have been the butt of many football jokes. Naturally, going defeated in the 2008 season didn’t help matters. But, there was hope. With new head coach Jim Schwartz and number one overall selection, the future looked bright. Then they won only two games. But LAST year looked even better. With a healthy Stafford, the Lions would be respectable. Well, they nearly accomplished the last feat. Unfortunately, Stafford missed 13 complete games last year, and yet, the Lions won six games. So Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton led the team to six wins. Hmmm, underachievement much? Calvin Johnson FINALLY proved he could post elite numbers again after a relatively disappointing 2009 performance. The Lions drafted Jahvid Best with the expectation to be the dynamic back that he was for the Golden Bears in Berkeley, Calif. While suffering a few injuries throughout the season, Best did show some flashes of greatness. But no doubt, without QUESTION, the only storyline that mattered for the Lions was defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Of any non-skill position player, Suh is at the top of my list of players I would pay to see. I love watching him. He’s quickness, power and size combination must cause opposing linemen to shit themselves. Just look at how he manhandled Jack Delhomme. I don’t care if that was an illegal hit, unlike the Jay Cutler hit; Suh is a freaking beast, and I legitimately think he can be the next Warren Sapp, if not better (note: for a more elaborate take on Suh, read Ross Tucker’s piece. I completely agreed with him). Long story short, I thought the Lions could have broken out last year, but due to Stafford missing most of the year, that set them back one season. Even without their quarterback, they were still competitive. That tells you something.

2011 Prospects: I love the Lions this year. People can look at their record and see “6-10.” They were not a 6-10 team. If you tack on that ridiculous Calvin Johnson call and the Jets game, in which Suh kicked an extra point. That’s two games they could have easily won. And that’s an 8-8 team. Without Matthew Stafford. With him, that’s a decent ball club. Detroit seems to be the “it” team this year. Every year, there’s always a team the media latches on to, to make the leap. I Think they can do it. Adding Nick Fairley – although he is currently hurt – to pair with Suh seems unfair to the NFC North; Jay Cutler can only run so fast from one ridiculous defensive tackle. But two? He’ll wish he were back in Denver. My only concern is their secondary. They added Eric Wright from Cleveland, but is he really the fix? That will be the thing to watch this team for. They drafted Mikel Leshoure to complement Jahvid Best, but unfortunately he is out for the year. Mike Bell and Jerome Harrison will have to step up. I think this is the year where Detroit FINALLY returns to the post-season.

Sleeper Fantasy Player to Have: Nate Burleson (WR)

Fantasy Bust to Avoid: Brandon Pettigrew (TE) [not really a bust, but there are plenty of other tight ends to have]

 

 

Green Bay Packers

2010 Record: 10-6

Notable Additions: Derek Sherrod (OT), Randall Cobb (WR)

Notable Team Free Agents/Possible Departures: Daryn Colledge (OG), Nick Barnett (LB), Mark Tauscher (OT)

Strengths: Awesome passing attack, depth of talent pass defense, pass rush

Weaknesses: Offensive line sorta-ish?

2010 Season Summary: As I have pimped on the blog many, many times, my Super Bowl pick (bottom of the page) looked pristine entering the 2010-11 playoffs. And as I have bitched to my friends often, I originally picked Pittsburgh before I edited it to New England. Seriously. But no one believes me. It was mostly for the AFC representative, the Patriots, than the NFC’s and the eventual champions: the Green Bay Packers. The Packers squeaked into the playoffs on a tiebreaker; they barely made it! They suffered injuries left and right, and had an injured reserve list longer than… well, it was really long. But alas, I stuck to my guns, and picked Green Bay throughout the playoffs, and they didn’t let me or their fans down. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a scintillating post-season, highlighted by his otherworldly performance against Atlanta and a very strong Super Bowl showing against the Steelers. After his regular season and his remarkable playoff play, Rodgers propelled himself to unquestionably elite status. Their defense was undoubtedly a significant part of their success. Clay Mathews, the then second year linebacker from USC, broke out on to the scene as a remarkable pass rusher. Their defensive line was very strong with B.J. Raji at the nose tackle, and 3-4 defensive end Cullen Jenkins eating up two offensive linemen per play. But the deepest part of the Packers’ defense was their cornerbacks. Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields composed the best three cornerback trio in last year’s season, as Williams made the Pro Bowl, Woodson the All-Pro, and Shields developed and stepped up big when needed – as a rookie. Woodson was able to play a joker role of sorts, either blitzing quarterbacks or playing the outside with great effectiveness. This team overcame a variety of troubles that propelled them to bring the Lombardi trophy home.

2011 Prospects: I like the Packers a ton. For one thing, the primary story in the league is the Eagles. I don’t recall a defending champ being talked about less within the last ten years. They didn’t lose many people to free agency, and after suffering a plethora of injuries last season, Green Bay has most of those players back. James Starks should assert himself as the top dog in the backfield, and rookie Randall Cobb gives another vertical threat to Aaron Rodgers. The thing that concerns me most about their defense is Charles Woodson. When will he break down? Though he’s played extraordinarily well, age will catch up to him soon. Also, will a second pass rusher emerge to help Mathews? This team is so stacked. They have a legitimate shot to fight for a repeat.

Sleeper Fantasy Player to Have: James Starks (RB)

Fantasy Bust to Avoid: Ryan Grant (RB)

 

 

Minnesota VikingsJared Allen photo & wiki 1

2010 Record: 6-10

Notable Additions: Christian Ponder (QB), Kyle Rudolph (TE), Donovan McNabb (QB), Remi Ayodele (DT),

Notable Team Free Agents/Possible Departures: Ray Edwards (DE), Sidney Rice (WR), Tarvaris Jackson (QB)

Strengths: Adrian Peterson, pass rush

Weaknesses: Pass defense, pass offense

2010 Season Summary: Man, if one team epitomized “organizational mess,” then look no further than the 2010 Minnesota Vikings. It all got messy when a recruitment trip occurred to convince Brett Favre to play for another season. And unfortunately for the country, he said yes. His year was marred by his consecutive games streak ending and his well-publicized drama involving Jenn Sterger, a cell phone and alleged photos of his manhood. Oh, and playing terribly, too. All sorts of wrong happened with this Minnesota team. They dealt a third round pick to acquire Randy Moss, only to dump him a few weeks later. Head coach Brad Childress did this without the owner’s knowledge, which, among other things such as sucking, got Chilly fired. This team was in a complete disarray

2011 Prospects: Sorry, Minny fans. It doesn’t look good for this season. Your team picked up an aging quarterback and seemingly reached for one in the draft. There are plenty of holes on the roster that have not been filled. I feel bad for Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, two of the best at their respective positions, who will have to waste a year of their prime ostensibly working towards nothing. Whether I should think this way or not, this will be a very, very long season up north. Sorry. And I’m sorry I may have skimped this section, but I had to get this done, and I really don’t have anything insightful to say about your team. Sue me.

Sleeper Fantasy Player to Have: I don’t know… Percy Harvin? Bernard Berrian? I have no clue.

Fantasy Bust to Avoid: Donovan McNabb (QB) [just… don’t]

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