Each week we get a little closer to the draft and since Winter doesn’t seem to ever want to end, thinking about the Draft just makes me think of Spring.
The Black and Blue Division was just that in 2010. With the Super Bowl now residing in Title Town and the Bears as the conference’s runner-up, the North can claim the title to the best division in football. With a lockout looming, they may get to hold onto that title for quite a while.
The remaining two teams, the Lions and Vikings, also are two very interesting teams heading into next season. If Matt Stafford can stay healthy look for the Lions to take a big step forward in 2011. I wouldn’t count on a playoff spot, but a winning season is a good possibility. The Vikings have a ton of talent, but are aging and have a huge question mark at quarterback. They went one year too long with Favre. Look for them to bring in a veteran for one year to see if they can make one more run before they have to rebuild.
Green Bay Packers 10-6
Not much else to say, but wow! Has there ever been a hotter team down the stretch and through the playoffs than last years Packers? Maybe the 2008 Giants, but I think the Packers were even more impressive. Rodgers is right behind Brady and Manning in terms of quarterback rankings and there is a great mix of youth and veteran leadership to keep this team in contention for quite a while.
- A winning formula from management to the players.
- A young franchise quarterback.
- A great mix of veterans and youth.
- A fast, tenacious defense.
- Those stupid cheese heads. How is that a weakness? It isn’t, they’re just stupid.
- 11 unrestricted free agents, including key starters, Charles Woodson, Cullen Jenkins and Charlie Peprah.
- Super bowl giddiness. The Pack do seem to be enjoying their newfound fame. Will it go to their collective heads in 2011?
- The loss of receivers coach Jimmy Robinson to the Boys shouldn’t be dismissed as he had a major influence on the development of their young wideouts and was a good sounding board for Mike McCarthy.
- Cheese heads. Their stupidity can’t be underrated.
Needs: The Pack need to resign Woodson, who given his age will probably be back. If Jenkins leaves they are relying on unproven youth, including disappointing former first round pick Justin Harrell and last years #2 pick in the draft, Mike Neal, both who were in IR last year. Look for the Pack to add more youth to the offensive line in the draft and they will probably look to add more youth at wide receiver.
Chicago Bears 11-5
Poor Jay Cutler. No matter what he does it just never quite works out. In hindsight his knee injury was serious enough to keep him off the field and the team was best served by turning to Caleb Hanie who made it very interesting in the championship game. I would have loved to seen Cutler on the sideline, coat off, cheering his team on instead of sitting there like he was in a timeout.
Signing Lovie Smith to an extension is probably a good thing and although I don’t consider him a great coach, he does provide stability, which is something Cutler needs. This is a very solid football team; however, I am not a Mike Martz fan, so Cutler with his big arm, may put up big numbers, but never be a championship quarterback. Aren’t the Bears, The Monsters of the Midway, supposed to be a smash-mouth football team with a pounding running game?
- A very tough D, who will keep this team in games, regardless of what the offense might be doing on that day.
- Cutler’s arm is one of the best in football.
- Matt Forte is a very good back and Chester Taylor is a veteran, who provides a lot of versatility.
- A great city and fan base. Nothing like a playoff game in Chicago with snow flying! Grab a beer, start a fire and send the kids to the in-laws. Wife- optional.
- Can they at least give Cutler a big wideout?
- Offensive line. Just about everywhere.
- Mike Martz.
- Age on defense at key position.
Needs: Olin Kreutz is no spring chicken but he needs to be resigned. Do they bring in guy like Randy Moss? Not likely given Smith’s conservative style. They signed Canadian League standout Andy Fantuz, the 6’ 4”, 220 pound former Roughrider had 87 receptions last season for 1,380 yards. If he the answer? In the draft the Bears really need to work on the trenches on both sides of the ball, especially the offensive line.
Detroit Lions 6-10
The Lions? The Lions? Yes, the Lions!!!! In reviewing their season from start to finish you’d be surprised how close the Lions were in a lot of games. Many of the close losses were to very good teams. They closed the season strong by winning four straight, including wins against the Pack and Bucs. The downside is their franchise QB, Matt Stafford, missed most of those games, including the 4-game winning streak because he was out with injuries.
- A young QB with franchise potential and a really good backup in Hill.
- A young and nasty defensive line, anchored by rookie stud Ndamukong Suh.
- Stability within the organization. Does anyone miss Matt Millen?
- Calvin Johnson.
- Linebackers. Expect this area to get a major revamping.
- Offensive line.
- Secondary, particularly cornerback.
- Depth at wide receiver.
Needs: The Lion are on their way. With some additional targeted free agent acquisitions and some wise drafting the Lions will become a major pain in the necks for the rest of the division. A lot of that depends on Stafford’s ability to remain healthy though. Keeping Hill on the roster would be a good move. Hill reminds me of former Lion and current Cowboys QB, John Kitna, who will always gets the team around 500, but will never get you to the promise land. The ideal backup QB’s.
Minnesota Vikings 6-10
Was there an organization more dysfunctional than the Vikings lat season? That is an impressive, yet unflattering tag in a league with a lot of dysfunction. Addition by subtraction is how I view the Favre departure. The most overrated, overexposed, selfish player in league history, has hopefully retired for good. Yes, he was tough but in how many big spots do you remember Favre throwing the ball up for grabs? Tarvaris Jackson won’t be back, nor should he, and the other guys on the roster are just holding the spot until their replacements are signed.
- Adrian Peterson is a stud. Period.
- The defensive line. The Williams’ are aging but still loads to deal with in the middle and despite a down year (by his standards) Jared Allen is one of the best edge rushers in the league.
- Chad Greenway, recently slapped with the franchise tag, is a pro’s pro.
- The Wide receiving corps is good provided Harvin is healthy and Rice is resigned.
- The secondary is aging and showing signs of cracks.
- Age at key positions.
- Offensive line needs an upgrade.
Needs: The Vikes first need to decide in which direction to go. I don’t think they can wait for a rookie quarterback to develop and keep the veterans they have. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go after someone like McNabb to see if they can make a run with their veterans while they draft their quarterback of the future who can learn behind someone like McNabb for a year.