Thursday, September 13, 2012

NFC North

Week 2 continues tonight with two franchises that have the longest history as rivals dating back to November 27, 1921 which the Bears won 20-0. It’s Bears versus the Packers, its Thursday night football. Let me take a few line and go back in time on the history of this rivalry, a history of hard nose, cold, bloody smash mouth football. A history that has produced 5 Super Bowls combined as well as 48 members of the Hall of fame. Names like Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, George Blanda, Mike Ditka, Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Earl L. Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Jim Ringo, Reggie White. Some of the most iconic names to ever grace a football field were products of this rivalry and still remain today ( The Lombardi trophy, Lambeau field), and that’s no disrespect to the few that I left out  ThisA historic rivalry also handed out the NFL’s first official ejection because the Bears Frank Hanny and Packer Walter Voss were in heated exchange of words which lead to hay makers being thrown. That’s what happens when these teams get together a fight to the end even if it has been one sided in the score board at times. These two teams have met 184 times with the Bears having a slight advantage in wins with 92 to the Packers 86 and 6 ties between the two. Let’s fast forward to tonight and recent history. The Packers have had Chicago’s number in recent history Winning 6 of the last 7 meetings dating back to 2009 including the last 4 straight. With that being said on the flip side Cutler has not faired well against these Packers throwing more interceptions then touchdowns with a 1-5 record since putting on a Bears uniform. None the less, these are two teams striving to Super Bowl stature and both knowing they must go through each other in order to accomplish that. It’s only week 2 but the intensity will be high at Lambeau Field, lets sit back and enjoy this one, its Thursday night football! 
Haha, funny pic but all jokes aside theres nothing funny about the way Clay Mathews plays the game of football, here are my power rankings for the NFC North.

  1. Greenbay Packers (Last Season 15-1)

Key Losses: LT Chad Clifton, S Nick Collins, RB Ryan Grant, QB Matt Flynn

Key Additions: OLB Nick Perry, C Jeff Saturday

Blazing through the regular season everyone outside of New York and maybe San Fran respectively believed the Packers were on their way to their second strait title or at least Super Bow appearance. Lead by NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers who led the NFL in passing with a 122.5 rating, posting 45 touchdown passes to only six interceptions and a 68.3 completion percentage and 85.2 QBR which also lead the league. Was it there 32nd ranking in total defense that finally showed it’s true colors? Soar and sensitive subject but was it the mourning of their former coach Joe Philbins son which took away from the focus needed to play? That would be understandable of course, but the Packers sure didn’t seem to give the Giants much credit after that game saying that “they beat themselves” on that day. What ever the reason was the fact is they lost in their playoff opener and were eliminated last season. Now this year they start the season with a loss to the 49ers in a game where San Fran controlled the game from beginning to end. Defensively the Packers looked confused on plays, hinting to Randy Moss’s wide open touchdown, Frank Gore was Frank Gore and Alex Smith looked like a pro bowl quarterback. Defensively the still have issues outside from the talent they perceive to have on paper and although on he other end they still posses that explosive passing attack they have yet to establish a running game. It’s def a cause for concern but a time to hit the panic button, at least not yet. Tonight will be another early test.
Chicago Bears (Last Season 8-8)

Key Losses: Johnny Knox (spinal injury P.U.P List)

Key Additions: WR Brandon Marshall, DE Shea McLellin, WR Alshon Jeffery, RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Cambell

There’s a reason why I ranked the Bears higher then the Lions in this division and it’s not because opened the season although impressively it was against a rookie quarterback, but I will get into that when I discuss them. At 7-3 the Bears looked as if they were destined for a playoff birth before Jay Cutler went down for the season. Caleb simply could not shoulder the load as the Bears went on to lose 5 of the last 6 missing the playoffs not to mention leading rusher Matt Forte going down with a knee injury in the process. With no stats or numbers needed to be provided it has been well known that the Bears have been known for their defense over the years with an offense that has been below average to put it nicely. Their last 1,000 yard receiver was in Marty Booker in 2002 and their leading receivers for the passed 4 seasons have been Devin Hester and Johnny Knox both explosive players but not receivers that should be relied upon as primary options. Well Bear fans, I believe that is all about to change due to the acquisition of Pro Bowler Brandon Mashall and rookie Alshon Jeffery. And we all know about the previous history between Cutler and Marshall back in Denver who seemed to pick up right where they left off as Marshall went over 100 yards with a touchdown. Also adding power back Michael Bush whether Forte like it or not will take away touches but will also take away hits from their star running back and provide a down hill goal line option. Maybe for once we will be talking about the Bears offense instead of the defense? Its premature to say for certain but as long as health is not an issue I think this Chicago Bears squad is for real.

3. Detroit Lions (Last Season 10-6)

Key Losses: CB Eric Wright

Key Additions: OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles, CB Dwight Bentley

Ok now to attempt to dissect the highly talented Detroit Lions who made the playoffs a year ago. Why do I have them ranked behind the Bars you ask? Well….its the “Madden curse” of course for Calvin Johnson. Alright, alright jokes aside from Megatron and Stafford passing for over 5,000 yards in only his third year, this team simple has not shown the maturity to be consistent. Lions already cut CB Eric Berry for off the field issues, defensive tackle Nick Fairley and running back Mikel Leshoure who are both supposed to be major contributors both remain suspended for the field issues. Ndamukong Suh has been on good behavior since his infamous stomping against the Packers last season but who knows if an issue will resurface, I would hope not. Don’t get me wrong this team still has the pieces to compete with each team in this division but I believe a key factor will be will they grow up as a unit and reach that potential that is right around the corner for them. Because just as many steps as they took forward last season a few more of these issues could put them right back out of the playoffs. All though it came down to a last second drive, they are off to the right start and in the win column after week 1.

4. Minnesota Vikings (Last Season 3-13)

Key Losses: None

Key Additions: LT Matt Kalil, WR Jerome Simpson, WR Greg Childs, WR Jarius Wright

Good news: Vikings are 1-0 and Adrian Peterson is healthy scoring two touchdowns in the process Bad New: They beat the Jacksonville Jaguars who were just as bad as they were a year ago, but I guess u start somewhere. Ranking 18th in total offense a year ago and 21st in total defense major improvements are needed on both sides of the ball if this team has hopes to return to playoff contention. It seems like just the other day Brett Favre lead this team to the NFC championship game, boy how times have changed in Minnesota. And I believe the jury is still out on second year quarterback Chris Ponder who took over the starting job in relief of the failures of veteran quarterback Donovan Mcnabb. With limited weapons I continue for it to be a growing process for him as they look to build for the future. But with AP on your roaster how long before he starts getting ancy for a championship caliber team which I am positive he craves. As it stands now this a team which still has some talent with the back flips from Jerome Simpson, the runs from AP and the big play ability of Percy Harvin to make Sports Center top 10 highlights. Sorry to sayt, this is not a playoff team and remains a work in progress.

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