NFC North Preview
NFC NORTH RACE COULD GET WILD IF STARS STAY HEALTHY
Though the media is enthralled with all the quality in the NFC West division (home of the defending league champion Seattle Seahawks), the NFC North could arrive very quickly this year as a true power division in pro football:
- Green Bay went 8-7-1 even though Aaron Rodgers missed a lot of time
- Chicago went 8-8 even though Jay Cutler missed games and played hurt
- Detroit went 7-9 with a -12 turnover differential that’s due to improve
- Minnesota went 5-10-1, but made a head coaching change that should help
Green Bay is a serious Super Bowl threat with Rodgers on the field. Chicago under second-year head coach Marc Trestman is now an up-and-coming team with 11-win potential. Detroit has been on the brink of greatness for a few years, but kept messing things up with turnovers from a high-risk approach. Conservative new head coach Jim Caldwell has a real chance to fix that. Last year’s race was exciting around the mediocre .500 mark. This year…will the top three all have a shot at 12 wins?
Let’s run some numbers and see what we can learn…
2013 NFC NORTH STANDINGS
Green Bay: 8-7-1 (-1 turnovers, #28 rated schedule)
Chicago: 8-8 (+6 turnovers, #29 rated schedule)
Detroit: 7-9 (-12 turnovers, #31 rated schedule)
Minnesota: 5-10-1 (+-9 turnovers, #22 rated schedule)
Notebook: The first vote of skepticism comes from the strength of schedule category. These teams all had it very easy last year…which means they weren’t playing as well as it seemed when things were going well. We place a lot of weight on that element, so don’t just gloss over it. If Rodgers and Cutler can’t stay healthy, we could have an ugly division that’s facing a tougher slate this year.
Green Bay: 6.0 on offense, 5.9 on defense
Detroit: 5.7 on offense, 5.6 on defense
Chicago: 6.0 on offense, 6.2 on defense
Minnesota: 5.4 on offense, 5.6 on defense
Notebook: Defense was a real concern last year. Remember that the true elites are in the 4’s on YPP allowed, and good defenses are in the low 5’s. There weren’t any good defenses. And, you can’t blame QB injuries for causing those issues. Green Bay isn’t a real Super Bowl threat until they fix that…and Trestman of Chicago is just an offensive coordinator in better clothes until his defenses hurt people.
2013 THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
Detroit: 43% on offense, 30% on defense
Green Bay: 41% on offense, 38% on defense
Chicago: 42% on offense, 42% on defense
Minnesota: 36% on offense, 44% on defense
Notebook: Detroit really sparkled here, but gave it all away with that awful -12 turnover differential you saw earlier. This is where the Lions can really step forward. If they can move the chains without losing the ball…they will have one of the most productive offenses in the whole league.
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2014 PROJECTED WIN TOTALS IN LAS VEGAS
Green Bay: 10.5 wins
Chicago: 9 wins
Detroit: 8.5 wins
Minnesota: 6 wins
Frankly, we think those are low given projected starters. The problem is, Cutler is injury prone and Rodgers is starting to become that way. Can you bet Overs and assume full health? Caldwell in Detroit is an interesting case because he can be the solution for some problems but the cause of others. The Lions do need a steady hand, and he could have immediate success before gradually trending the wrong way in future years. Minnesota’s a question mark because new coach Mike Zimmer is an unknown quantity as head man…and because the quarterback situation is up in the air.
Be sure you spend some time Saturday reading the Friday Night stats from home games played by Chicago and Minnesota against Philadelphia and Oakland respectively. Then, watch Detroit host Cleveland (and Johnny Manziel!) live on the NFL Network Saturday evening. Green Bay is also in action Saturday Night at Tennessee.
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Today’s look at the NFC North wraps up our coverage of the NFC. We move to the four AFC divisions beginning Thursday when pro football resumes. In the meantime…it’s PENNANT RACE BASEBALL! Here’s this week’s planned NOTEBOOK schedule…
Sunday: MLB TV Preview: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves on ESPN
Monday: MLB Series Preview: Detroit at Pittsburgh
Tuesday: MLB Big Game Preview: either LAD/Atlanta or Oakland/Kansas City
Wednesday: MLB TV Preview: NY Yankees at Baltimore on ESPN
Thursday: AFC South Preview (Jacksonville/Chicago on ESPN)
Friday: AFC East Preview: (New England hosts Philadelphia on NFL Network)
Saturday: AFC North Preview: (Baltimore/Dallas on NFL Network)
Sunday 8/17: AFC West Preview: (Denver/SF on NFLN, Kansas City/Carolina on FOX)
Monday 8/18: NFL Big Game Preview: Johnny Manziel vs. RGIII in Cleveland/Washington!
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