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Thursday, August 11, 2011


Chicago Bears

For all the hype of a Mike Martz-Jay Culter offense, little came of it. The Bears ranked 28th last season in passing. Not exactly a rebirth of the greatest show on turf. Then again, the team did finish 11-5, so something went right. Chicago’s season ended on a sour note after Jay Cutler left a playoff game in the hands of Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie. Cutler received a barrage of criticism for his lack of toughness. When you play for a team that boasts the likes of Mike Ditka, Richard Dent and Mike Singletary you had better be an amputee candidate before you leave a playoff game.

The Bears were so taken with the 2010 Dallas Cowboys, they decided to shop former Cowboys like they were at some sort of JoS A Banks sale. Chicago signed Roy Williams to be their number one wide receiver. An interesting proposition, considering Johnny Knox (last year’s number 1) caught 51 balls for over 900 yards last year and Roy Williams hasn’t matched that for some time. The Bears also brought over WR Sam Hurd and the artist formerly known as Marion Barber. Kidding aside, Barber and Williams give them red zone threats and actually compliment existing pieces. Williams is a big tall receiver and a nice target for Cutler near the goal line. Barber’s best years were as a backup, and in Chicago he returns to that role. If he can rekindle some of that ferocity, he should serve as a nice change to the smaller faster Matt Forte. Throw in first rounder OT Gabe Carimi and the Bears have done a few things to improve their offense. Defensively, the Bears still have Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher. Although weathered, I see no reason to doubt this group. The key to this year is Cutler and Martz; can they make it work in a competitive division? Is Cutler the reincarnation of Jeff George or is he something more than a big arm?

Prediction: 10-6

Fantasy Sleeper: Marion Barber

Minnesota Vikings

In hindsight, the Brett Favre interception that ended the Viking’s 2009 season was a prelude of things to come. The Vikings started 2010 with the Favre saga. Prominent Viking players flew to Mississippi and pleaded with Favre to secure his return. Then we found out Favre had a penchant forlechery. Next we found out that he was completely washed up. Panic ensued. The Vikings acquired Randy Moss only to realize he too was washed up. In the end, creepy Brad Childress lost his job, Brett’s streak ended, and somebody named Joe Webb was under center.

The top storyline leading into 2011: Can Donavon McNabb redeem himself and bring the team back to contender status? Doubtful. McNabb’s leash will certainly be longer than the one he wore in Washington. Minnesota wants rookie QB Christian Ponder to develop along the sidelines and unless the team tanks, he will remain there. The Vikings lost Sidney Rice to free agency and did not replace him with a viable deep threat option. If McNabb stumbles, defenses will focus on locking down Adrian Peterson and essentially stifle offensive production. The team’s offensive fate hinges on McNabb and that’s a dicey proposition especially since the team cut future Lipitor Spokesman OT Bryant McKinnie. Defense is Coach Leslie Frazier’s specialty and he’ll have his workcut out for him. The loss of Ray Edwards, who served as a nice compliment to Jarred Allen further complicates his work. I think its going to be a long season in Minnesota , one where the lack of a stadium and rumors of a Los Angeles move dominate storylines.

Prediction: 5-11

Fantasy Sleeper: WR Michael Jenkins

Green Bay

The Packers took it all last year. They didn’t always look the part but they peaked at the perfect time. Aaron Rodgers is a statistics machine. As long as the team provided him with a modicum of protection, he delivered. Rodgers did this despite the fact opposing teams keyed on him and ignored the Green Bay running attack after Ryan Grant’s injury. Pair that with all-pro Clay Matthews and dominate force BJ Raji and you find yourself holding theLombardi.

Green Bay enters 2011 with a target on their backs. The team has questions along the offensive line and Charles Woodson is a little long in the tooth. They’re playing what should be the most competitive division in the NFC, and both the Lions and Bears made improvements. That said, the Packers have stars in the right places, a top notch QB, great receivers, a fantastic pass rushing duo and great veteran leaders. They’ll make another run at theNFC Championship.

Prediction: 11-5

Fantasy Sleeper: WR James Jones

Detroit Lions

The Lions finished 6-10 last season and struggled to keep key players healthy. The team has come a long way from the Matt Millen days. Calvin Johnson is a force of nature on the offensive side of the ball as is Suh on the defensive side. However, Javid Best and Matthew Stafford couldn’t stay healthy and the team continued to struggle.

The health of Matthew Stafford and Javid Best will continue to be a point of concern for the Lions in 2011. Shaun Hill is a quality backup but he’s not going to get you many wins in this division. The team added depth on both sides of the ball by drafting DT Nick Fairley and WR Titus Young. There’s a lot for Lions fan’s to get excited about but should do so with trepidation. Stafford has given no indication from previous years he can stay on the field. Also, Detroit lacks a quality secondary. The team’s pass rush may inspire fear, but the secondary will not. I think they’re headed in the right direction, but 2011 isn’t going to become a breakout year for the long tortured franchise.

Prediction: 7-9

Fantasy Sleeper: WR Titus Young

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