Football picksJuly 26, 2008

NFL Previews 2008: NFC Central

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:
 
1. MINNESOTA
2. GREEN BAY
3. CHICAGO
4. DETROIT

MINNESOTA
COACH: BRAD CHILDRESS 3rd yr (14-18)
LAST YEAR:  8-8
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS:  1-3
BIGGEST ADDITION: JARED ALLEN   DE
BIGGEST LOSS: TONY RICHARDSON  FB
 
DIRECTION: GOING UP
OUTLOOK: The Vikings could a surprise this season if Jackson continues to develop at QB and Adrian Peterson can stay healthy. Jackson made 12 starts last season and the Vikings went 8-4 in those games, and 0-4 in the rest. So, despite his lack of consistency, there is hope in Minnesota. The strength of this team is the defensive line. No team was able to run on this team at all in 2007. The secondary should be better with Antoine Winfield healthy, as he missed six games last season. So the two keys for improvement lie in the secondary and at QB. If the Vikings can improve meaningfully in at least one of the two areas, they could be playoff bound.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:  9-7

GREEN BAY 
COACH:  MIKE MCCARTHY 3rd yr (22-12)
LAST YEAR:  13-3
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS:  2-0
BIGGEST ADDITION: BRIAN BROHM
BIGGEST LOSS: BRETT FAVRE ?
 
DIRECTION: GOING DOWN
OUTLOOK: The Packers came together as a team in a surprising way last year with a lot of young players coming of age at the same time, and a veteran QB in Favre who had his best year ever. At this time it appears Favre will be dealt somewhere as the Packers have opened the door for the changing of the guard, and it’s time for Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had a big game vs Dallas when Favre was injured midway through last season, but is that enough to speculate he can get it done? The Packers drafted some insurance by selecting Brian Brohm, and that may say a lot all unto itself. Ryan Grant proved to be a big time running back, and a nice mid-season move by the Packers to add a running game to what was strictly a high-octane passing attack. It’s going to be hard to duplicate what Favre did in ’07, but there are still a lot of good players and they should make another playoff appearance.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:  9-7
 
CHICAGO 
COACH:  LOVIE SMITH 5th yr (38-30)
LAST YEAR:  7-9
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS:  2-1
BIGGEST ADDITION: MARTY BOOKER   WR
BIGGEST LOSS: BERNARD BERRIAN  WR

DIRECTION: GOING UP
OUTLOOK: The Bears suffered a very disappointing ’07 campaign after their 2006 Super Bowl run. The answers to the fall were found on offense, where the Bears ranked 30th running the ball and just 27th in total offensive yards. Who is the QB this year? Is it Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton? Lovie Smith doesn’t even know yet. Either way, little optimism is to be had. The defense was injured a lot last season and should be able to keep the Bears in games that the offense doesn’t single handedly lose. It is hard to make progress in this league without either a dominant defense or a Pro Bowl caliber QB, and the Bears unfortunately have neither as the season starts. A breakeven season seems to be the best bet.
 
PROJECTED FINISH:    8-8
 
DETROIT
COACH: ROD MARENELLI 3rd yr (10-22)
LAST YEAR:  7-9
GAMES DECIDED BY 3 OR LESS:  1-1
BIGGEST ADDITION: LEIGH BODDEN  CB
BIGGEST LOSS: SHAUN ROGERS   DT 

DIRECTION: GOING DOWN
OUTLOOK: This Lion’s team has been losing for quite some time now, and the seven games they won last season was the most in the past five years. So is this a team on the rise or are they going to drop back a notch? It is hard to imagine them improving. They traded their best player in Shaun Rogers who was a more than capable pass rusher. It is hard to see where the Lions are going to get pressure on the QB this season. The offense will probaly be less efficient this season without Mike Martz at the helm. Little has changed and the Lions, who have never been to a Superbowl and have been absent from the playoffs this decade, and have won just one playoff game since the late 50s. This team is not going to be taking any of those bad streaks off the board this season.
 
PROJECTED FINISH: 6-10