NFC North DIVISION 2009 FOOTBALL PREVIEW
Life is a struggle during these troubled times in the Motor City.
It’s sad when the biggest selling souvenir on Sundays at Ford Field during the football season these days is a paper bag. That’s because the Lions’ football team is deeper in the tank than the auto industry.
It’s nothing that renewed fan support and a few wins can’t fix. The same holds true for life and times in Chicago, Green Bay and Minneapolis where life in the bitter cold NFC NORTH DIVISION is froze on hold, awaiting a shot in the arm anytime soon.
Here is my take of teams in the NFC North DIVISION for 2009.
Coming up next: the NFC South DIVISION
Team Theme – CUTTING EDGE
Two years removed from losing SBXLI, the Bears will take the field in 2009 with renewed hope. It comes in the person of Jay Cutler, the Pro Bowl QB who fell into Chicago’s lap courtesy of a love affair gone-bad in Denver. Although Cutler won just half of his games at Denver, he possesses tremendous physical skills and will be a QB on a mission in 2009. It doesn’t hurt that the Bears have the league’s softest schedule, facing opponents with a combined win percentage of just .414 last season. A strong draft bolstered an already staunch rush defense. As a result, head coach Lovie Smith is all smiles. However, in order to get back to 2006 form, the Bears will need to begin outstatting opponents on the playing field, where they are 9-23 ‘In The Stats’ since the 2006 Super Bowl. PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite vs. Minnesota (12/28)
Team Theme – MOTOWN TRANSFUSION
These are tough times in Detroit. The mayor was jailed, the auto industry is crumbling and the Lions are the latest inductee into the NFL Hall of Shame. A disgraceful 0-16 season last year signaled a new era in Motown. Some say it was simply a bad case of the MMMM’s, with GM Mike Millen (31-84), and coaches Rod Marinelli (10-38), Steve Mariucci (17-31) and Marty Mornhinweg (12-20), being the main culprits.
New head coach Jim Schwartz, the defensive coordinator with the Titans the last eight years, arrives looking to pump new blood into a team on life-support. Like so many other new coaches on the NFL scene these days, Schwartz was also an assistant with Bill Belichick in Cleveland. Like General Norman Schwarzkopf, who lead our troops in Saudia Arabia in 1986, let’s hope Schwartz comes with a defibrillator. This team needs wins like a heart needs beats. PLAY ON: as a home dog vs. Green Bay (11/26)
Team Theme – MORE CHEESE PLEASE
Like a racehorse who predictably bounces off a big effort, the Packers found that life without Brett Favre is like macaroni without the cheese -the taste just isn’t the same. A precipitous drop from 14 wins in 2007, to 6 last season, confirms the notion.
Fortunately for Green Bay, it resides in one of the league’s weakest divisions where there is no clear-cut choice as a “team to beat” in 2009. This year’s schedule finds the Packers taking on teams that finished the 2008 campaign with an accumulative .428 win-percentage, the third-softest in the league. Despite a disappointing 6-10 record as a starter in his first season as Favre’s replacement, QB Aaron Rodgers put up strong numbers when he tossed for more than 4000 yards and 28 TD’s. Like a cheese soufflé, Rodgers helped himself well while warming up in the oven and appears ready for stardom. If new DC Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense takes hold, the Pack should be back in 2009. PLAY ON: vs. Tampa Bay (11/8)
Team Theme – RUN FOR THE SOUL
There is an axiom in the NFL that is consistently good as grandma’s chicken soup. Namely…
you run the ball and you stop the run, you win the game. It’s just that simple. It’s precisely why Minnesota’s win totals continue to climb under head coach Brad Childress. Adrian Peterson, the top running back in the NFL, keeps the Vikings in every game they play. That’s why they are 14-6 the last twenty games when they outrush an opponent. Having a rush defense that refuses to yield (Minny allows less than 71 RYPG under Childress) does the same. Childress realizes he is going to need better production from the quarterback position if his team is going to be taken seriously. To that extent, new QB Sage Rosenfels is an upgrade over Tavaris Jackson, but he’s certainly not a savior. In a division that is up for grabs, look for the Vikes to outrun the opposition to the finish line. PLAY AGAINST: vs. NY Giants (1/3) – *KEY as a favorite
Note: Marc Lawrence is a 30-year veteran handicapper. He finished No.1 in the nation (88-63 +25.7 Net Units) in MLB during the 2007 season as documented by Sports Watch in Las Vegas.
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