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Monday, October 22, 2012

Who will win the NFC North this year?

Who will win the NFC North this season?
The correct pick to win the NFC North this season is the Green Bay Packers. Despite being in third place at the time of this writing, the Packers boast the best all-around team in the NFC North. Plus, they have the easiest schedule remaining out of all of the NFC North teams. Those two factors, plus the Vikings' and Bears' regression to the mean, should allow the Packers to win the NFC North for the second consecutive season.


Talent:

In the NFL, the most important position on the field is the quarterback. And the Packers have the best QB in football, Aaron Rodgers. Now, that he has gotten himself back on-track,  the Packers are playing at an elite level, once again.  With Rodgers, and the best wide-receiver group in the NFC North, the Packers' offense is head-and-shoulders above any of the other NFC North offenses. And can single-handedly keep Green Bay in any contest. The Packers' offense is the best unit in the NFC North on either side of the ball.

On the defensive side of the ball, Green Bay is mediocre at best. Still, mediocre is  an improvement over last season's horrible defensive unit. And since Green Bay won 15 games with a horrendous defense last year, there is no reason to think they can't win 11 games with a slightly below average "D" this year.

Chicago has a great defense. And they have carried the Bears to a 5-1 start. But it is an old defense. One that will wear down as the season progresses, I fear. The Bears' offense is OK. QB Jay Cutler is too up-and-down for my tastes. And the o-line is terrible. But Matt Forte is a great running back.

Minnesota has a great running game in its own right. They have the best back in all of football, Adrian Peterson, and a solid o-line. But their passing game leaves a lot to be desired. As they struggle to get the ball down-field. And their QB Christian Ponder, is still learning on the job, as he makes too many ill-advised decisions with the football. Wide receiver Percy Harvin is a stud,      though.

The jury is out on the Vikings' defense. The Vikes have a good pass-rush and run-defense. But their pass-defense is still suspect. They have had the luxury of playing against Blaine Gabbert, Matt Hasselback, Jon Skelton, and  Alex Smith so far this year- not exactly Hall-of-Fame competitors. Once the competition increases, this pass-defense could be in trouble.

Schedule:

After playing their previous three games on the road, the Packers have just four games left  away from Lambeau. Including, trips to all three NFC North rivals. Plus, a contest against the Giants in New York. They have five home games left. And they are all relatively easy games. They host the Jaguars, Cardinals, Vikings, Lions and Titans.

Meanwhile, the Vikings still have road games left at Houston, Chicago, Seattle, Green Bay and   St Louis. Plus, they host the Bears and Packers. Chicago still has games left on the road against San Francisco, Minnesota and  Detroit. The Bears also host the Texans, Packers and Seahawks, all of whom are tough opponents.

Based on their remaining schedule, Green Bay should be favored to win in seven out of their  nine remaining games. So it's definitely possible for the Packers to go 7-2 down the stretch, and finish the season with an 11-5 record. An 11-5 record should be good enough to win the North. Especially, when you factor in the Vikings' and Bears' tougher schedules in the second half of the season.

As you can see, the Packers close the year with five out of their last nine games against fellow NFC North opponents. The Pack dominated this division last season. And, I look, for that to continue this year. They have already crushed the Bears once this year. Which, to date, is the Bears' only loss. If the Packers' dominance over their NFC North rivals continues this year,  Green Bay will successfully defend their NFC North crown this season.

With the best QB and offense in the division, plus an easy remaining schedule, the Packers are poised to overcome their early season hiccups and win the NFC North division. The Vikings will fade down the stretch as their schedule toughens up. Meanwhile, the Bears will stumble to a Wild-Card finish.

Predicted Final NFC North Standings
1. Green Bay 11-5
2. Chicago 10-6
3. Minnesota 9-7
4. Detroit 6-10

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