The NFC North: One Of The Best Divisions In Football?




For years, the NFC north has been considered the dinosaur division of the NFL. When the NFC central division included the Buccaneers, the Black and Blue division was more like the Boring and Bland division. The NFL's founding franchises all reside in this division, and the perception is that they still handle business the way they've done since their birth, never coming out of the dark age.

The Packers went to consecutive superbowls in the late 90's, but slipped into mediocrity during the turn of the century, despite having a three time MVP in Brett Favre. The Packers became a good team, but not great. they were the best team in the worst division, and the result was an inflated winning record.

The Minnesotta Vikings had Great success in many forms. They had a great defense with Tony Dungy as defensive coordinator, but no offense. later on, they had a top notch runningback in Robert Smith and receivers to boot with Carter, Moss, and Ismail, a rejuvenated Randall Cunningham, and even a kicker, who was an MVP candidate in Morten Anderson. Still, they Slid into sucktitude. With all the offense in the world, the Mike Tice era defense couldn't stop an ant from scoring.

The Lions had Barry Sanders, but not even the second greatest runningback of all time, nor talented WRs Herman Moore and Brett Perriman could stop the Lions from losing. It got worse down the road when Matt Millen invested big money in first round busts such as Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Shaun Rogers and Mike Williams. it got even more worse when the lions tumbled their way to an 0-16 record.

The Bears were just plain bad. No stars and bad coaching was pretty much the tone of the 90's The front office was in shambles, most notably when they traded a first rounder for Rick Mirer. They started to come around after drafting guy's like Walt Harris, Brian Urlacher, And Mike Brown. But eventually, failure to develop draft picks like Cade McNown, Curtis Enis, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman, and Cedric Benson, and Mark Bradley caught up with them, despite a superbowl appearance in 2006.

In recent years, however, this division started picking up major steam. the past three seasons has produced three different division winners. the only other divisions that has done that are the NFC East and NFC South, two divisions that are widely regarded as the best divisions in the league. So why does that mean the north can be one of the best divisions in the NFL, much less getting better? Quite simply three reasons: the amount of talent that's been pumped into the teams over the past few seasons, changes in management or philosiphy, and changes to coaching. let's take a look at each team in this divison and apply those reasons.

Chicago Bears 9-7 in 2008 second place in NFC north

NOTE: finished one game short of making the playoffs Pro Bowlers:lance Briggs Head Coach: Lovie Smith

The Bears were an average sometimes underachieving, sometimes overachieving team in 2008. Games they should have won, they lost and vice-versa. Coach Smith has decided to take over play-calling duties for his inconsistint defense that ranked 21st in total yards allowed. Smith has seemingly struck gold by adding longtime companion Rod Marinelli as the defensive line coach. General manager Jerry Angelo pulled of the biggest trade since Herschel Walker to the Vikings by trading away two first round picks and Kyle Orton to the broncos in exchange for Jay Cutler. Cutler gives the Bears Arguably the best QB in the division, perhaps the second best in the conference behind Drew Brees. the team is Highlighted by such defensive stars such as Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Tommie Harris. The offense has Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Cutler, and recently acquirred Orlando Pace.

Green Bay Packers 6-10 in 2008 Third place in NFC north

NOTE: led the NFC north until losing five straight games Pro Bowlers: Charles Woodson, Al Harris Head Coach: Mike McCarthy

Much like the drama over his counterpart in Chicago, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers faced scrutiny in the offseason after being anointed starter after Brett Favres retirement and unretirement from the Packers. he responded by throwing for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns to 13 ints. The Packers have undoubtebly the best passing attack in the north and their running game with Ryan Grant is able to pick up the slack. their defense is the issue of concern, however. they ranked 20th in YPG. GM Ted Thompson brought in Dom Capers to lead the defenses transition to 3-4, while NFL legend Kevin Greene was hired to coach the outside linebackers. Well known players on this team include Rodgers, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Grant on offense. The defense includes Aaron Kampman, A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, and Al Harris,

Minnesota Vikings 10-6 2008 NFC North division champions

NOTE: Lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Philadelphia Eagles 26-14 Pro Bowlers: Adrian Peterson, Steve Hutchinson, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, Antoine Winfield Head Coach: Brad Childress

The NFC north champs had an up and down season in 2009. Most of it involved the benching of Tavaris Jackson in favor of Gus Ferotte, only for Ferotte to go down and jackson regain his job. Newly acquired Free agent Bernard Berrian, a deep threat at receivers, but couldn't provide consistintcy through the air. The special teams was horrid, as they gave up an NFL record seven touchdowns. Other than that, Adrian peterson displayed why he is the best runningback in the game today, and the defensive front four set the tone for a defense that ranked 6th in total yards allowed. The Williams Wall however, may be in trouble for alleged banned supplement the wake of Matt Birks eparture, wheather or not the Vikings can fix the QB position with Jackson or Sage Rosenfels, who they traded a 4th rounder for, remains to be seen. Notable offensive players include Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Visante Shancoe, Hutchinson, Bryant McKinnie and Bernard Berrian. On defense, there's Jared Allen, Pat and Kevin Williams, E.J. Henderson and Antoine Winfield.

Detroit Lions 0-16 in 2008 fourth place in NFC north

NOTE: Traded away Roy Williams for a first round pick before the trading deadline Pro Bowlers: None Head Coach: Jim Schwartz

The Detroit Lions seem to be rebuilding on a yearly basis. this year is a greater sense of urgency after the Lions became the first team in NFL history to finish 0-16. There are many reasons the Lions went winless in 2008. Take your pick. The leagues worst defense, the QB shuffle that included Jon Kitna, Drew Stanton, Dan Orlevsky and the unretired Daunte Culpepper, the midseason firing of General Manager Matt Millen, to the inexperience of Rod Marinelli's coaching staff. Who you can't blame it on, is WR Calvin Johnson, who caught 12 TDs, 78 catches and over 1,300 yards. To catch those many receptions from so many QB's is a clear indicator that CJ may be the best WR in the division, maybe even the conference, which boast some of the leagues best wideouts like Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith. The Lions traded to get Julian Peterson to form a formidable tandem at LB with Ernie Simms. they also picked up Bryant Johnson, who could be a solid number 2 wideout, and Kevin Smith had a solid rookie season at tailback. But the real key to the Lions sucsess will be the number 1 pick in the draft. They have build around their best player who without question, is Calvin Johnson. The choice should be QB or OL. They also have another first round pick from the Cowboys, and it wouldn't hurt to look at defense either. Offensive Players of note are Calvin Johnson, Bryant Johnson, and Kevin Smith. On defense, there's Julian Peterson and Ernie Simms.

<em>This FanPost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.</em>

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