The NFC North is about as volatile as any other division in the entire league. Not only do these teams regularly play in some of the toughest weather conditions once the season gets deep into winter, but the teams themselves are routinely highly irregular and you never know what to expect come the end of the season. And if this preseason is any indication of things to come, we can expect the same to happen with the 2013 season as well.
The Detroit Lions are immerging from the 2013 preseason ahead of the pack with a 3-1 record. They have a legitimate win against New England, in a 40-9 route. The Lions also looked impressive in their other two wings, against the Jets and the Bills. However they could hardly get their offense going in a 24-6 loss to Cleveland. For the last few years, the Lions have had a few studs that are trying to captain each side of the ball. Matthew Stafford is trying to remain among the recognizable quarterbacks in the league, especially with Megatron as a prime target to throw to. However, he has been injury prone dating back to his days at Georgia, and its uncertain as to how this year will shape up for the young QB. That said, Lions fans are ready for success and they are ready now. Its amazing that just a few years ago the Lions were one of the worst teams in the league, and now the entire city has playoff expectations with regularity. On defense, On defense, the Lions are lead by Ndamukong Suh, that is, when he isn’t suspended or not playing. Ndamukong is a heck of a player, but there is some maturity that he is still working on learning. The Lions came up short of expectations last year, especially after a great season just two years ago. However, fans will hope that the success in their preseason will carry over and this could be the year they make a run deep into the playoffs.
Continuing on the theme of frustration, Chicago Bear fans understand what those in Detroit are going through. They too have a great quarterback and receiver combo with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, as well as a perennial defense that is tough year in and year out. However, Cutler and Marshall both have their issues, on and off the field. The Bears finished the preseason 2-2, with wins over San Diego and Oakland, but loses against Cleveland and Carolina. If there is any positive inclination of their loses, they were relatively close games and their second and third string players looked good during the contests. Fans in Chicago are expecting a great year from the Bears this year. But some still question Cutler’s drive and ability to win in the clutch. If the Bears don’t get off to a hot start, you can expect changes to happen that could shake the entire look of the NFC North.
It has to be frustrating to have the best player in the NFL, and yet continually be a mediocre team that fails to succeed. The Minnesota Vikings can certainly attest to this frustrating. What is there to say about the Vikings? They have Adrian Peterson, who is not only talented, but a good figure to represent the NFL in general. When he suffered an injury at the end of the 2011 season, no one would’ve expected him to come back and have the type of season that he did last year. The truth is, it doesn’t look like anyone can stop Peterson on offense. The question is, however, whether or not the Vikings have enough other pieces set in place to make them a legit contender. With a 1-3 preseason record, even with the best player in the league, the Vikings could be looking at a year at the bottom of the NFC North. This is especially true if Christian Ponder and other players on the Vikings don’t step up and provide the support that Peterson deserves.
The Green Bay Packers had better hope that their preseason woes aren’t a sign of things to come for this upcoming season. Unlike some other teams in the division, the Packers don’t have the comfort of having a rebuilding year at this point in the game. After winning the Super Bowl just two years ago, Packers fans expect Aaron Rodgers and company to compete and succeed week in and week out. Unfortunately the Packers compiled a lowly 1-3 record this preseason, with loses to Arizona, Seattle and Kansas City. Their one win came against St. Louis in a 19-7 effort. The Packers are especially intriguing because of how they played last year. They didn’t dominate the regular season like some expected, but they were still there in the thick of things during the playoffs. However, they were stunned in the playoffs by the New York Giants. Aaron Rodgers has assured cheese-head nation that he is ready to go this year, but we wont really know for a few weeks at least. Winning the Super Bowl just two years ago, the Packers still have a huge target on their back, which means they’ll get the best of each team that they play on a weekly basis.
The NFC North is a great division to watch, loaded with tons of football talent. That said, because each team plays each other multiple times throughout the year, some of the teams can find themselves towards the bottom of the standings before they blink an eye. This year will be a tough year for the NFC North, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the team that wins this conference made a run for the Super Bowl during the playoffs.