Asinine Football Analysis: NFC North Preview
Welcome back to our 2014 season preview of NFL teams that you love, hate to love, and love to hate. Asinine Analysis is here to give some fans hope and other fans a face mask penalty back into reality.
When it comes to setting up divisions, no one is more erratic than the NFL. This is a sports league that has pulled the pin on its divisional organization time and again, and can never get it right. When the NFL and AFL originally merged in 1970, the Atlanta Falcons found themselves in the NFC West. Sure, they may be a little west of the East Coast, but not as far west as, say, the 49ers. It’s 44 years later and things are a little bit better in divisional organization, but almost all divisions could be tweaked some more except one.
That one perfect division is made up of our next targets: the teams of the NFC North.
Record: 8-8. The sad thing is that Jay Cutler went down, was replaced by Josh McCown (who at one point went to the UFL because no one in the NFL wanted him), and the Bears still kept winning and losing equally. Is McCown that good? Is Cutler that bad? Is Marc Trestman truly The Quarterback Whisperer? This season should answer all of those questions.
The Good: The Bears’ receiving corps is filthy. It won’t matter that their offensive line still can’t protect Jay Cutler. He can pretty much heave it into the air after a two-step drop and someone will catch it: Marshall, Jeffery, Bennett, Forte, Trestman, whoever.
The Bad: The Bears defense is still ridiculously awful. They stole Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings, so the pass rush should be better. Allen may even give them insight into what makes A.P. tick. But the NFC North is all about throwing when it comes to any team not named the Vikings. The Bears need all the points they can get. Again.
The Ugly: If backup quarterback Jordan Palmer is anything like his older brother Carson, the Bears may have the most depth at the position of whiny quarterback. I can’t wait.
Record: 7-9. After blowing out the Packers on Thanksgiving, the Detroit Lions believed they had already won the Super Bowl and dropped the remaining four games of the season. Considering the Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, maybe they thought the Turkey Day game is just as good as the Super Bowl.
The Good: It is believed that Calvin Johnson has finally drained all of the fluid from his knee after three years. This means more of the same ridiculous catches that he has been known to make, but he will finally be able to replace that sideline operating table with a real bench.
The Bad: The coach of the Detroit Lions is Jim Caldwell. You may remember Jim from his days as coach of the Indianapolis Colts, when Peyton Manning was out-coached by Sean Payton in Super Bowl XLIV. Unfortunately, Matthew Stafford is not Peyton Manning, in leadership or throwing ability.
The Ugly: I’m pretty sure the only building still standing in Detroit is Ford Field. If this team doesn’t win a playoff game soon, even that backhanded honor may prove false.
Green Bay Packers
Record: 8-7-1. If you ask a Packers fan what went wrong last season, you might hear the name “Rodgers” mumbled over and over again between fits of sobbing. Yes, they barely made the playoffs, but I’m pretty sure Rodgers was still in a sling in the wildcard game against the 49ers.
The Good: It really doesn’t matter who is in the receiving corps for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers is going to make every one of them look like a Pro Bowl receiver at some point during the season.
The Bad: Half of the division has caught on to the Packers game plan. Nobody can stop the offense, so they’ve gathered up just as many weapons. So every Packers game has at least 20 “go get it” bomb passes. These games would be better decided by who has fewer interceptions, not more touchdowns.
The Ugly: Aaron Rodgers has been photo-bombing my dreams, and I can’t take it. Olivia Munn used to be a fine excuse for admitting that you watched a ten-second clip of the movie Magic Mike over and over again. That’s right. Constantly.
Now all those late-night fantasies feature Aaron Rodgers’ head popping through a window like an annoying sitcom neighbor, and I hate him for it.
Record: 5-10-1. You know what a tie means? It means that you were so conservative that, instead of throwing the ball around and trying to win a game, you ran Adrian Peterson up the middle over and over again in order to punt the ball and play field position. It’s the type of game plan that makes you think, “Hey, we should pick up a more versatile offensive coordinator!” Yeah, well, more on that later.
The Good: The city of Minneapolis can finally rejoice. The Metrodome is dead! Yeah, it’s nice to have a giant, inflated ceiling so your football team can play without being buried in ten feet of snow, but the Metrodome looked like my grandmother’s vinyl toilet-seat cushion in the 80s. I’m sorry, Grandma. Your toilet-seat cushion was prettier. It wasn’t yellowing.
There’s also some guy there named Adrian Peterson who runs or something.
The Bad: It’s a good thing that Adrian Peterson knows how to run, because the rest of the Vikings offense seems to be made up of players whose sole purpose is to make giving Purple Jesus the ball over and over and over again an easy decision. The Christian Ponder experiment is over with him demoted to third-string behind Matt “I held Tom Brady’s Clipboard” Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater.
The Ugly: Usually a team picks up a new offensive coordinator to inject a new wrinkle or two into their game plan, to give defenses a little something they haven’t seen before.
And then there are the times that a team picks up Norv Turner. Luckily he’s not the head coach, but what was the point of Norving up the Vikings? He chased away LaDainian Thomlinson from the Chargers and was with the Browns when they gave away Trent Richardson because they thought Willis McGahee had about three touches left. The only thing Norv Turner knows how to do is trade down in the running back category and slow a game to the point that your tight end is your #1 receiver.
I wouldn’t be surprised if All Day shares carries with rookie Jerick McKinnon because Norv thinks, “They’ll never suspect it.”
Patrick Emmel is a sports humorist who once punted a soccer ball fifty yards to his teammate, who then scored the only goal for his college intramural soccer team’s season. Seriously, that kick was placed PERFECTLY. He is also still a believer that Colt McCoy is going to break out as an NFL quarterback. You can read more of his obnoxious commentary at This Jeer In Sports and heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.