NFC North Preview: Packers are unanimous choice to repeat

Discussion in 'Green Bay Packer Football' started by Da-news-now, Sep 9, 2017.

  1. Da-news-now

    Da-news-now RSS Reporter Reporter

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    By BOB McGINN

    The Green Bay Packers are used to being the favorite in the NFC North. After all, they’ve won the title five times in the last six years.

    There have been two truly dominant forces in the 50-year history of the Black and Blue Division.

    From 1968-’79, the Minnesota Vikings of coach Bud Grant won 10 titles in 11 years, including a record six in a row.

    From 1984-’90, the Chicago Bears of coach Mike Ditka won six titles in seven years, including five in a row.

    Now come the Packers of coach Mike McCarthy, who in the last eight years have finished first five times and one game behind in second place three times.

    In a poll Thursday of four executives in personnel, the Packers were a unanimous choice to repeat as division champions.

    “They’re the class of the division with one of the top quarterbacks in the league,” said one personnel man. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that having a franchise quarterback means success.”

    Is Green Bay an easy pick?

    “Now they’ve got to play,” one executive said. “As it is today, yes, but you know anything could happen.

    “The Packers have an explosive offense combined with skilled defensive coaching. They have enough talent on the offensive line to combat the Vikings’ pass rush. The Lions have offensive firepower but their defense is going to hurt them.”

    The Lions were picked to finish second on three of the four ballots whereas the Vikings drew one second-place vote. The Vikings drew a second, two thirds and a fourth. The Bears were forecast to finish last on three ballots and third on another.

    Each executive assigned a final record for each team. Green Bay received an average of 11.75 victories compared to nine for Detroit, 7.75 for Minnesota and 5.5 for Chicago.

    Under coaches Marc Trestman (2014) and John Fox (2015-’16), the Bears have finished last three years in a row. With another fourth-place finish, they’d equal the record of four held by the Chicago teams of coaches Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron from 1997-’00 for consecutive last-place finishes in the history of the Central and North division.

    “They’re not a good team,” said one scout. “I have them 0-8 at the bye. That wouldn’t be good for leadership.

    “They may pull the cord on (Mike) Glennon after Green Bay (Sept. 28) and then go with the young guy (Mitchell Trubisky). In a perfect world you’d like to sit him for a year. But there will be way too much pressure not to play him.”

    McCarthy is 3-1 against Chicago’s John Fox and 4-2 against Detroit’s Jim Caldwell and Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer. In 11 seasons McCarthy is 50-17-1 (.743) against the division, including 18-4 vs. Detroit (.818), 16-6-1 vs. Minnesota (.717) and 16-7 vs. Chicago (.696).

    The Vikings interrupted the Packers’ title streak in 2015 by winning on the final day of the season at Lambeau Field. The Bears’ last division title came in 2010, a year in which the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl as a wild-card playoff team.

    Detroit has been looking for a division crown since 1993. Twice under Caldwell, the Lions needed to beat Green Bay in the regular-season finale to break the streak but lost, 30-20, at Lambeau Field in 2014 and lost, 31-24, at Ford Field last year.

    “Their new front office has used every option available to put this team together,” one executive said of a personnel department led by general manager Bob Quinn for a second year. “The hard work will pay dividends. They’re pushing the Packers for the division title.”

    The Lions rank as the youngest team in the division with an average age of 25.77 years. It’s the first time that’s happened since at least 1995, when opening-day data became available.

    Detroit and Minnesota are tied for the division lead in rookies with 10, including seven draft choices and three original undrafted rookies. Green Bay has nine rookies on its 53 (two undrafted rookies) and Chicago has just five (one undrafted rookie).

    “Detroit’s more talented than you want to give them credit for,” said one scout. “Only thing you worry about is the health of their defense. Last year, with a healthy Matt Stafford, you never know what might have happened. If he didn’t hurt his finger (Dec. 11) Green Bay might not have been able to catch them.”

    The Lions have 21 players on their opening-day 53 that weren’t on their 53 or injured reserve a year ago, compared to 20 for the Bears, 18 for the Packers and 17 for the Vikings.

    Minnesota and Chicago each have nine new starters, Detroit has six and Green Bay is expected to have six as well.

    “I think Minnesota’s Achilles’ heel once again will be the offensive line,” one personnel man said. “If (Sam) Bradford takes as many hits this year as he did last year, I don’t see him making it through the season.

    “What they do well is rush the passer. Last year was a step backward. They didn’t shut teams down with as much frequency as they needed to last year. Two years ago, absolutely they did. They have all the talent to be a top-five (defense).”

    The NFC North, which posted the fifth-best record (30-34) among the eight divisions last year, is matched against the NFC South and AFC North this year. In 2016, the NFC South (33-31) ranked fourth and the AFC North (26-37-1) ranked seventh.

    The only division to qualify at least two teams for the playoffs in seven of the last eight years is the NFC North.

    On the other hand, the NFC North and the AFC South are the only divisions without a Super Bowl representative in the last six seasons.

    “I think the Packers are a very, very good team,” said one scout. “But until you’re winning the whole thing you really can’t say you’re a dynasty. The only team you can mention the word ‘dynasty’ with is New England.”

    WHAT SCOUTS SAID

    Several executives in personnel sized up the NFC North teams in interviews this week. Here are excerpts:

    CHICAGO BEARS

    “It all starts with the defense. They invested heavily there. They revamped their secondary. All four guys are new. Marcus Cooper can’t run. I think Quintin Demps is done. Eddie Jackson has looked OK. He’ll be a very solid player. Smart.” … “Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd have to step up as rushers. Roy Robertson-Harris is going to surprise. He can come off the edge. I like his athleticism and length. They’re going to need (Pernell) McPhee to (play). He’s got creaky knees.” … “Defensively, that Floyd is a bad man. I think the light turned on for him the second half of last season and it’s not gone off. He’s going to be a highly disruptive player. Their front seven is probably as good as anybody’s in the North.” … “You worry about the secondary. They’ll be better at safety with Demps and the rookie from Alabama (Jackson). The corners have to prove it to me because they’re going to be challenged. Cooper is a solid player. If you got him you’re happy, but you don’t ideally want him as your starter. The (Kyle) Fuller kid looked pretty healthy so I think he’ll be the starter when it’s all said and done.” … “Hicks has shown things this preseason that really want to make you a believer.” … “They have a solid offensive line that will compete.” … “What hurts them is Cameron Meredith getting hurt (knee). But they have three legitimate tight ends, including two starters. The rookie (Adam Shaheen) isn’t too far behind them.” … “Kevin White has to step up in a big-time way. They can replace Meredith. He was a security blanket for the quarterback. We’ll see what Kendall Wright adds. They’ve got three receivers. Right now that’s (Markus) Wheaton, Wright and White.” … “The kid they signed from Tennessee (Wright) had a good preseason and I think he’s going to do well for them.” … “The quarterback (Mike Glennon) is not bad. I think they should take their time with (Mitchell) Trubisky. I wasn’t a big fan of his but he’s going to be a real good player.” … “I’m sure they are pleasantly surprised by Trubisky, who will wind up starting at some point during the season. If you can hold off playing him you do. You play the older vet. His movement in the pocket is questionable. Does he have enough accuracy downfield?” … “The defense should take a step this year. But a quarterback controversy by mid-season will distract and doom the season setting the franchise record for futility.” … “Jordan Howard will be the pounder where Tarik Cohen will be an effective third-down back. He is short at 5-6 but he is a tough little sucker. You’ll see him as a third-down back.” … “They’ve got some running backs that can really tote it. That Cohen kid is going to be like Ameer Abdullah. More of a niche-type skill player.” … “They’ll play good defense but will spend too much time on the field.”

    DETROIT LIONS

    “We all know it revolves around the quarterback. I’ve always liked Matthew Stafford. He’s got feet, accuracy, escapability. Jake Rudock stinks.” … “When Matt Stafford is healthy he can throw with anybody. That offense is going to be pretty good.” … “Matthew Stafford can make every throw but will also force any throw at any time. The Lions will score but struggle to defend the pass and the run.” … “You hope that Greg Robinson can hold up at left tackle. He should be able to. Is left tackle his position? I guess we’ll find out the first five weeks. He’s probably a better right tackle. Taylor Decker was a pretty good player.” … “They acquired Ricky Wagner to be a right-side protector. (Travis) Swanson is back and you’ve got Graham Glasgow and T.J. Lang. Behind them they’re just average.” … “Offensive line is better than it was.” … “Eric Ebron has to stay healthy. Darren Fells is OK.” … “The key for this bunch is they have to be able to run the football a little bit to take some pressure off Stafford. When Ameer Abdullah is healthy he’s not bad. Theo Riddick is fine. Zach Zenner is dime-a-dozen.” … “I like Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. One of the stars of training camp was this Kenny Golladay. T.J. Jones is just a fourth or fifth receiver. Jared Abbrederis gives you some veteran presence and return ability as the fifth receiver.” … “They’ve taken some hits on the defensive line losing (Kerry) Hyder and Jordan Hill. It’ll hurt their rotation. Hyder hurts them.” … “A’Shawn Robinson probably has stepped his game up. Ziggy Ansah has the talent to be a double-digit sack guy but he’s got to stay healthy. Haloti Ngata is aging. Cornelius Washington is just a guy. Akeem Spence is OK. He’s lost a little twitch. They’re going to have to be creative here on how to get pressure. I really don’t like any of their young D-linemen.” … “Will Ezekiel Ansah rush the passer like he did two years ago? Losing Hyder doesn’t help. Ngata was a good re-signing. A’Shawn Robinson needs to grow up in Year 2.” … “I like (Jarrad) Davis. He’s eventually going to be the leader of this bunch. It will take him a while to establish credibility within the locker room. He’s a run-and-chase guy. I thought his preseason was average. The other two are just guys: (Tahir) Whitehead and (Paul) Worrilow. They do fit the scheme. Jalen Reeves-Maybin is an athletic, undersized, run-around guy.” … “That linebacker from Florida (Davis) is a good player. You’re going to hear his name a lot this year. He brings a physical presence and can run sideline to sideline. They haven’t had that. Even (Stephen) Tulloch, the kid they had a few years ago, wasn’t as athletic as this kid. Detroit got a lot faster at linebacker.” … “Their secondary is quite an interesting collection of players. There’s nothing to really get cranked up about. It’s a middle-of-the-pack secondary. (Darius) Slay is good. (Nevin) Lawson is OK. He’s heady. I like that about him. I don’t think (Miles) Killebrew has it. Teez Tabor looked slow. I don’t think he trusts his eyes.” … “I don’t think (Jim) Caldwell will get fired. They’ll have like a 7-9 season. Can their defense hold up? Can they run the football?”

    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    “They’re led by what I think is the best quarterback in the NFL. He can do anything that he wants with the ball. He sees everything. His eyes and his physical traits are his greatest strengths. Anything is possible at any time with him. (Brett) Hundley grew as the preseason went along. He’s capable of being the backup.” … “I think the quarterback is extremely focused, more so now than he’s been in some time. Even if Aaron Rodgers is in a funk, like he has been to the outside world, he still plays good enough to win every game.” … “They have three very good receivers. Jordy (Nelson) and the quarterback are on the same page and Davante Adams should have a break-out season.” … “You complement them with the addition of Martellus Bennett, who will be a success in that offense. They’re very deep at tight end. The quarterback has a lot of weapons.” … “Ty Montgomery is a very nice fit for that offense. He’ll be able to run the ball effectively. He’ll be a mismatch on third down. Then you’ve got to hope one of the three young guys steps up his game. Devante Mays is the one that kind of caught my eye because he can do so many things. He’s got the best talent of the three.” … “The front five has to stay healthy. Jahri Evans has enough size to hold up. I think that’s what they asked for. Big guys to set the pocket on the interior. Can his legs hold up for 16 games? After that, they need Jason Spriggs to make a meteoric climb.” … “Biggest thing for them is the production from the defense, particularly the secondary and the outside linebackers. Can they rush the passer? Can they create turnovers? Can they sack the quarterback?” … “They’ll have to rotate five defensive linemen. Quinton Dial will help them. Montravius Adams hopefully can play a little bit and get up to speed.” … “They thought they needed some upgrades at outside linebacker. They got Ahmad Brooks and Chris Odom, which I think are two fine additions. Ahmad Brooks is going to surprise a lot of people this year. If there’s a weakness in the linebacker corps it’s the two inside positions with (Blake) Martinez and (Jake) Ryan. They don’t scare me. We all know that Joe Thomas is a nickel linebacker.” … “Clay Matthews is getting up there with age. He’s a high-maintenance guy. That’s why you go and acquire an Ahmad Brooks. To alleviate stress off him.” … “Here we go. The secondary will be the issue. I think the second-round selection of Kevin King was a good one. Now he’s got to play. Davon House, Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall must prove they can hold up. Josh Hawkins is athletic but he can’t tackle to save his life.” … “Their safeties are fine. I think you have to get Josh Jones in the dime package close to the line of scrimmage. They haven’t had a safety with a degree of athleticism like that since Nick Collins.” … “Mason Crosby is very steady and very comfortable with Brett Goode as his snapper. I think (Justin) Vogel will be a middle-of-the-road punter.” … “Everyone’s chasing them in the division. The window is getting closer and closer for some of their players.”

    MINNESOTA VIKINGS

    “Major additions to the offensive line along with the addition of one of the top running backs in the draft (Dalvin Cook) should help the ground game and also help protect (Sam) Bradford within the pocket, opening up the vertical passing game.” … “The quarterback can run the offense but is not a playmaker.” … “They have the best defense in the NFC North. To me, that’s a no-brainer. I think they constructed that defense to combat the skill set of the Green Bay Packers. They’re fast, long, big.” … “I’d say the weak point of the starting 11 is Trae Waynes. He needs to improve. (Xavier) Rhodes is a good starter. Terence Newman comes in and adds veteran presence. Tramaine Brock could possibly help them in nickel. Andrew Sendejo is a very under-appreciated starting strong safety.” … “Waynes is OK. You’re not seeing him as a No. 1 shutdown guy. Ideally, you’d like him as your No. 3.” … “The front four is really good. (Danielle) Hunter is on his way to a break-out season. Linval Joseph is a hard man to block. He’s got pass-rush skills. Tom Johnson is a little bit underrated. He comes to play every day. Everson Griffen and Hunter really can apply some pressure. The five backups add to the rotation. Sharrif Floyd has (bad) knees.” … “They have a rookie starting at linebacker in Ben Gedeon. He has a great nose for the football. Very tough. He’s always in the right position at the right time. Eric Kendricks is very fast and Anthony Barr is a really good strong-side linebacker.” … “Will the revamped offensive line hold up? They acquired Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. Now they’re starting a rookie at center, (Pat) Elflein, who is a tough, rugged player. They put in Nick Easton after releasing Alex Boone. I think Easton will be fine. (Joe) Berger is a steady Eddie guy. They’ll battle you. The key component will be the tackles. I’d take Reiff over Remmers. If they have to go to the backups it could be a long (season). (Rashod) Hill is an accomplished pass protector but struggles in the run game. (Danny) Isidora and (Aviante) Collins are works in progress.” … “I think Elflein will be a good starter but he’s not there yet.” … “Surprisingly, I like the wide receivers. Adam Thielen, to me, he just gets it done. The key component is Laquon Treadwell. He needs to display he can live up to his first-round billing. His lack of speed will always hurt his ability to get off press-man. Stefon Diggs is pretty good but in the San Francisco game (Aug. 27) he had four dropped balls. Don’t forget about Michael Floyd. He’ll come back after that (four-game) suspension and give them a boost. The tight end, Kyle Rudolph, is steady.” … “Last year Sam Bradford did admirably. He’ll be head and shoulders better than he was last year. He’s going to need a run game. That’s why you acquire Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook. Murray is an erect inside runner. He runs too high. Cook has a chance to be special. He’ll be a matchup nightmare.” … “Case Keenum is all right. He’s a band-aid guy you fit in there.”

    The post NFC North Preview: Packers are unanimous choice to repeat appeared first on Bob McGinn Football.

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  2. TW

    TW Moderator

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    I believe the Packers probably have the best chance of anyone, of winning the division, simply because they have Aaron Rodgers at QB.

    As far as coaching, McCarthy and most of his staff are on a par with the coaches in the division, but when it comes to a defensive coordinator, and system, we fall behind. It's only the offense, with Rodgers, that makes us the better team.

    The analysis, by McGinn, is excellent. He's one of the best out there when it comes to doing his research. I just wish I wasn't one of those people who's reached a point where they refuse to pay another nickel for more content. I don't pay for any additional services.
     
  3. eyecatcher

    eyecatcher Member

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    I disagree on the McGinn analysis. He shines up the other teams in the division while knocking down the team he is a beat writer for. Maybe by lowering his expectations and being negative all the time it will make him feel better if they fail or maybe it's reverse psychology but whatever it is I find it overly pessimistic.
     

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