Hey, everyone! I know that you usually tune in for my political/social commentary (by the way, the Chronicle has blessed me with a new column, named “Freedom and Fiene” and I can’t wait to sink into it!), but I am a huge Cheesehead. With the NFL kicking off this weekend, I wanted to give a sneak peek into my expectations for the Black and Blue Division.
Green Bay Packers (13-3)
With the #1 quarterback in the league, the Packers stand to make another Super Bowl run. The additions of cornerback Davon House and rookie cornerback Kevin King bring a much-needed boost to the league’s 31st-ranked pass defense. 3 rookie running backs join Ty Montgomery in the backfield, with Jamaal Williams looking to be the change-of-pace back. Martellus Bennet and Lance Kendricks more than compensate for Jared Cook, lost to free agency.
Despite scares from Minnesota and Detroit in their home fields, the Packers will sweep the division. Close losses against Pittsburg, Atlanta, and Dallas will be bitter, but Packers fans can R-E-L-A-X with a much-improved defense and even more deadly offense. A No. 1 seed is not outside the realm of possibility.
The Lions seek to bounce back from their early dismissal from the playoffs last year and have taken steps to upgrade their defense. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is recovering from an injury and Ameer Abdullah remains to be a question mark, despite Ansah’s prior dominance and Abdullah’s undeniable flashes of brilliance. The biggest upgrades for the Lions come in the signing of T.J. Lang and drafting of Jarrad Davis.
Dropping both games against Green Bay and a season split against Minnesota doom Detroit’s division crown hopes but will claim a Wild Card spot. Key victories against Pittsburg, Arizona, Carolina, and Baltimore will solidify their standing in the playoff hunt. A potential tiebreaker would be a loss to the New York Giants and another against Tampa Bay, with Atlanta being the final loss.
Minnesota Vikings (9-7)
The Vikings have continued to invest in their defense and will remain the best in the division. Unlike last year, there will be no mid-season collapse, but there will be no early domination, either. Knife-edge wins against New Orleans and a season split against Detroit will keep the Vikings outside Wild Card hopes alive.
While not a return to Purple People Eaters fame, the Vikings will ride their strong defense and potent offense to victories against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Chicago twice, Cleveland, Baltimore, LA Rams, Cincinnati, and Detroit.
Chicago Bears (3-13)
Da poor Bears. It’s not too often that a Packers fan feels sorry for the Monsters of the Midway, but the NFL really hosed the Bears this year. The Bears defense is middling and the offense can be serviceable, but the real drama will center on the Mitch Trubisky-Mike Glennon controversy. Management has said publically many times that Glennon is the guy. Will the fans’ pressure Fox to yank Glennon for Trubisky?
The Bears will get a home win against San Francisco in Week 13, their first, and will rattle off their three wins in the last four weeks. The others will be against Cincinnati (the Bears are due for a road win, right??) and Cleveland. They will get swept by the rest of the division.
I’ll post another after Week 9 as a midseason evaluation. Go Pack Go!