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NFC North Analysis

The NFC North could very well be the toughest division to win in 2004.  That doesn’t mean that they will have the best teams in the NFL, it’s just that previous division winner Green Bay didn’t do much to improve and the rest of the teams did.  Minnesota hopes it found a WR to play along side Randy Moss.  Chicago has a healthy Marty Booker and finished the 2003 campaign looking strong.  Detroit could easily be the most improved team in the NFL, adding 2 top offensive rookies and free-agent WR Tai Streets.  All this adds up to what promises to be an exciting year for this division.

 

 

Green Bay Packers (2003 Record: 10-6, Lost in division round 20-17OT)

 

The Packers are coming off their second straight division title, but have disappointed in the playoffs.  This past season they lost a heartbreaker to Philadelphia in OT, remember the Freddie Mitchell 4th and 28 play?  Ouch!  So this offseason we’re left asking many questions of this team.   How many more seasons will Brett Favre play?  What happened to Donald Driver in 2003?  Will Ahman Green be able to stand the punishment as he attempts to rush for 2000 Yards? 

 

Added

QB Tim Couch (Cleveland)

DB Mark Roman (Cincinnati)

 

Lost

P Josh Bidwell (Tampa Bay)

DT Gilbert Brown (released)

DB Antuan Edwards (Miami)

 

Draft

1.25 CB Ahmad Carroll (Arkansas)

3.07 CB Joey Thomas (Montana State)

3.09 DT Donnell Washington (Clemson)

3.24 P BJ Sander (Ohio State)

6.14 DT Corey Williams (Arkansas State)

7.50 C Scott Wells (Tennessee)

 

Overall Outlook

Obviously the Packers believe they have enough weapons on offense to make another run at the playoffs.  Backup QB Tim Couch was the only significant addition to this squad.  I expect Green Bay to have another very good season, but has one of the other teams done enough to steal the division crown away from them?  The answer is yes, I do not see the Packers winning the division this year and Minnesota is ready to move into that spot.  Projected Record:  10-6

 

 

Minnesota Vikings (2003 Record: 9-7)

 

The Vikings have arguably the best Quarterback/Wide Receiver duo in Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss.  They also have a bevy of Running Backs to choose from including Michael Bennett, Moe Williams and Onterrio Smith.  If only they could find a second WR to take the pressure off of Moss, can you imagine what potential firepower this offense could generate?  Well they very well could have found that second WR in free agent Marcus Robinson.  Robinson showed that he was back from his injury at the end of last season and replaces D’Wayne Bates as the #2 WR in Minnesota.

 

The Vikings chose to focus on their defense in the draft taking a couple of studs early in Kenechi Udeze and Dontarrious Thomas.  Add them in with last season’s draft picks Kevin Williams and EJ Henderson and this could be a defensive unit to fear for years to come.

 

Added

P Darren Bennett (San Diego)

DT Steve Martin (Houston)

WR Marcus Robinson (Baltimore)

CB Antoine Winfield (Buffalo)

 

Lost

WR D’Wayne Bates (released)

S Jack Brewer (released)

DT Fred Robbins (NY Giants)

DE Talance Sawyer (released)

DB Denard Walker (released)

 

Draft

1.20 DE Kenechi Udeze (Southern Cal)

2.16 LB Dontarrious Thomas (Auburn)

3.25 DE Darrion Scott (Ohio State)

4.19 T Nat Dorsey (Georgia Tech)

4.23 RB Mewelde Moore (Tulane)

5.23 LB Rod Davis (Southern Mississippi)

6.19 DB Deandre’ Eiland (South Carolina)

7.19 TE Jeff Dugan (Maryland)

 

Overall Outlook

This team is primed and ready to take over the NFC North.  If they can stay healthy this offense has the weapons to strike the fear in many defensive coordinators eyes.  Look for Minnesota to eke out the Packers for the division title, but lose in the first round of the playoffs.  Projected Record:  11-5

 

 

 

Chicago Bears (2003 Record: 7-9)

Well the Kordell Stewart experiment is finally over.  Stewart lost his job to Rex Grossman halfway through the season and now finds himself backing up Kyle Boller in Baltimore.  Chicago is a decent team, but needs to find itself a Running Back.  Thomas Jones was brought in from Tampa to battle Anthony Thomas for the job.  I don’t see either guy doing well enough to keep the job and the dreaded RBBC will rear its ugly head in Chicago.  Good news is that WR Marty Booker is healthy and is primed for a very good year.

 

Added

RB Thomas Jones (Tampa Bay)

QB Jonathan Quinn (Kansas City)

OT John Tait (Kansas City)

RB Bryan Johnson (Washington)

OL Leander Jordan (Jacksonville)

C Michael Keathley (San Diego)

 

Lost

DT Keith Traylor (New England)

Kordell Stewart (Baltimore)

WR Dez White (Atlanta)

LB Warrick Holdman (released)

G Chris Villarrial (Buffalo)

DE Philip Daniels (released)

 

Draft

1.14 DT Tommie Harris (Oklahoma)

2.15 DT Terry Johnson (Washington)

3.15 WR Bernard Berrian (Fresno State)

4.14 CB Nathan Vasher (Texas)

4.16 LB Leon Joe (Maryland)

5.15 DE Claude Harriott (Pittsburgh)

5.16 QB Craig Krenzel (Ohio State)

7.14 CB Alfonso Marshall (Miami Fla)

 

Overall Outlook

Bears fans, don’t look for too much from your team this year.  Grossman needs to prove he can be an NFL Quarterback.  Thomas Jones is not the answer to their running game problems and they just don’t have enough offense to win ball games.  A .500 record would be a great season, but I think they would be fortunate to repeat the 7-9 of last year.  Projected Record:  7-9

 

 

Detroit Lions (2003 Record: 5-11)

With a young offensive group of Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, rookies Roy Williams and Kevin Jones, along with veteran Tai Streets, this offensive unit could go from bad to great very quickly.  Jones gives them the running game they have missed ever since Barry Sanders retired.  Stud receivers Rogers and Williams will give Harrington plenty to work with.  But the key addition could be G Damien Woody.  Woody will provide veteran leadership to the offensive line and provide the stability to build the team around.

 

Added

QB Rick Mirer (Oakland)

WR Tai Streets (San Francisco)

OG Damien Woody (New England)

LB Brock Marion (Miami)

CB Fernando Bryant (Jacksonville)

 

Lost

QB Ty Detmer (Atlanta)

WR Bill Schroeder (Tampa Bay)

RB James Stewart (released)

DT Luther Ellis (released)

LB Barrett Green (NY Giants)

SS Corey Harris (released)

LB Jeff Gooch (Tampa Bay)

G Eric Beverly (Atlanta)

 

Draft

1.07 WR Roy Williams (Texas)

1.30 RB Kevin Jones (Virginia Tech)

2.05 LB Teddy Lehman (Oklahoma)

3.10 CB Keith Smith (McNeese State)

5.08 LB Alex Lewis (Wisconsin)

6.07 T Kelly Butler (Purdue)

 

Overall Outlook

Detroit is definitely moving in the right direction and may even give the Vikings and the Pack a run for the division title.  But they are still young and will use this season to gel as a unit.  Look out for the Lions in 2005!  Projected Record:  8-8

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