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“NFL Week 11 Predictions”

In the game of the week, Tom Brady (pictured above on the left) and Peyton Manning (pictured above on the right) go to battle in New England. Which super quarterback will lead his team to victory?

The NFL Season is nearing the final quarter of play.  No team has been a dominant force and most divisions are still up for grabs.  All of the insanity will begin to become clearer over the next couple of weeks.

The Bears continue to win behind an anemic offense.  The supposed best team in the NFC (the Giants), looks to redeem itself after getting smacked around by one of the NFC’s worst.  Michael Vick is playing like an MVP.  Plus the Oakland Raiders are tied for first place in the AFC West.  Wow is all I have to say.

Here is a look at the Pick’em Scoreboard.

TheSportskraze:    80                     CV3:  84

I still got a way to go to catch up with CV3’s expertise.

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Bills at Bengals:  Two of the AFC’s worst lock horns in Cincinnati.  Cincinnati is still kicking itself after another gut wrenching loss last Sunday.  The Bills are breathing a sigh of relief after finally joining the  one or more win club (not a very prestigious group).  Look for Cincinnati to demonstrate the potential that everyone envisioned this year with a brutal beating of Buffalo in front of the home crowd.  Also expect the Bengals to run all over Buffalo’s terrible run defense. Bengals by 13 at home.

Lions at Cowboys:  This is an intriguing game between a pair of 2 win teams.  The Lions have lost 5 games by 5 or fewer points this year.  They have shown big time potential and the Shaun Hill to Calvin Johnson connection is dangerous.  The Cowboys on the other hand played inspired football last Sunday under their new coach.  Look for more of the same this week as the Cowboys continue to show the League “What could have been.”  Cowboys by 9 at home.

Redskins at Titans:  Both of these teams are coming off getting whooped last week.  Both squads have been extremely inconsistent and hard to figure out.  Well the difficulty continues this week as I got to the Skins upsetting the Titans on the road by 3.  This will be one of the better games of the week, but expect Washington to stack the box and somewhat contain Chris Johnson.  Also expect Washington to  make the big play when they need it.  Skins by 1 on the road.

Cardinals at Chiefs:  The Cardinals are in the midst of a 4 game skid.  Well expect the streak to be at 5 after Sunday.  Arizona has been a mystery to me all season.  Sadly for the Cardinals, the Chiefs are coming off of two tough losses and plan on pounding the rock all afternoon against the Cardinal’s weak defensive unit.  Expect the Chiefs to run wild at Arrowhead on their way to a 8 point victory.

Packers at Vikings:  Before the season, this was definitely a date circled on most NFL fans’ calendars.  Another shot to watch two big time teams match up, with a plethora of underlying storylines.  Unfortunately, Minnesota has been an absolute circus this year and this game does not really hold a whole lot of meaning towards the playoffs.  Brett is struggling with injuries and the pass rush attack of Miss Jenn Sterger.  Expect the struggles to continue as the Cheeseheads complete the regular season sweep of the Vikes.  Packers by 6.

Texans at Jets:  These are two very quality teams.  Though the Texans do not have the most glamorous record, they are still a very dangerous team that will be in the playoff picture come Week 16 and 17.  The Jets are coming off a gut wrenching win in Cleveland where they had to pull out all the stops.  Good teams can win even when they do not play all that well.  The Jets are a very good team.  I expect their overall balance to be too much for Houston as the Texans stumble to 4 and 6.  Jets by 3 at home.

Raiders at Steelers:  Who would have foreseen this game in September involving two teams tied for first place in their divisions?  I will state that I definitely did not.  I would have expected to find the Raiders in the cellar and the Steelers clawing their way back into the AFC North race due to a rough start without their quarterback.  I was wrong.  These two teams are the real deal.  Oakland lives on running the ball with authority and doing a great job at defending against the pass.  The Steelers clog the run better than any team in the League and just flat-out win.  Well expect the Steelers to win this week by 6 at home.

Ravens at Panthers:  Baltimore heads to Carolina to take on perhaps the worst offensive unit in the League.  Well expect Carolina’s offensive woes to continue with Brian St. Pierre under center.  Who is Brian St. Pierre you ask?  Try a 30-year-old quarterback from Boston College, who has played in 2 total NFL games and attempted 5 passes.  Now I will state that 2 of these 5 passes were completions.  How is John Fox going to pass over Tony Pike to start this guy?!  Good luck playing with a stay at home dad against Ray Lewis and the Ravens.  I fully expect Baltimore to drill the Panthers in every facet of the game.  Ravens by 14 on the road.

Browns at Jaguars:  Cleveland has proven itself a team to be reckoned with over the past month.  Though they have only won 3 total games this season, they have beaten both the Saints and the Patriots.  Not to mention they had the Jets on the ropes last week.  Cleveland can play.  The victories will come behind their strong rushing attack.  Look for the Brownies to upset the Jags on the road by 3.

Buccaneers at 49ers:  The NFC’s “Best” team heads into San Francisco to take on the suddenly hot 49ers.  Tampa Bay is one of those teams that really does not do anything especially well.  They have just found ways to win.  And in all honesty, the W’s are the only stat that matters.  This week unfortunately, I do not see them finding a way to win.  San Francisco is finally beginning to gel like many thought they would, and will secure their first 3 game win streak of the season on Sunday.  49ers by 1 at home in a very exciting game.

Seahawks at Saints:  Seattle heads to NOLA to take on Drew Brees and the dangerous Saint’s aerial attack.  This is not an opportune time for Seattle to be heading to New Orleans.  The Saints look to be regaining their Super Bowl swagger from a year ago and are hungry to catch the division leading Falcons.  Expect Drew Brees to absolutely shred the Seahawks weak secondary on the way to a 10 point victory at home. 

Falcons at Rams:  Atlanta appears to be the NFC’s top team.  They have handled their business in a more consistent fashion than any other team in the conference.  Plus Roddy White has been absolutely exceptional.  Well expect that trend to continue against a much improved St. Louis team.  St. Louis normally is a great run stopping team, but sadly the Falcons also have a very strong passing attack.  Falcons by 6 on the road.

Colts at Patriots:  This is a matchup that I have anxiously been waiting to see for some time now.  Manning vs Brady.   You know you are in for a classic every time these two guys line up against each other.  This time will be absolutely no different as both look to make a statement to the rest of the AFC.  The difference in this one will be New England’s inability to defend against the pass.  Even though the Colts are beat up, I am giving them the nod over Brady and the boys by 3 on the road.

Giants at Eagles:  A big time NFC East battle in the Sunday Night Game.  Who will take sole possession of first place after this one?  Though the Eagles have looked much better in recent weeks, I got to go with the G Men.  New York was embarrassed last week in losing to the abysmal Cowboys.  Plus the Eagles  put on possibly the best offensive performance we have seen the entire season.  Vick will continue to play great, but after every high comes a low.  Look for the G Men to steal this one by 1 in the city of Brotherly Love.

Broncos at Chargers:  This is definitely not your typical Denver team.  They do not run the ball.  They do not defend against the run.  What is going on in Denver?  The Chargers on the other hand sport a very balanced offensive attack and also boast a very strong defensive resume.  Look for the Charger’s overall balance to be too much for Denver as Phillip Rivers leads San Diego to a 7 point win at home.

CV3 Picks:

Cowboys over Lions by 14 (New look Cowboys)
Titans over Redskins by 3
Chiefs over Cardinals by 10
Vikings over Packers by 3 (Home field Advantage)
Jets over Texans by 6
Steelers over Raiders by 4 (Slugfest)
Ravens over Panthers by 18
Browns over Jaguars by 4
Falcons over Rams by 1
Saints over Seahawks by 14
Bucs over 49ers by 6
Eagles over Giants by 3 (Michael Vick Experience)
Chargers over Broncos by 9
Bengals over Bills by 6 (Ugliest game of the week)
Patriots over Colts by 3 (Game of the week)

So there you have the picks for Week 11.  The week is highlighted by the outstanding quarterback duel in Foxborough between Brady and Manning, and  the Sunday Night Game matchup in Philadelphia.  This game should be an absolute thriller between the Giants and Eagles as they contend for NFC East supremacy.

Can I begin to catch CV3?

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

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“NFL Week 9 Predictions”

Can the two-headed Chad Ochocinco and TO Show finally provide Cincinnati with the marquee victory they have been waiting for?

The NFL regular season is already half way over.  Hard to believe, but true nonetheless.  Randy Moss got traded, then cut, then passed up on by 21 teams.  Now he is a Titan.  Shawn Merriman was cut, then picked up by the worst team in the NFL, the Bills. The Cowboys and Vikings have a combined 3 wins between them.  The Chiefs and Raiders sit atop the AFC West.  And Brett Favre is making headlines for some dirty off the field business (okay that is not surprising).

This is why the NFL is the most exciting and parity filled professional sport we have in America.  Talk about an unpredictable first half.

Here is how the Pick’em scoreboard currently reads as we head into the 2nd half of the season.

TheSportsKraze:  65                          CV3:  70

I got some serious catching up to do..

TheSportsKraze:

Buccaneers at Falcons:  Two of the NFC’s best go to battle in the ATL.  Look for Roddy White to have a field day as the Falcons demonstrate NFC Supremacy by 7 at home.

Bears at Bills:  Da Bears vs the Bills.  This Bills team has lost 2 straight overtime games.  Well the 3rd time will be a charm as they finally notch one in the win column.  Bills by 1 at home.

Patriots at Browns:  The Patriots look to possibly be the elite team in the AFC again.  Maybe Moss was cancerous?  It will not matter in this one as the Patriots win by 10 at the Pound.

Jets at Lions:  The Jets are looking to make up for a very poor effort last week.  Outside of a couple of big plays for CJ, this game will not be close.  Look for the Jets to win on the road by 10.

Saints at Panthers:  The Panthers offensive ineptitude is scary in all aspects.  Look for the Saints to move to 6 and 3 with a 7 point victory on the road.

Dolphins at Ravens:  Miami is a tough team.  But the Ravens are tougher.  Look for Baltimore to ride their wide array of offensive weapons to a 7 point home victory.

Chargers at Texans:  Both of these teams made major realizations last week.  The Chargers realized that they should be winning and the Texans realize just how tough it is going to be to steel the AFC South from Peyton and Co.  Well sadly for the Texans, this week is not any easier as Phillip Rivers and the Chargers continue to figure out the winning formula.  Chargers by 3 on the road.

Cardinals at Vikings:  Neither of these teams have really shown much promise in any facet of the game.  I do like the Vikings at home by 6 with or without #4.

Giants at Seahawks:  The G Men are looking to make it rain in Seattle.  These are two teams heading in very different directions.  Matt Hassleback is in for a very long day against the Giant’s intimidating D-Line.  Giants by 10 on the road.

Colts at Eagles:  If I were the Eagles, I would fly away.  Peyton and the Indy Boys finally look to be getting in gear.  The hot streak will continue with a 13 point victory in the fighting city.

Chiefs at Raiders:  This is an absolutely intriguing matchup with much at stake.  Who would have imagined saying that 2 months ago?  Both of these teams can really run the ball with authority.  The only difference is KC can actually stop the run too.  Chiefs by 3 on the road in a great game.

Cowboys at Packers:  The Cowboys outside of Dez Bryant have been horrific in every way.  Though the Packers are beat up physically at many positions, they will have no trouble handling a dysfunctional Dallas team at home.  Cheeseheads by 10.

Steelers at Bengals:  What a Monday Night Thriller this will be for the people of Cincinnati.  This is a game that could make or break the Bengals entire season.  And true to my city, I got the Who Deys providing another Monday Night gem of a game that shocks the country.  The Bengals get up for this one and put on a dazzling show with a 1 point victory over the hated Steelers.

CV3 Picks:

Falcons over Bucs by 10

Bills over Bears by 3

Pats over Bowns by 7

Jets over Lions by 5

Vikes over Cards by 3

Saints over Panthers by 14

Ravens over Phins by 7

Chargers over Texans by 6

Gmen over Seahawks by 10

Chiefs over Raiders by 3

Pack over Boys by 14

Colts over Eagles by 10

Bengals over Steelers by 1- C’mon Bengals

This is really a great slate of games.  Who will reign supreme in the AFC West?  Can the Bengals save their season?  What a weekend of NFL Football this will be.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NFL Week 5 Predictions”

All eyes will be on Number 4, Brett Favre (pictured above), for a change on Monday Night Football. Can he come up big with his new star target Randy Moss?

The NFL regular season is already a quarter of the way complete.  Hard to believe, but true.  Teams are starting to flash their true colors and people are starting to separate the contenders from the pretenders (sort of).

In the pick’em challenge, the scoreboard reads as follows:

TheSportsKraze:  38                CV3:  37

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Jaguars at Bills:  The Jaguars are coming off an amazing win in which they hit a 59 yard field goal as time expired to shock the Indianapolis Colts.  I will admit I am still shocked that the Jaguars won this game.  The Bills continue to struggle with stopping the run and are in search of their first win.  Well this is their week.  Home field advantage means a lot in the NFL and I expect Jacksonville to fall hard after such a great high they experienced last week.  Bills will surprise the Jags by 3 at home behind a big day for CJ Spiller.

Buccaneers at Bengals:  The Who Deys are coming off of a disastrous loss at in state rival Cleveland.  The Buccaneers looked solid in their first two games, but were absolutely molly whopped by the Steelers in their last game.  The physical nature of the AFC North proved to be too much.  Though the Bengals have struggled all year, I do expect them to take care of business at home.  Maybe Chad and TO can each play well on the same day?  Also this looks to be a day where Cedric Benson can get back on track with some smash mouth running against a Tampa team that struggles to stop the run.  Bengals by 7 at home.

Falcons at Browns:  Atlanta will fly into the Pound on a 3 game winning streak. The Brownies may still be excited about their big win in the Battle of Ohio, but sadly this week, the Falcons are going to shred them apart.  Look for Atlanta’s extremely balanced offense, led by Matt Ryan, to have a field day both passing and running the ball.  I got the Falcons by 9 on the road.

Rams at Lions:  The Rams are 2 and 2.  Yes, 2 and 2.  I will admit that I have picked against them every week.  And sadly, I am going to pick against them for a 5th straight week.  The Lions are a team that has been very close to winning in 3 of it’s 4 contests.  Well this is the week where they notch one up in the win column.  Look for Calvin Johnson to reel in a couple of TDs and for the Lions to win a shootout by 6 at home.

Chiefs at Colts:  Do you know who the lone undefeated team in the National Football League is?  I will give you a hint.  Their home field is in Kansas City and they once had a star running back by the name of Priest.  But this is a team that has lived on a smash mouth rushing attack offensively, and a great defense against the run.  They have not been too good at passing the ball or defending against the pass.  But their rushing attack, led by the 2 headed monster that is Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones has been simply outstanding.  The Colts on the other hand have struggled to stop the run all year, as they are off to their worst start in recent memory.  So all directions would say to pick the Chiefs monster rushing attack to run over the weak Colt’s defense right?  Wrong.  Do not expect a Peyton Manning team to fall under 500.  I got the Colts by 6 at home.

Packers at Redskins:  There is one major statistic in this game that will be the differentiating factor.  The Redskins are 31st in the League at defending against the pass.  Do you know who Green Bay’s quarterback is?  Look for a monster day for Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers as Green Bay takes one in the nation’s capital.  I got the Cheesesheads by 10 on the road.

Bears at Panthers:  Can the Bears redeem themselves after an embarrassing performance on Monday Night Football by their offensive line?  Honestly, I am not sure.  But I do know that the Bears defense against the run can be flat-out scary at times.  And with a young quarterback in place in Carolina, the Panthers will continue to rely heavily on their ground attack.  Sadly, they will not be able to muster up enough offense to beat Da Bears.  I got Chicago by 3 on the road in a very lackluster game.

Broncos at Ravens:  The Edgar Allen Poes are coming off their biggest win of the season in which they took care of business against the divisional rival Steelers.  Can the Ravens continue to fly against a 2 and 2 Denver team?  Well this matchup pits the number 1 passing team in the League (Denver), against the number 1 ranked defense against the pass in Baltimore.  Talk about an exciting scenario.  Great defenses normally prevail over great offenses.  The Broncos have still not really developed an identity as they play great one week, then awful the next. I got the Ravens winning by 9 at home.

Giants at Texans:  What a performance the Giant’s defense put on against the Bears on Monday Night.  It was quite the show and brought back memories of the Giant’s Super Bowl Team back in 2007.  Sadly for the Giants, they now take on a team that is one of the League’s elite in rushing and passing.  Matt Schaub can rely on the run if the Giant’s pass rush becomes too much.  Too many weapons offensively for the Texans.  I got Houston at home by 7.

Saints at Cardinals:  The defending Super Bowl Champs head to Arizona to take on the NFC West leading Cardinals.  The Saints are struggling offensively without Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.  Luckily for the NOLA boys, they are taking on a Cardinal’s team that has not been able to stop any offense through the air or on the ground all season.  I got the Saints gutting out a tough road victory due to the amazing poise and intelligence of their quarterback, Drew Brees.  Expect a patented Bree’s two-minute drill to win this one.  Saints by 7.

Chargers at Raiders:  In an old school AFC West rivalry, San Diego heads to Oakland to take on a Raider’s team that has suffered two very tough losses in a row.  Believe me, San Diego will show no sympathy.  The Charger’s balance offensive attack will prove too much for the Raiders to handle as Rivers demonstrates a his great arm, and lets his tandem of running backs, Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews shred a weak Oakland defense against the run.  I got the Chargers by 10 on the road.

Titans at Cowboys:  Tennessee heads to Dallas for a rendezvous with Cowboy Nation.  The Titans have been extremely hard to understand this year with their lack of consistent play.  This is a very unusual for  Jeff Fisher led team.  The Cowboys are coming off of their bye week and looked revitalized the last time they took the field, when they smashed a formerly undefeated Texans team.  Expect more of the same in this one.  The Cowboys are just too talented not to make a run at the playoffs.  Look for Dallas to contain Chris Johnson on their way to a hard-fought 6 point victory at home.

Eagles at 49ers:  Philadelphia takes on a highly disappointing 49ers sqaud.  This was a San Francisco team that many picked to win the lowly NFC West and make a run in the playoffs.  Well that has not happened thus far.  Could this be the day where they finally leave the League’s “defeated” ranks?  I think it is.  Look for Frank Gore to make a statement in the Sunday Night Game and for Patrick Willis and the boys to take advantage of a Michael Vickless Eagle’s squad.  49ers by 3 at home. 

Vikings at Jets:  What a matchup this is.  You got the “Return of the Moss” in Minnesota.  And wouldn’t you know his first game with his former team is the Monday Night Game.  Other than last week, the MNF slate has been outstanding and hasn’t disappointed anybody.  Well expect another great one tonight.  Minnesota’s main weakness this year other than Favre’s inability to take care of the ball has been a weak passing attack in general.  Well Moss could be just the medicine the Vikes need.  Either way, I got the Jets winning this time on the bright lights by 3 at home.  Expect an awesome game.

CV3 Picks:

Jaguars over Bills by 3- The Bills are a struggling team and they are not very good at defending the run. MJD is averaging almost 4 yards a carry and if Jacksonville plans well this game belongs to them. They are the better team and should beat the Bills.

Falcons over Browns by 7- The Browns are on a high after a rare win. They will now be brought back down. The Falcons will not make the same mistakes that the Bengals did and will handle the Browns, no matter how much Hillis rushes for.

Rams over Lions by 1- The Rams are on the rise and are beginning to gel. They also have a very stingy defense. The Lions have been able to move the ball very well lately but they make more mistakes than anyone in the league. These mistakes should limit the Lions on offense and defense. 

Colts over Chiefs by 7- The Colts are at home and are not happy coming off of a division loss. Peyton should stop the Chiefs surprising run of 3 straight victories. I don’t think the Colts will be shocked again. 

Packers over Redskins by 6- With the Packers having a better defense than the Redskins and both having pretty even offenses, I go with the Pack. Aaron Rodgers will outperform the elder McNabb who has nothing special to play for this week after beating the Eagles last week.

Bears over Panthers by 10- The Panthers have a lot more to build before they can win a game this season, especially against the high powered Bears. The Bears new offense will be too much for the Panthers to handle.

Saints over Cardinals by 10- The Saints have not completely gelled yet this season but they have too many weapons for the Cards to handle. The Cards have won two games against lower level teams and been dominated by good teams. The Saints are a good team that will roll.

Texans over Giants by 3- This should be a close game but the Texans are a good team, solid on offense but they give yards through the air. This could be a shootout but the game will end close.

Cowboys over Titans by 7- The Boys are fresh coming off of a bye and have had two full weeks to prepare for this game. They will get to .500 after this week and begin a roll towards making the playoffs. They have all of the right pieces and once they put them all together they will be dangerous.

Raiders upset Chargers by 3- The Raiders have not beat the Chargers in their last 13 games. However, the Raiders can now run the ball and stop the pass. This is my upset pick for the week.

Ravens over Broncos by 3- While the Broncos seem to be passing at will and the Ravens cannot get anything going on offense, you would expect the Broncos to just outscore the Ravens. However, the Ravens can run the ball and the Broncos cannot. The Ravens will also have a good defensive game plan to stop the pass. The Ravens are at home and remind me of the 2006 Steelers. Just barely getting by, but getting by.

49ers over Eagles by 6- With Vick gone it will be tough for the Eagles to win the game. San Fran should get their first victory in this by limiting Kolb in Vick’s absence. 

Jets over Vikings by 6- Randy Moss will not go off against the Jets this time. They will be prepared for the Vikings passing game. If they can hold AP they should be able to limit the Vikings in this one.

Bengals over Bucs by 6- Bengals will limit mistakes and be able to outscore the Bucs bruising run game. I don’t know the exact statistic but when Benson gets the ball 25+ times they are hard to beat. Go back to the run Bengals and make some big plays in the passing game.

So there you have the picks for Week 5.  It should definitely be a dandy capped off by an awesome Monday Night matchup.  You got to love the NFL.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NFC North Preview”

Aaron Rodgers was once Brett Favre's understudy as shown in this picture. Then Aaron took Brett's spot as the Packers quarterback and is now trying to take Brett and the Viking's spot atop the NFC North.

 To finish off my division by division breakdowns, we have the NFC West.  This division has become a  two headed monster.  There are two very good teams at the top, one mediocre squad, and a very weak team at the bottom.  When Brett Favre officially announces his return, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later, the Vikings and Packers will begin duking it out for divisional supremacy.  Lets get ready to rumble in the NFC North.

 NFC North:  Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings (alphabetical order)

 Detroit Lions (4th place):  Detroit’s suffering will continue for at least another year.  This team has only won 2 games over the course of the past two years and has not won more than 7 games in a season since the year 2000.  It has been a brutal last 10 years.  Well expect this year to be pretty typical for the Lion’s faithful.  This team had the worst defense in the League last year and an almost equally as bad offensive attack.  Lots of weight will placed on 2nd year quarterback Matthew Stafford.  Can he live up to the lofty expectations?  Calvin Johnson is one of the best receivers in the game.  It is a shame that the Lions cannot really give him another solid receiver to play alongside.  Guys like Dennis Northcutt and Bryant Johnson have not been able to cut the mustard.  From a rushing standpoint, they still have Kevin Smith, who will hopefully be fully recovered from a devastating Week 14 ACL tear (last season).  They also have rookie Jahvid Best.  Do not expect too much from this duo though due to lack of an offensive line.  Defensively it gets worse.  There is really not one player of note on the entire unit other than recently drafted Ndamukong Suh.  Lions’ fans better pray this guy gets signed, lives up to the hype, and is ready to be an instant leader for this team on the defensive side of the ball.  That is a lot to ask of a rookie.  Do not expect the Lion’s

to win more than 5 games this year.

Chicago Bears (3rd place):  Da Bears!  Yes Chris Berman is in the Hall of Fame, but the Bears still do not have the look of a contender sadly.  No matter how excited Chris Berman can get people when talking about the boys out of the windy city, the team is not ready to be a force yet.  The Bears have not been to the postseason since 2006, and do not count on that streak ending this year.  This team suffered without Brian Urlacher last year defensively, and did not do much with the newly acquired Jay Cutler from an offensive standpoint.  Though the Bears finally added a complement to Matt Forte in Chester Taylor, this does not appear to solve the rushing issues.  This team was near the bottom of the League in rushing yards last year, and though Taylor should help a little, these guys do not really compliment each other well in that they each have a very similar style.  I just hope for the Bear’s sake, conflict does not arise between Forte and Taylor.  The receiving corps has not improved either.  This team is still lacking a number 1 threat for Jay Cutler to use his “super” strong-arm to throw too.  So do not expect this team to put up a flurry of points on a weekly basis.  Defensively, the unquestioned leader is still the man with “swag,” Brian Urlacher.  Urlacher along with Lance Briggs make up one of the League’s best linebacker duos.  Also, the addition of Julius Peppers to the defensive line should make an instant impact.  If Urlacher can stay healthy, expect this team to be much better defensively than they were last year.  The secondary did do a solid job against the pass so hopefully with Peppers rushing the opposing quarterback, their jobs can be even easier this year.  The Bears will be a decent team.  But do not expect them to sneak into the playoffs.  I am predicting 7 or 8 wins due to the lack of offensive stability. 

Green Bay Packers (2nd place):  The Cheesheads may be disappointed with another 2nd place appearance, but count on this team to roll deep into the playoffs.  I have them cruising all the way to the Super Bowl.  It will take this team time to gel and it will help when Favre tires down the stretch for the Vikings come playoff time.  This team is led by a lethal offensive attack.  Aaron Rodgers has become one of the top 5 quarterbacks in the League hands down.  They got a great duo at receiver in the up and coming Greg Jennings and the seasoned veteran Donald Driver.  Hopefully Driver is healthy after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on both of his knees this off-season.  But luckily for the Packers, they have young guns James Jones and Jordy Nelson waiting in the wings.  Not to mention they have a very solid tandem of receiving tight ends in Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee.  I also forgot to mention that though this team lives on the pass, do not sleep on Ryan Grant pounding the rock.  The question is who can complement Grant down the stretch?  Possibly the seasoned veteran Ahmad Brooks or the Florida product DeShawn Wynn.  Offensively, this is the only question mark this team has if any.  Defensively the Packers number 2 defense of a season ago will be led by the linebacking trio of Nick Barnett, AJ Hawk, and Clay Matthews.  This the best linebacking trio in the League in my eyes.  They are young, tough, and very fun to watch.  Lastly, you have 2 very strong veterans in Charles Woodson and Al Harris anchoring the secondary.  Good luck scoring points on these guys.  Neither AJ Hawk nor Clay Matthews has really entered their prime yet.  There is lots of upside.  The Packers have the best combination of offense and defense in the entire NFC. 

Minnesota Vikings (1st place):  This team came up just short of making an appearance in the Super Bowl last season.  They are determined to go one step further this year and bring a Super Bowl title back to the twin cities of Minnesota.  And why shouldn’t they be confident?  They have a great core group of guys returning.  Minnesota also possesses both a great offense and defense.  Last season, the Vikings became a pass first offense.  I think Brett Favre is the only player in the League that could make a team that has the one they call “All Day” (Adrian Peterson) a pass first team.  Brett can still really play and put on quite a show last season.  And I fully expect him to put up great numbers again this year.  Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Bernard Berrian are a great trio of targets for Favre.  All 3 are young and have a ton of upside.  Look for Favre to be slinging the ball all over the field again this year.  My question is will Sidney Rice be healthy?  Either way the passing attack will be lethal.  Then of course the Vikings do have the luxury of handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson, who has the ability to turn any play into a big time play.  If AP starts fumbling again though, who is the next guy in? Ryan Moats or the rookie Toby Gerhart?  This team does not really have a sure-fire compliment for Peterson nor do they really need one.  As long as Peterson stays healthy, it will be paradise in the Minnesota backfield.  Then from a defensive standpoint, this team stops the run with the best of them.  Guys like Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Pat Williams are absolutely outstanding.  They not only stop the run, but they pressure the quarterback early and often.  Then in the secondary, the addition of veteran cornerback Lito Shephard should help turn this unit from average, to pretty good.  Big things will also be expected from the outstanding cornerback Antoine Winfield, and their injury prone safety, Madieu Williams.  All I can say is, watch out, because this Viking’s team will be scary.  Do not be surprised to see this team roll deep into the postseason.

So the NFC North should have a repeat champion in the Minnesota Vikings.  But do not sleep on the Green Bay Packers, who I think could overtake the Vikings come playoff time on their way to making an appearance in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1997.  Both of these teams are very strong in nearly all aspects of the game.  

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze