Mike Ivcic’s NFC North Division Preview & Predictions

include(“../CBB/includes/base_url.php”); ?>

Mike Ivcic’s NFC North Division Preview & Predictions ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>


Welcome to the Ultimate Capper’s NFL Season Preview. Below is the schedule for the division-by-division breakdown for the upcoming season. Also, we’re enhancing our NFL coverage this year with Mike Ivcic’s regular column every Wednesday and a full game-by-game breakdown every Saturday, in addition to our regular features and free picks. The best place for information on the 2013 NFL season is right here at the Ultimate Capper!


AFC West – Tue, 8/13 NFC North – Wed, 8/14 NFC East – Thu, 8/15
AFC South – Fri, 8/16 NFC South – Tue, 8/20 AFC North – Wed, 8/21
NFC West – Thu, 8/22 AFC East – Fri, 8/23 Playoffs – Wed, 8/28

Chicago Bears
Record Last Season: 10-6
Over/Under Win Total: 8.5
Odds to win NFC North: 7/2
Odds to win NFC Title: 16/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 28/1
Outlook: It will certainly be a little different in the Windy City this season, as both Lovie Smith and Brian Urlacher will be conspicuously absent from the Bears sideline. We could have a debate on whether Smith’s firing will be a blessing or a curse for Chicago, but there’s no denying the defense will at least miss Urlacher’s leadership, since injuries limited his on-field performance anyway during his final years. The problem for the Bears is that they’ll be going through a transition period while the other three teams in the division will all be staying the course and expecting to improve or, at the very least, remain consistent with their 2012 performance. The transition likely won’t hurt the offense at all – if anything, an already strong unit should only get better as new head coach Marc Trestman, known for his work with quarterbacks, can help the mercurial Jay Cutler finally perform at the level his talent suggests for a full 16 weeks. The defense, though, is full of either aging veterans or young, unproven talents that will suddenly be forced to contend with some high-powered offenses from the other three NFC North opponents. Couple that with the fact that the North draws the East for their intra-conference matchups, and it just looks like a schedule with too many losses to reasonably expect a playoff berth.
Prediction: 8-8, 3rd place

Detroit Lions
Record Last Season: 4-12
Over/Under Win Total: 8
Odds to win NFC North: 5/1
Odds to win NFC Title: 28/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 50/1
Outlook: The Lions were the 2012 winners of the “Crashing Back to Earth” award, a label distributed each season to a young, up-and-coming team that overachieves slightly because of a weak schedule one year, then gets a significantly tougher schedule the next season and suffers through a very difficult season. The upside, though, is that typically that “rough year” is once again followed by a successful campaign as the young players, now fully recognizing the difficulties of navigating a 16-game NFL schedule for multiple seasons and experiencing the varying emotions that stem from winning and losing, emerge into smart, capable veterans. Welcome to the 2013 Detroit Lions. With Matthew Stafford finally emerging as a stable, often excellent QB and help through the draft on defense, it’s reasonable to expect the Lions to once again be .500 or better. The key to the season (and I can’t believe I’m actually writing these words) could be Reggie Bush. The Lions were woeful at the running back position last year, so if Bush can produce even halfway decent results carrying the ball and remain a threat catching passes out of the backfield, the Detroit offense could easily move into the top five in points.
Prediction: 9-7, 2nd place


Green Bay Packers
Record Last Season: 11-5
Over/Under Win Total: 10.5
Odds to win NFC North: 5/8
Odds to win NFC Title: 6/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 12/1
Outlook: Still the odds-on favorite to win the division simply because Aaron Rodgers is still unquestionably the best QB in the entire NFC. What remains to be seen, though, is just how well he’ll fair without most of the wide receiving corps that emerged as so critical to their Super Bowl championship in February of 2011. Only James Jones and Jordy Nelson remain from that group, so it will be incumbent upon Jermichael Finley to stay healthy and give Rodgers a legitimate tight end threat to keep the passing game productive. Perhaps an alternate option, though, would be to move towards increase the ground game, which is quite possible with the addition of Eddie Lacy to the already solid running back tandem of Alex Green and James Starks. The “running-back-by-committee” approach may serve the Pack well if the passing game does taper off in any way. Meanwhile on defense, the Packers still employ A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams, Sam Sheilds, and B.J. Raji, so the foundation is solid, but the question will be how Mike McCarthy will infuse the plethora of first- and second-year players into the system, and whether that infusion will continue to produce the results that had Green Bay ranked 11th in point yards allowed and points allowed last season. If the Packers D can duplicate those numbers, Lambeau Field will host at least one playoff game again this season.
Prediction: 11-5, 1st place

Minnesota Vikings
Record Last Season: 10-6
Over/Under Win Total: 7.5
Odds to win NFC North: 6/1
Odds to win NFC Title: 22/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40/1
Outlook: Out of all 32 NFL teams, this one is the most difficult for me to project. They have arguably the best individual player in the entire NFL, only it’s at a position that has been reduced in importance significantly over the last decade as the league has become pass-happy. What Adrian Peterson and the Vikings have done, though, is exactly what the Jets did for a couple of seasons – dispel the notion that the only way to win in the “modern” NFL is to have an elite QB. Christian Ponder is, in all honesty, no better or worse than Mark Sanchez, but the formula for him is the same as it was for the Sanchize – run the ball a ton, throw out of play action, win time of possession and field position, and rely on a good defense to win low-scoring games. The problem is that now Minnesota will be playing with a second-place schedule and facing off against elite offenses from the NFC East, making it significantly tougher to repeat last season’s template. Plus, it’s not as if the Vikings defense was elite last season anyway – they ranked 15th in both points and yards allowed – so the script will be that much more difficult against more prolific offenses. After a surprise playoff berth a year ago, this team is due for a bit of a crash back to reality, though there’s definitely still enough here to remain competitive in every game and even pull off a couple wins they probably shouldn’t get. If my projection does actually pan out, I might be able to make the case that this is the best 6-10 team the NFL has ever seen.
Prediction: 6-10, 4th place


include($base_url . “/includes/footer.htm”); ?> ]]>