Throughout the month of August we here at the Sports Script are going to answer the 5 key questions about each division in the NFL. We have gotten together 3 of the Sports Script writers Ricky Valero, Matt Wincherauk & Matt bell to answer the questions. These will lead up to the ultimate reveal of everyone’s prediction for the NFL season. Today we start with the NFC North.
1. Which player needs to step up the most this year?
Ricky: Jay Cutler. He is in a contract year this year for Cutler. He really needs to step up and show that he is worth another big contract.
Matty W: Jay Cutler. What an enigma he has been. He has all the physical gifts a QB can ask for, but he just can’t ever seem to put it together for a season. Cutler has a playoff caliber offense and the same with the defense, so it’s up to him to step it up and lead this team to a much needed playoff berth.
Matt Bell: Matthew Stafford. The Lions signed him to a huge extension over the summer and now he has to go out and prove that he is worth the money. The Lions gave Stafford a nice backfield weapon in Reggie Bush who can catch a ton of passes in the backfield when teams are focused on shutting down Calvin Johnson. Stafford dropped from 41 TD passes in 2011 to 20 TD passes in 2012 and he has to get back to closer to 2011 form if the Lions are going to return to the playoffs.
2. Which coach has the most pressure to win this year?
Ricky: It has to be Jim Schwartz. After a 10-6 season in 2011, with high expectations the Lions finished a dismal 4-12 in 2012. So I think this is a do or die season with Schwartz.
Matty W: Jim Schwartz: Schwartz owns one of the most talented teams in all of football, but there elm is he can’t control them. This was a playoff team just two years ago, but managed to regress without any major losses in personal. If Schwartz cannot regain control of his unruly team, I think he could be gone by the end of the season.
Bell: Jim Schwartz has to be the guy with the most pressure to win as he was lucky to keep his job through last season. Schwartz had a good season 2 years ago taking the Lions to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth, but took a major step back last year with a 4-12 record. Schwartz has changed the entire mentality of the Lions locker room, but if he doesn’t improve on his 22 and 42 record overall he will be out the door this year.
3. Who is the Sleeper player to watch in the division?
Ricky: Jordy Nelson. The loss of Greg Jennings would hurt just about any team in football. But not the Green Bay Packers, they have plenty of talent (Cobb, Nelson & Jones) and Nelson will fill Jennings shoes just fine.
Matty W: Randall Cobb: This is the year where Randall Cobb really breaks out as a star inside receiver. Cobb can do pretty much everything on the field, and now that Jennings moved onto the Vikings, I would expect Cobb to become an even bigger part of the Packers offense.
Bell: Eddie Lacy has been called fat over and over this off season since reporting to camp looking big his rookie year. I’m not buying it, the Packers say he passed all the conditioning test and if that’s the case he’s still the big bruising back. Lacy will look to be the first 100 yard rusher for the Packers in 43 games. He’s a big guy who will flat run over people on his way to the end zone. He’s a 246 lb downhill runner, so he is going to get his touches in the red zone and should be considered a guy to watch for the Packers offense this year as they look to become a more balance offense.
4. Which player means the most to their team’s success this year?
Ricky: Aaron Rodgers – Arguably the best player in all of football has to have another MVP like season. If he isn’t on this team I am not sure they are very good without him.
Matty W: Adrian Peterson: The Vikings last year almost 100% relied on AP, and even though they grabbed weapons like Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, the problem is still Christian Ponder. Ponder will most likely still be as inconsistent as ever, the Vikings will place all their hopes on Peterson, and hope he carries them to another surprise playoff berth.
Bell: Jay Cutler is the guy who will have to carry the Bears not only for the Bears, but also for himself as he’s in the final year of his contract and knows he must perform to get paid next year. It’s already been said the Bears won’t pay him until the end of the year and that will keep the contract distractions away from money during the season. Cutler has weapons now and he’s got to improve on the 19 touchdown he threw last year if the Bears will be successful in this division. The Bears have a solid defense and if they are able to get production on the offensive side of the ball starting with Cutler the Bears will be in the playoffs this year.
5. How will the division play out?
1 Packers (12-4) – They are just way too talented not to finish at the top of this divison.
2 Bears (10-6)
3 Lions (7-9)
4 Vikings (4-12)
1. Green Bay Packers win the division with a 12-4 record. They have the best QB and most well rounded team, no one in the NFC North can touch the Packers this year.
2. Chicago Bears: 8-8
3. Minnesota Vikings: 7-9
4. Detroit Lions: 6-10
1) Detroit Lions 10-6 in a division that will beat up on each other this year the Lions survive behind Stafford, Bush, and Megatron to bring home the division crown.
2) Green Bay Packers 9-7
3) Chicago Bears 9-7
4) Minnesota Vikings 8-8