It is time to wrap up my division by division breakdown. In this blog I will have an overview on the NFC north and west divisions. It was easy to predict the top dogs of these divisions, but that does not mean these divisions will not be highly competitive.
4th Place: Not hard to predict, I have the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have an unproven quarterback in Christian Ponder and in my opinion I thought he was a reach in 2011 draft. RB Adrian Peterson is coming off a major knee injury, but is expected to give it a go in week 1. Peterson might be risking his career if he tries coming back to soon. I believe Peterson Is not 100% and will be limited in the Vikings offense during the season and might have to shut it down completely. The Vikings also struggle in the secondary even though they have agreeably the best pass rusher in DE Jared Allen. I do see Vikings being competitive, but ultimately finishing last.
3rd Place: This was a tough one but I am leaning towards the Detroit Lions. The Lions were everyone’s sleeper pick last season and they did not disappoint. QB Matthew Stafford finally had a healthy season and showed he can be an elite quarterback. It makes life easier for Stafford when you are throwing the ball to the best wide receiver in the NFL; Calvin Johnson. The passing game in Detroit is lights out, but they have no running game. That can become problematic when facing team with a strong front four. The Lions finished 2011 with a defense ranked 23rd. The Lions are talented, but still short a few players from becoming a Super Bowl contender.
2nd Place: This will depend on health, I have the Chicago Bears. The Bears were looking like a very strong team until they faced season ending injuries to RB Matt Forte and QB Jay Cutler. If those two can stay healthy through the course of the season in 2012, then I definitely see the Bears in the playoff picture. The Bears biggest offseason move was acquiring WR Brandon Marshall. Cutler and Marshall will be reunited from when they were teammates in Denver. This will be the first time Cutler will have a pro bowl caliber receiver since going to Chicago and one he is familiar with. The defense will continue to be solid, ignore the 17th rank from 2011. The defense was asked to do too much once the offense had no more fire power. Expect the Bears to be a contender in 2012.
1st Place: Obviously it is the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were the best team in the 2011 regular season. The offense was unstoppable led by eventual NFL Most Valuable Player; QB Aaron Rodgers. The passing attack is as close to impossible to stop as you can get. Expect the Packers offense to put up big numbers and they also had a good sneaky pick up by signing RB Cedric Benson. The biggest issues for the Packers are there offensive line which has been having struggles in the preseason and the defensive line. As long as Rodgers is healthy, the Packers are a Super Bowl contender.
4th Place: At the bottom in the west I have the Arizona Cardinals. There are too many questions in Arizona after ending the 2011 season in a hot streak. The biggest being at quarterback, which was resolved when the Cardinals named John Skelton as their starter. Either quarterback will not make a difference, especially with an offensive line that might be one of the worst. I do not see RB Beanie Wells having another solid year and the offense will struggle to score points throughout the season. The defense was good last season finishing tied for 18th in total defense, but with a tough schedule that has been dealt to the NFC west; I don’t see the defense being as effective.
3rd Place: In a bit of a surprise I have the St. Louis Rams and do not be surprised if they finish second. I am a big believer in QB Sam Bradford; last year was a tough year for Bradford with injuries to himself and his teammates. I like the signing of head coach Jeff Fisher, he is a great leader and will help a young team mature quicker than expected. If the Rams do not get bit by the injury bug in 2012, they will be a highly competitive team. The defense was poor last season finishing ranked 22nd, but Jeff Fisher will quickly change that and make the defense a more disciplined unit. The Rams will surprise many this year, just hope not too many.
2nd Place: I am not too comfortable in this pick, but I have the Seattle Seahawks. I am not too happy with this pick because of starting rookie QB Russell Wilson. I do not think anyone saw this coming when the Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round. Head coach Pete Carroll loves his determination and football I.Q. We’ll see how long he remains the starting quarterback, eventually the job will be handed back to QB Matt Flynn. With that said the Seahawks have a great rushing attack with RB Marshawn Lynch and have a top ten defense. The Seahawks remind me a little of the Niners, they are strong in all aspects with the only question being at quarterback. They will be a threat in the NFC west.
1st Place: Niners, Niners, Niners!!!! It will be San Francisco at the top of the division. I believe they have the best defense in the NFL along with the best special teams unit in the NFL. They have a great rushing attack led by RB Frank Gore, but do not be surprised if RB Kendall Hunter has a breakout year. Wide receivers have been upgraded with the acquisitions of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and first round pick A.J. Jenkins. Like last season, if the Niners want to be elite and become Super Bowl champions, QB Alex Smith will be the key. But I must admit that QB Colin Kaepernick might be better suited to lead the Niners. He has looked marvelous in the preseason and is undoubtedly the future at quarterback for the Niners. The Niners will be in the playoffs and fighting for a spot in the Super Bowl.
There are my predictions. Please leave me comments and let me know if you agree or disagree. Although the Niner pick is dead on.