NFC North preview

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Note to NFC North general managers: Please quit. You are the laughingstock of the entire NFL right now. No, not because your teams finished in the proverbial gutter, once again. It is because you refuse to change anything in your collective regimes for the better.

After having the best defense since the ’00 Ravens, the Chicago Bears decided to, once again, spend their draft picks on defense. My beloved Packers refused to make any changes to one of the most embarrassing offenses ever. The Lions and Vikings aren’t even worth mentioning. In short, this is going to be a long year for NFC North fans.

1. Chicago Bears (11-5)

Let’s be honest, the Bears’ offense couldn’t move the ball against UVSC’s defense. And yes, I know they don’t have a football team. Rex Grossman, Brian Griese and Kyle Orton. You may as well throw in Ryan Pickett, because these are not the names you want battling for the starting position. Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones are both quality backs, but cannot carry a team by themselves.

The Bears’ O-line was their strong suit on offense last year, which reiterates how bad they were. Expect much of the same from an offense that was ranked 29th in the NFL in total yardage.

After the 218-yard, Steve Smith shellacking the Bears received in last year’s playoffs, they decided to spend all their draft picks on defensive players. Which makes a lot of sense, because they definitely needed to improve their defense?which was ranked No. 1 in the entire NFL.

The good news for Bears fans is that Brian Urlacher and his band of miscreants are back and hungry for more action. Add to them free agent acquisitions Ricky Manning Jr. (33 tackles and two picks in ’05) and Dante Wesley, and I’m starting to conjure images of the vaunted ’85 defense. Let’s just hope they don’t decide to duplicate the Bad News Bears music video.

2. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

The Vikes lost Daunte Culpepper?yawn?and nobody seems to care. Why should anyone? Brad Johnson stepped in after Culpepper left and threw for 1,885 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Minnesota will also have to fill a void at running back after losing Michael Bennett to free agency. Hoping to do so will be newly acquired Chester Taylor, who isn’t nearly as flashy as Bennett but is capable of a 1,000-yard season. Expect mediocrity on offense from a team that averaged only 19 points per game last year.

Darren Sharper snagged nine of the team’s 19 interceptions last season and will, once again, be a force to be reckoned with in the secondary. Also wreaking havoc on defense will be Kenechi Udeze (coolest name ever) and Pat Williams (67 tackles, 2 sacks).

First-year head coach Brad Childress will give the Vikings plenty of discipline, which is something the love boaters are in desperate need of.

3. Green Bay Packers (5-11)

After one of the most pathetic seasons in the history of the world, the Packers refused to pick up any help on offense, which begs the question: Are they trying to lose?

Last season was the most painful experience in my 21-year tenure as a Cheesehead. With injuries plaguing them all season, they decided to put all their faith in Brett Favre, who proved that even the Ironman can’t carry the pathetically depleted Pack by himself. This offseason, Green Bay execs really went out of their way to pick up help at corner and safety, but forgot to acquire a single talented wide receiver. Seriously, I could start at receiver for the Packers. Come to think of it, I could do a hell of a better job than the current GM, as well.

Ahman Green is finally back after taking a vacation in Acapulco last year. But it won’t matter. Green Bay’s young and inexperienced line will prove to be its downfall this season. Expect another season filled with errant Favre-throws and frustrating finishes.

4. Detroit Lions (4-12)

What can I say about the Detroit Lions that hasn’t already been said? I could make fun of the fact that they started Joey Harrington at quarterback for four years. Or I could knock on them for cutting one of their best receivers (Charles Rogers). Or maybe I could go over their statistics for the past decade. Any way you look at it, the franchise has been pathetic for the better half of ever. So instead of focusing on the negative, I’ll try to find some positive (heavy emphasis on try).

Despite losing Rogers, the Lions’ receiving corps is still one of the best in the league. Mike and Roy Williams are mid-air magnets, catching anything thrown within 30 yards of them. Former Virginia Tech standout Kevin Jones will need to have a couple thousand yards this season if the Lions are going to win any games.

Detroit finally dealt Harrington this offseason, picking up Jon Kitna as a replacement. The former Bengals quarterback showed flashes of greatness in spot duty last season but will need more than flashes to rejuvenate the Lions.

Have you ever seen “Four Brothers?” If so, do you remember how terrible Marky Mark Wahlberg’s performance is in that movie? I wouldn’t normally be this harsh, but that is how horrific the Lions’ defense is. There are absolutely no playmakers. The only players even worth mentioning are tackles Shaun Cody and Shaun Rogers. And I can’t even think of anything to say about them. In short, unless you’re an avid Lions fan, don’t waste any time watching this team.

By the way, if you didn’t understand the “Four Brothers” analogy, please go and rent the film. Wahlberg really is magical; you won’t regret it.