NFL 2010 Preview: NFC & AFC North

These two conferences are remarkably similar. Each have three competitive teams and one deadbeat team. Each are traditionally known for their defense, but are now some of the most offensively potent teams in the NFL. And each has one team who is unsure of their quarterback situation, for very different reasons.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers

The Packers are the team to beat in the NFC. They had a great draft with players that will contribute immediately, including OT Bryan Bulaga.

Aaron Rodgers should be the MVP in 2010. He has looked great the last couple of years, other than getting sacked a ridiculous amount of times. The Packers' offensive line looked better as the season went on and they certainly improved on the line in the offseason.

The only worry is that the Packers play some formidable pass-rushers, including Jared Allen of the Vikings, Julius Peppers, now of the Chicago Bears, and Ndamukong Suh, the prized draft pick of the Lions. The question will be whether or not has Rodgers learned to get rid of the ball a little quicker than previous seasons.

The weak spot for the Packers is their secondary. They have some talented players, but Al Harris is getting old and slow, not to mention accumulating injuries. Charles Woodson is at the top of his game and quarterbacks will begin to avoid throwing towards Woodson if Harris or his replacement can't hold his own.

Despite a tough road schedule, including Washington, Atlanta, New England, and the New York Jets, I think a division win is in order, as well as a 13-3 record and a trip to the Super Bowl. Winning? No, not yet.

Minnesota Vikings

Whether or not Brett Favre comes back, the Vikings will not be as good in 2010 as they were in 2009. Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin have established themselves and will continue to improve. Jared Allen will find 15-plus sacks, but in general, the team is aging. The Williams Wall has been less effective in recent years and Pat Williams (the bigger side of the wall) is likely in his last season.

Adrian Peterson certainly has a few good years left, but his fumbles are a serious concern and the loss of Chester Taylor means the loss of not only a great third down back, but a replacement that could still help the team drive down the field. The loss of Taylor will hurt Peterson come December as his reps will be higher and his body taking more punishment.

If 2009 wasn't Favre's last season, 2010 certainly will be. His body let him know it was getting close to time to hang it up. His body will let him know that in 2010, even if he plays at a top level, his body will know it's time to call it a career.

The Vikings' schedule is a bit tougher than the Packers' schedule with road games against New Orleans, New England, Washington, and the New York Jets. Also, the Vikings have an early bye week, which is not good news for an aging, fickle quarterback named Brett Favre, if he has made up his mind by Week 4.

I expect the Vikings to grab a wild card slot at 11-5 with Brett Favre's final game coming in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau, where, in the snow, he will fail to move on to the Super Bowl once again.

Chicago Bears

The Bears have improved greatly this offseason, but they are no longer young on defense. Adding Mike Martz seems to be the answer to an offense that has been woeful since the retirement of Walter Payton, and even then it was a team that hinged on the strength of its defense.

Jay Cutler struggled in 2009. I do not hesitate in calling it the worst season of his career thus far. Throwing 26 interceptions is simply unacceptable. What is even less acceptable is that he only had four games of no interceptions thrown. The Bears won all four. Sadly, only one was a quality victory, that being against Pittsburgh in Week 2. The other three games? Two against the Lions and one against the Rams.

I'm not sure if Martz's philosophy will help Cutler cut down on the interceptions or not. On one hand, there are a lot more passes added, so more chances for interceptions. On the other, it is an offense filled with short, relatively safe passes, so interceptions may go down. Ultimately, it's on Cutler. An offensive coordinator, no matter how helpful, can't throw the ball for you.

Cutler and the Bears have some tougher games than the Lions and Rams, however. They have road games at Dallas, Miami, and the New York Giants, along with tough home games against the Patriots and the Jets. Not to mention four games against the Packers and Vikings.
It will be a tough road, but I think the Bears will end this season just a tad short, missing the playoffs at 9-7.

Detroit Lions

The Lions will remain the worst team in the NFC North until the foreseeable future. They are moving in the right direction (how could they not be?) with additions of good skill players such as Nate Burleson and rookie Jahvid Best, but the offensive line remains too unstable for a running game to get going or Matthew Stafford to prove he's not completely pathetic.

I truly hope that Ndamukong Suh helps to turn the defense around, but he is only one guy. He'll be fighting double-teams all year, hopefully freeing up fellow Nebraska alum Kyle Vanden Bosch to add some pressure in the backfield.

The real weakness of the Lions is a tossup between the linebackers and the secondary. There are simply no playmakers on this defense other than Suh. They had a grand total of 9 interceptions in 2009 (that's how many Charles Woodson had by himself), no player with more than 2. They had a grand total of 26 sacks, no player with more than 5.

The Lions have some winnable games, but let's face it, they're the Lions; they're also all very losable games. I think 4-12 isn't being too generous or too pessimistic.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens' best addition was that of wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Joe Flacco is improving consistently and a target like Boldin will only make him more formidable. Ray Rice also had a very good year last year, rushing for over 1,300 yards, so offensively, the Ravens are set.

The biggest concern facing the Ravens is injury, especially on defense. It was announced a few days ago that Domonique Foxworth, starting cornerback, tore his ACL in practice and will miss the season. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is currently on the PUP list, but hopes to be back by the season opener. Cornerback Fabian Washington is also in the same boat.

Add to that safety Ed Reed, who may miss the first few games of the season, and the Ravens' secondary looks rather shallow. Terrell Suggs has promised a better season. Being that he's only 27, his follow through on that would be helpful.

Much like the Bears, the Ravens find themselves as a team that used to be feared for its spectacular defense, but will now need to win games with its offense.

I like the Ravens in the AFC North, going 12-4, reaching the AFC Championship Game, but not advancing to the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are one of the enigma teams of 2010. I wouldn't be surprised to see them go anywhere from 6-10 to 11-5. Which end of that spectrum they end up on depends on two things: Carson Palmer and chemistry.

Palmer is good, there is no doubt, but with the weapons at his disposal, he should be throwing for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, not 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns as he did in 2009. His elbow injury was perhaps still to blame for his 2009 weakness, but with the addition of Terrell Owens, the Bengals will have the loudest, cockiest, most disruptive set of wide receivers possible in Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Keeping both of them happy is going to be a nightmare for Palmer. When Owens is on a team he expects to win that doesn't, things do not go well.

The Bengals' defense in 2009 was a nice surprise. They weren't overwhelmingly stingy, but they certainly held their own against good offenses, only allowing 30 points or more twice, once at Minnesota and in the game they didn't show up for in Week 17 against the Jets, who promptly eliminated the Bengals from the playoffs the next week.

Things certainly have the potential to blow up. They also have a tough road schedule, traveling to New England, Indianapolis, Atlanta, and the New York Jets, but this is a talented team and I think they'll sneak into the playoffs once again at 10-6.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers' off-field adventures have removed them from the realm of contender. Without Ben Roethlisberger for the first at least four games and possibly six games, the Steelers may very well start the season 1-5 or 2-4 and have Big Ben return to some lovely games: at New Orleans, at Cincinnati, and New England at home. They seriously could start the season 2-7. There's no recovery from that.

The Steelers looked dead at times with Ben in the lineup (the 13-6 loss in Cleveland comes immediately to mind), but without him, there's little hope.

That being said, I agree with the contract extension given to Mike Tomlin. He is a good coach, not to mention the youngest head coach in history to win a Super Bowl.

While I think the head coach should have some form of influence over players and their actions off the field, people make stupid choices all the time and let's face it, ridiculous amounts of money and being famous don't encourage a person towards being a good role model. I think that Roethlisberger has proven he is pretty stupid with his track record and if he can't get it together off the field, he has no business being on the field.

The Steelers won't get over missing Big Ben to have any chance at the playoffs in 2010. They'll finish 6-10, thinking toward 2011 and keeping their noses out of trouble.

Cleveland Browns

In eight of the 16 games in 2009, the Browns passed for less than 100 yards. Their total passing yards amounted to 2,255. Their opponents: 4,149. The fact that they won 5 games is miraculous.

They ranked last in the NFL in passing yards, 29th in pass defense, 28th in run defense, and 8th in rushing.

They have three different quarterbacks, all of which present major problems. Jake Delhomme was released out of a monster contract he should have never been offered in Carolina. Seneca Wallace failed to take advantage of his numerous opportunities to prove himself in Seattle when Matt Hasselbeck went down with his injury de jour, and Colt McCoy is a rookie who will likely be protected from immediate action on the field in his first season.

With Mike Holmgren running the ship in Cleveland, I'd expect him to help Wallace move in front of Delhomme and start in 2010. I think Wallace has potential, but his weapons are lacking.

The Browns' draft was underwhelming. About the only thing going in the right direction for the Browns is that Mike Holmgren is in the organization. I expect a 2010 season of misery at 3-13.

Stay tuned as Andrew Jones brings you his NFL previews each week leading up the season!

Comments and Conversation

August 4, 2010


Even though I’m a Bears fan, I have to defend the Vikings for a moment. I think AP will stay fresh since the Vikings have signed Toby Gerhart and he will help take the load off. I know Rice and Harvin have had minor injuries to start training camp, but they will rebound and no matter who the QB is, if the box is stacked Rice and Harvin have an advantage in one-on-one situations.

That said, I still root for the Bears, but I’m a Cubs fan too, so I know how to deal with not winning. GO BEARS!

Leave a Comment

Save Info?

Featured Site