The Road to Indianapolis: Pros and Cons for the NFC North

This week’s pros and cons list will focus on the NFC North, which for my money is the best division in football. I consider them the best division for a few reasons. The team atop this division is 9-0 and the team in third would be either tied or in sole possession of first place in 3 of the other 5 divisions. If the payoffs started today this division would have both Wildcard teams coming out of it. Even the bottom-dwelling Vikings aren’t that bad. If they were in a division that wasn’t as tough I’d bet they’d have more than 2 wins.

With so many good teams you may think this must be the easiest week for me to talk about. Not true my friends. Since the media has been felating two of these teams for the majority of the season (still doing it for the Packers) and the other teams are either popular or have a popular player, I was at times hard-pressed to think of something you haven’t heard or read already. In many cases I didn’t, because I am an unoriginal bastard, but I may have mined a few flakes of gold out of the cascading river of media exposure this division has received.

In all fairness, they deserve much of it.

Green Bay Packers

Pros:
You have 32 different weapons on offense – although some of these guys wouldn’t seem so great if they were in a different system with a different quarterback. That being said, the running backs would probably seem better in a more conservative offense.
Have been able to win the close games – although this is mostly due to the fact that you are far enough ahead that the other team can’t quite catch up when mounting a comeback.
You lead the league in takeaways – but again, that’s in large part to your offense getting such a lead that opposing quarterbacks are forced to try to make plays to stay in the game (also 3 games have been against rookies with less than 3 starts).

Cons:
You play an offensive style based on precision passing – this is only a con because assuming they will be a #1 seed (I still think they’ll lose a game or two and the Niners could take it) they will be playing at Lambeau Field deep into the playoffs, home of swirling winds and snow. If the 49ers come to town for the NFC title game I like their style more in that weather (power run and short passes with a defense designed to stop that very thing). Of course I don’t even remember the last time the 49ers played in snow and their thin West Coast skins might not acclimate to the rough Wisconsin tundra. No matter who is #1 seed I think it would be an awesome game and I hope the NFC title comes down to those two.
Everyone already thinks you’re the Super Bowl champs – the media is already talking about your quest for the perfect season, and have anointed you the best team by far. It doesn’t hurt that randomly one of traditional powers from the AFC falters to an inferior opponent every week. The Niners are finally being considered not a fluke, but the media still doesn’t trust an Alex Smith team that has been terrible for the past decade to be an honest Super Bowl contender. Every sports team in the known universe loves to play the “nobody believed in us card” (even the Miami Heat tried) and there is no chance you could honestly believe that.

Detroit Lions

Pros:
You got off to a good start and everyone thought you were good for awhile – that must have been nice for Lions fans
You made Tebow look like a chump – that must have been nice for Atheists
You’re still young – almost all of your best players are at an age where they can still improve, and even your best player is at an age where he will stay great for many years.

Cons:
You are a bunch of thuggish roughnecks – even your quarterback does cheap stuff when things don’t go his way. I’m all for playing physical, but it feels like you are adopting this “bad boy” persona as a way to overshadow your many inadequacies. Like when an old guy buys a car because his dick doesn’t work like it used to.
You have no run game to speak of – and if you don’t find one Stafford’s arm might fall off
Your coach tried to rise against Jim Harbaugh (Lord and Savior) who has punished them by crushing their will and leaving them with a losing record since the incident– that’s some Old Testament shit right there.

Chicago Bears

 

Pros:
You have the greatest return man in the history of the game – too bad it’s relatively easy to not let him touch it (I’m not really sure why people still do)
You have the all purpose yards machine – some might say get yards from scrimmage is his…Forte….sorry.
Underrated quarterback – I think Cutler’s pretty good. He may not have the same killer instinct as some other QBs but it’s not like he doesn’t want to win. He also is a warrior regardless of what anyone says. I’ve seen more games where he’s been knocked around and stayed in there than ones where he has taken himself out (no one will ever forgive that because it was a playoff game). If you gave him some above average receivers to throw it to (besides his running back) you’d see how good he can be.
Ditka always picks you to win – he may be the only one to do it sometimes in those pregame shows, but Ditka always lets his Bears colors fly. Steve Young and Jerry Rice could learn a thing or two from him.

Cons:
You are being cheap with your best offensive player – I know you don’t want Matt Forte to turn into Chris Johnson in 2012, but he touches the ball so much I don’t see how that would be possible. Even if his run numbers go down he can still catch the ball and make a bunch of plays through the air. Who are you going to start instead, Marion Barber? Pay the man.
You are in a very tough and young division and you’re probably the oldest team within it – Urlacher, Peppers, Garza, Tillman, and Briggs are all guys who are still excellent, but 30+. Their regression will come sooner than later and Rodgers and Stafford will still be slinging balls all over the field when those guys have lost a step or two and are retired.

Minnesota Vikings

 

Pros:
You fixed the Metrodome’s roof – hopefully you fortified it to withstand the mighty Minnesota blizzards of the future
You have two of the best players at their position – Adrian Peterson is still the best running back, and even though Jared Allen is a crazy redneck he could break the record for sacks this season.
Christian Ponder doesn’t look terrible – he’s 1-2 but both loses are against the Packers. He’s got 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions (again, all three interceptions against the Packers). He looks like he belongs out there. He throws a good ball and if his team can manage to not push him back every other drive with dumb penalties he might have a chance to win some more games late this season.

Cons:
You trusted Donovan McNabb at all – I will confess I thought he would be ok this year. I was wrong too, but it took me way less time to realize it than the Viking’s brass.
5 of your 7 losses are by one score or less – it may seem like a pro that you are in almost every game you play, but if you can’t win the close games you can’t be successful. Especially in the division where the three teams above you have the highest combined record of the top 3 teams in every division.

Ryan Stuckey is the NFL beat reporter for his own blog. He’s not really much of a reporter, but telling women you are a reporter is a lot more interesting than saying you are an Administrative Assistant.

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