Most Overlooked NFC North Storylines

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By the TSB Staff

The NFC North will undoubtedly be a reality series this fall with the Brett Favre-Minnesota Vikings story likely to be “the lead” all year in most NFL content-producing mediums. #1 overall draft pick Matt Stafford helping rebuild the Detroit Lions, Jay Cutler bringing the Chicago Bears solid quarterback play for the first time since the Industrial Revolution will be huge as well.  But what about under-the-radar NFC North storylines? What interesting developments have been under-reported?

SAM SVOBODA

The Bears’ loss of safety Mike Brown.

Even though he’s had injury problems, I was shocked at how little I heard about the Bears letting him go. I thought maybe it was because I was in California at the time, but it turned out my brother (who’s been in Chicago the whole year) didn’t even know about it until seeing that Brown signed with the Chiefs in June. Yes, Brown has lost a step with his injuries and age, but he played 15 games last year and proved that he can still make plays. More importantly, he brought leadership and experience- Brian Urlacher has always gotten more press, but I really believe that Brown was the heart and soul of the Bears’ defense.

Perhaps the main reason that I think Brown’s departure is a big story though, is because of the safeties that the Bears kept. If the Bears had some great, established safeties then I would have had an easier time understanding letting Brown go. But the team’s current list of safeties reads like this: Kevin Payne, Danieal Manning, Craig Steltz, Josh Bullocks, Al Afalava. I really hope some of the above guys can prove themselves as consistent NFL starters, but if the Bears’ safeties are repeatedly beaten this season, you have to wonder about the decision to let Brown go.


JAKE MCCORMICK

What’s missing? The answer is anything about the Green Bay Packers. As we’ve seen from even just the past week, ESPN will report every time Brett Favre involuntarily farts when he gets under center for the Vikings. It’s like a politician, where everyone is giving him advice on how to act, what he needs to do to gain his teammates trust, and the best way to overcome the doubts.

The Lions are a story because they are a team with a new image, the biggest being the new badass Lion on the helmet. The worst team in the league from the previous year always gets obligatory press coverage because it’s interesting to see how they change their approach on Sundays.

The Bears have a mini-Favre in Jay Cutler, who is a great talent but already a prima donna. And he doesn’t even have a winning record as a starter. How he responds to moving from a team with good receivers, a banged up running game, and a terrible defense to a team with a good running back, bad receivers, and an aging defense will be something to watch.bearstrainingcamp2

That leaves us with the Packers, and the biggest storyline that anyone can pick up will be the transition to the 3-4 and how Aaron Rodgers responds as a second-year starter. But honestly, name one story about the Packers that has made any sort of noise on ESPN or anywhere outside of Wisconsin. And no, the team’s reaction to Favre’s return doesn’t count. Green Bay has the talent and depth to be much better than last year’s 6-10 record indicates, and although Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy build the team through the draft, the fact that they only kept one coach from 2008 on the defensive side of the ball this season says something about the team’s sense of urgency. The whole Packer organization is an underreported and under-the-radar story, which is funny considering it is one of the top three most popular teams around the world. For proof, I offer this: My girlfriend spent a semester in Spain and her host brothers knew nothing about football, but they all had Green Bay Packer bobble-heads.

SOXMAN

The coverage of the Favre signing was to the sports world what the death of Michael Jackson was to the pop culture masses.

I’m actually more curious to see if rookie WR Percy Harvin can unseat Devin Hester as the next American Idol of the return game.  The kid can fly and actually might end up being a decent wide receiver as well.  Did you hear that #23?

What ever happened to Devin Hester’s return game anyway?  He is the Rueben Studdard of the NFL- minus about 200 lbs.bearstrainingcamp1

Other NFC North storylines- “My Tight End” sounds like the name of an alternative lifestyle reality show, but actually it’s a question.  With the exception of “the Packers,” (again, minds out of the gutter), all North division QBs have a new tight end.  Who will be the first TE to establish that “till free agency do we part” chemistry with their ball hurler?  Cutler and Olsen, who have already established chemistry on the Chicago nightclub scene?  Stafford and Pettigrew?  Both are NFL “first timers,” who only have each other in a world of potential pass rushers?  Or old man Favre and Visanthe Shiancoe?  Given Favre’s love of men who can go long, anything is possible.


PAUL SCHMIDT

I know, the Jay Cutler talk and the love affair with him is ridiculous right now, and it’s getting just as tiresome as the Brett Favre story.  Well…maybe not that bad…but it’s getting old.  The thing people need to be talking about with the Bears is what happens if they are bad?  I mean, there’s a lot of speculation about the receivers, and maybe it’s founded, but it would seem to me that there isn’t enough speculation about the defense.
What happens if Tommy Harris isn’t ok?  What happens if Brian Urlacher continues to slide as he ages? What happens if Lance Briggs’ ego continues to grow and it gets in the way of his performance?  What happens if Peanut Tillman isn’t ok, and doesn’t heal properly?  What happens if Danieal Manning doesn’t get better?  What if Nathan “The Interceptor” Vasher sucks again this season?  What if no one steps up in the secondary?  What if the defensive line STILL can’t get pressure on an opposing QB this season?vikingsheadshadow

See?  There’s a ton of questions.  The defense isn’t a sure thing to be great.  The offense BETTER score a lot of points, because the defense just might be giving up quite a few…

The point is, if the Bears aren’t a playoff team, and end up .500 or worse, is Lovie Smith’s job on the line?  Jerry Angelo’s? Both have really put their necks on the line with the Cutler deal yet not bringing in any top WR (like Anquan Boldin). Shouldn’t they be on the hot seat just because of that?

SHAYMUS MCLAUGHLIN

In my opinion, it has to be Aaron Rodgers coming into his own as an elite QB in the NFL. He put up pretty ridiculous stats last year, especially for a first year starter (4,038 yards, 28 TDs, 13 INTs, and a 63.6% completion percentage). He managed to do it with the whole Brett Favre thing weighing down on him, which makes the feat even more impressive. While the mainstream media will be keeping an eye on Favre’s follies in Minnesota, Cutler’s conquest of Soldier Field, and Stafford’s starting gig in the Motor City, Aaron Rodgers will be quietly be amassing elite numbers for the green and gold at Lambeau Field.

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    I don’ think I’ll ever get tired of that Matthew Stafford picture.

    you might notice in the Bears training camp picture that the linemen are wearing recievrs numbers and vice versa. And that Cutler is throwing passes in Urlacher’s number. It’s a tradition on the final day of traininng camp

  2. Aaron Rodgers is gonna throw at least 35 TD’s this season… blow up… mark it down

  3. Melissa W. says

    Again, Soxman takes the cake with his Tight End theme…good lord, Soxman. You’re on a writing roll this week!

    Mr. Rodgers IS going to tear it up, fantasy owners will love him as their QB and he’s being drafted much higher than 5th at that position amongst those who know what’s up. David—I know you have a deep-seeded love for #4, but could you develop a secondary man-crush on Aaron? I’d put money down in Vegas that it just might happen for you.

  4. H. Jose Bosch says

    Jake is a great guy but the “new badass Lion on the helmet”? Weak man.

    I think it’ll be hard to overlook the Lions and their sucktitude. But should Detroit win one of their first two games, then the whole “national joke” story line is dropped and either a.) the media completely forgets about them because they no longer feed our insatiable desire to watch someone be worse than us or b.) Matt Stafford becomes the 2009 Matt Ryan.

    The real overlooked story in the NFC North is how much are the teams willing to lose this division?

    Seriously, does anyone really stick out as formidable? I feel like it’s the AL Central of the NFL. Why does the Great Lakes region have such crappy football and baseball right now?

  5. paulmbanks says

    Agreed, the middle of the country does look pretty pathetic in terms of the two biggest leagues right now.

    HJB, I hope FOR GOD’S SAKE, we never hear the (insert Michigan or Detroit team here) must win this title to help raise the spirits of the economically depressed Detroit area AGAIN! With Michigan St in the final four, I wanted to carpet bomb CBS and the MSM at large for that idea that a Spartans championship would help make life better/easier for the Det area jobless and destitute.

    lucikly with the Red Wings, we didn’t hear this much

  6. Paul Schmidt says

    Well, Paul, we certainly won’t have to hear it for any football, that’s for certain…

  7. H. Jose Bosch says

    With the Lions the story might actually be about how a team makes the fans realize how better off they are than a bunch of professional athletes incapable of playing competitively at their jobs.

    Maybe if Toyota or Honda bought the Lions, they’d be better.

  8. toasterhands says

    The Lions are headed in the right direction. Schwartz is a competent coach and a no nonsense guy (but not to the point of being overbearing). He has surrounded himself with other capable minds.

    And Stafford was a great pick. It might take him a season to adjust, but the difference of talent between himself and Harrington is so clear it’s chill inducing– Stafford can flat out throw the ball, and he’s smart to boot. Place an offensive line around him and a solid defense and this team will become top tier in a few years (old bit right?) With Smith, a talented, young Pettigrew and Megatron, the offense is definitely worthy of intrigue.

    I say Culpepper starts the season, plays ok, fizzles out after awhile though, and the next 10 years or so Stafford is the main man.

    6-10 Lions 09 record

  9. Javier Muraski says

    After I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a remark is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any manner you’ll be able to take away me from that service? Thanks!

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