Possible NFC North Reality Shows

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By the TSB Staff

Since the NFC North in 2009 seems to be the ultimate reality series in professional sports right now. I asked my staff to  analogize the players and coaches in the division with some of the tv show “characters” currently dotting the reality show landscape.

JAKE MCCORMICK

This is an easy one. Despite my vocal criticisms of VH1 and their mind-numbing switch from “Behind the Music” type programming to mindless trapclap like “Brooke Knows Best” marathons, I must admit I watch a lot of their reality dating shows. I love the creatures that come out of their holes in the ground to proclaim their love for aging rock/rap stars. But the best analogy I can give involves the Vikings, Brett Favre, and Daisy of Love.

Daisy is (obviously) looking for love, but was shunned from her “true love” Bret Michaels in “Rock of Love 2,” and finished second to a mature girl with less baggage and much more potential. She didn’t get along with everyone on the show, and was very shady when talking about her living situations (she lived with her “ex” boyfriend). She was the Brett Favre to Bret Michaels (or Ted Thompson’s) Aaron Rodgers (Winner Ambre Lake).

Fast forward to the fourth episode of “Daisy of Love.” She has really taken a liking to a guy named London, who is a flashy rock star-type, but is also a big flake and whines for no apparent reason other than he isn’t getting his way. As a result, he leaves before elimination, leaving Daisy bawling in her room and unable to give out her Rock Star chains. This obviously upsets the house, since none of the other guys liked London because he was a cocky but waffling douche to her. As the show goes on, we get hints that Daisy is still hurt by London’s premature departure, and her chemistry isn’t as strong with the other guys. So, with four guys remaining in the competition, Daisy’s sidekick Riki reaches out to London and persuades him to come back and resolve the issues between him and Daisy.

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Obviously the rest of the guys hate his guts, and he knows it all too well. But he gradually makes it to the finale episode, and when faced with a decision between Flex, a guy that is much better for her and different than her usual drama-loving boyfriends, and London, who is like every other immature guy she has dated, Daisy says the following: “I need Flex, but I want London.” Thus, she chooses the guy everyone loved to hate, and they all learn to live with it even though everyone involved with the show (including Riki) thinks she made a mistake. I’ll leave you to fill in who is who between the Vikings organization, Favre, and the players. This analogy makes too much sense to me.
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SOXMAN

Cheaters staring Brett Favre.

When Green Packer Packer fans suspect their long-time boyfriend is cheating on them with another team, our cameras are there when the confrontation takes place.  Will Brett score with another team?  Don’t miss another great season on the NFC.

Flavor of Lovie.

Lovie Smith is in search of a wide receiver for his bachelor quarterback.  Will Lovie’s idea of ball romance agree with Jay’s desire to command an offense?  The balls will fly and players will run all season long in the most offensive show to come out of Chicago in years.

Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood.

Starring Aaron Rogers who teaches people it’s ok to be second despite the speedy deliveries of passes to Greg Jennings.  In the end, you will go to the land of make believe to see what life would have been like if Brett Favre was never born.

The Girls Next Door.

Starring the Detroit Lions offensive line.  Only Mathew Stafford will not be pillow fighting cuties.  He’ll be participating in the “Amazing Race,” trying to escape linemen out for his head.cedricbensonjersye

PAUL M. BANKS

“Elimidate” starring Brian Urlacher

He’s a man known to reap the “strange” out there in the Chicago nightlife; on a level even more intense than Kyle Farnsworth or Mark Grace. Everyone has an Urlacher story. Some even have a paternity suit.

“The Shark Tank” starring Matthew Stafford

ABC’s Sunday night series is probably the only reality series I actually like these days, but this show isn’t about aspiring entrepreneurs pitching panels of venture capitalists, it’s Stafford being put into open water surrounded by blood and chum (his 0-16 Lions teammates) as the sharks, opposing defenses circle around.

“Blind Date” starring Brett Favre

I always loved the little drawings, graphics and thought bubbles that comprise each episode of this series. My dream job is to be the person who gets to write the funny observations and insults of those who participate on this game show. Actually my dream job is any job where I get to rip on people. But what if John Madden who has the biggest man-crush in the history on man-crushes on Favre, also came out of retirement just to cover a few games featuring the man who complete him? He’d no doubt manipulate the telecast to draw hearts and write amorous sayings all over the screen, and somehow the show ends with Madden and Favre in a hot tub…ugh….

Most Overlooked NFC North Storylines

staffordgrinding

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.

NFC North Predictions

Packers Cowboys Football

By the The Sports Bank Staff

1. Chicago (10-6) Jay Cutler hoopla aside, remember one thing, this division isn’t very good. Best Quarterback=best chance at winning week to week. Yes, I know their receivers and overall pass rush is a hot mess, but who else really has the talent to beat a team that was 9-7 last year and greatly improved themselves?

2. Minnesota (9-7) Purple Jesus will have to carry the load on offense, unlike Baby Jesus, the star of the Minnesota baseball team. He has more support in generating offense. What’s with people in the land of 10,000 Lakes nicknaming their sports stars after Jesus? I thought the “Bible Belt” was in the South?

3. Green Bay (7-9)
I like Aaron Rodgers, but I don’t think he’ll have a better season than Culter. The Pack’s season will hinge on 1.) The job that new Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers does 2.) How quickly his players adjust from the 4-3 to the 3-4.

4. Detroit (3-13) Much of the old regime is gone, so that’s a good thing, right? Like the title character in “What About Bob?” said “baby steps, baby steps.” Their pathetic excuse for a ground game has been improving and I like 3rd pick DL Cliff Avril. Look for this sleeper pick to augment the pass rush.

Offensive MVP: Aaron Rodgersbearscover

Defensive MVP: Lance Briggs

–PAUL M. BANKS

DAVID KAY:

1. Packers- Keeping my homering in mind, doesn’t it seem like people are sleeping on the Pack?  All the talk has been around Favre and the Vikes, Cutler and the Bears, and GB has flown under the radar this off-season.  Consider they lost 7 games last season by five points or less, dealt with the pre-season Favre circus, had a first year QB in Aaron Rodgers who exceeded expectations, and a running back who held out and then battled injuries all year, and this team should be much better.

2. Vikings- No matter what they say at camp, you can’t tell me Tavaris Jackson and/or Sage Rosenfels have any confidence in themselves right now… No way.

3. Bears- I am just not buying this whole “Jay Cutler is our savior” thing going on in Chicago.  They have no receivers and an aging defense.

4. Lions- I saw Matt Millen at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago.  He was in line behind me getting food.  He told me that he could put mustard and onions on anything and it would taste good.  Because of his butchering of the Lions franchise, I couldn’t even take his food choices seriously and instead put mayo on my sandwich, no onions.  I know that has nothing to do with this year’s Detroit team, but who really cares about the Lions in this division?

OPY: Aaron Rodgers-
Again, accuse me of homering.  I’m okay with it.  But assuming AP can’t stay healthy for the whole season when the Vikes give him 35 carries a game because their quarterback can’t complete a five-yard out route, Rodgers should be able to top his 4,038 yards and 28 TD’s from a year ago.  (I was really tempted to pick Brett Favre by the way, just to piss people off.)

DPY: Jared Allen- Just because if I didn’t pick him and he happened to see this, I would be terrified that he would shoot me with a hunting bow and then eat my carcass raw.  But seriously, I think he is an animal on the field and that he would be a fun guy to grab a beer with.

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SHAYMUS MCLAUGHLIN:

1.) Minnesota Vikings 11-5

They won the division last year with a Tarvaris-Jackson-Gus Frerotte combo at QB. There’s no reason to think they can’t win again with Sage Rosenfels (a better QB than either of the other two) at the helm. A RB that the Bears can’t stop, plus a solid WR corps led by Berrian and a bounce-back Sidney Rice; throw in Percy Harvin and the Wildcat and things become much more dynamic on offense. They have to get over the loss of Matt Birk, but it shouldn’t be a huge problem. On defense, they’ll be as strong as usual, especially with EJ Henderson coming back from injury. Safety is the biggest concern, with the oft-injured but talented Madieu Williams and second-year player Tyrell Johnson (who filled in respectably last year) defending the pass. Overall, a solid team that got more explosive offensively and didn’t lose much this offseason.

2) Green Bay Packers 8-8

Aaron Rodgers is a very solid young QB, and he has a couple fantastic WRs in Driver and Jennings. Their O-line is decent, but not great, and the running game scares me. I don’t think Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson are helping the offense much. Their defense should be pretty good, with a solid LB duo in Barnett and Hawk, a good D-Line bolstered by 1st round draft pick BJ Raji, and a veteran group of CBs with great press coverage. Those corners are getting up there in age though, and they’re a bit thin so they need to stay healthy. It’s a solid team that probably lost a couple more than it should have last year.

3) Chicago Bears 8-8

Yes, they added their first legitimate QB in years with Jay Cutler. Yes Matt Forte is already one of the best all-around RBs in the league (He will be Brian Westbrook, minus the injuries- in a couple years.). Yes, they have patched up their offensive line nicely with Orlando Pace, 2008 first round pick Chris Williams, and the extremely underrated Kevin Shaffer. What about the receivers? Rashied Davis and rookie Juaquin Iglesias are not going to cut it, and Hester is nothing but a fly pattern runner. I don’t see this offense moving that well game-in, game-out. They will have some great games, but a few stinkers as well. millen

On the defensive side, their CBs haven’t stayed healthy in years and their starting safeties are some combination of Craig Steltz, Danieal Manning, Kevin Payne, and FA signee Josh Bullocks, the latter of which was let go by the Saints, who had one of the worst defenses in the league. Their LBs are always good, but a bit on the slower side, and their pass rush last year was nearly non-existent (especially with former rookie stud Mark Anderson disappearing).

4) Detroit Lions 4-12

They’re on the right track, but they still have quite a ways to go. Stafford should sit this year behind Daunte Culpepper and learn the playbook. Culpepper is not a bad QB either, and the Lions picked up a great playmaking TE in Brandon Pettigrew via the draft to help complement Calvin Johnson on offense. Their line still needs some work and the running game isn’t great, but they are at least moving in a direction. They just need to be patient with Stafford this year. On defense, they have a couple solid playmakers (Ernie Sims, new arrival Larry Foote, and the aging Philip Buchanan) but have way too many holes to stop even some of the weakest offenses. I’m not sure where a pass rush is going to come from, and the secondary is pretty unimpressive outside of Buchanan. It’s a work in progress for the Lions.

OPOY: Adrian Peterson (with Forte right behind…I love that kid)

DPOY: Jared Allen


DAVID PALMER

1.  Minnesota (11-5): The ‘Queens are a very balanced team with no real gaping holes on either side of the ball.  The offensive line will have to play better than expected to make a real run in the playoffs, but with a healthy Keith Farwell, EJ Henderson and Jared Allen will only help.

2. Green Bay (10-6):
A disappointing last season will see a rebound with Aaron Rodgers able to focus knowing he’s the starter this preseason; Still a very good defense behind Al Harris, AJ Hawk, Nick Barnett and Aaron Kampman. The running game is a big question mark with Ryan Grant as the primary ball carrier.  They must throw their way into the playoffs.

3. Chicago (8-8):
Even with Jay Cutler, they are going to inconsistent at best.  Charles Tillman is already hurt and he’s their best CB.  I think they have one of the most overrated defenses in the league anyway.  Great linebackers, but nobody scares me on their D-Line.  And I’m still not sure who will be catching Cutler’s throws, Hester?  Combine that with his first year in the system and I see a struggle to finish .500.

4.  Detroit (3-13):
Well, they can’t do worse than last year.  Stafford will go through some growing pains no doubt, but probably also show some signs by the end of the year.  Having Calvin Johnson can only help his development, but there are just too many holes to win many games.  No way that offense keeps up with all the points their porous defense will give up.badasses

Offensive MVP: The great Adrian Peterson.

Defensive MVP: Jared Allen.  He’s healthy after playing with one arm for the second half of last season and still compiling 14.5 sacks.

DAVID BOUCHER:

Personnel changes affect every team every off-season, but the magnitude and frequency of those in the NFC North the past few months have earned the attention of the entire nation. With Brett Favre turning over the same leaf, Green Bay changing their defensive scheme, Chicago landing a new face for the franchise, and Detroit generally puttering along in another new direction, the black and blue division has been the most dynamic in football in 2009.

However, the team with the least amount of turnover will actually fare the best: Minnesota. Even without the future HOF-er holding the reins, the team still has the most potent weapon in football. Adrian Peterson will continue to live up to his nickname, scoring “All Day” for the Vikings and earning the conference MVP award on offense, while Jared Allen paces an explosive and run-stuffing defense. The fight for second will be the most interesting, however. Although Jay Cutler could hit Devin Hester in the Lambeau end zone from Lake Shore Drive, the Packers offense has more talent from top to bottom. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson present far bigger problems for defenses than the former CB Hester and the untested Earl Bennett. Even with the Pack-Attacks’s switch to the 3-4 on defense, Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk have more lateral movement and play-making ability than the aged Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs. Barnett will need to have a career-year in order for the new scheme to pay dividends, and I think he will, becoming the Defensive MVP in the North.lions1

Which leaves us with the Lions. I wish I could say they would make it to 8-8… or even 6-10. But that’s just wishful thinking. I’ll give them five wins because I’ve been a life-long fan, but their new system, traditionally shoddy defense, and the perpetual spotlight shinning on Daunte-Stafford drama just leave too many question marks.
They’ve gotten a little better, though; Julian Peterson has got to be worth at least two wins, right?

MINNESOTA: 11-5
GREEN BAY: 10-6
CHICAGO: 9-7
DETROIT: 5-11 (Please, PLEASE let me be wrong here!)