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NFL Preview: NFC North

DETROIT LIONS

The Lions were rather lucky to win five games last season given their lack of talent, and this team will probably never succeed with its current blundering management team led by general manager Matt Millen.

Millen and his trusted associates continue to make one bad personnel move after another, and they may have made their worst one yet in the first round of the draft. Remember that this club will begin this season with either Jon Kitna or Josh McCown as their starting quarterback, yet with a franchise quarterback like Matt Leinart still on the board when their turn came up, the Loins instead selected linebacker Ernie Sims out of Florida State. What exactly were these guys thinking?

Botching the draft is nothing new for the Lions, as Kevin Jones returns as the starting running back, and he has done next to nothing to justify his first round selection a few years ago. One of the few picks that actually may pay off is that of wide receiver Roy Williams last year, and with the newly acquired Corey Bradford also on board, this has the potential to be a very good receiving tandem. The problem is that Detroit does not have a bona fide quarterback to get them the ball. To make the selection of Sims over Leinart look even worse, consider that Sims has been having problems with concussions that last few years! Granted a healthy Sims helps this defense immensely, as The Lions allowed 127.5 rushing yards per game last season. However Sims will not help in this regard by himself, and the rest of the Detroit front seven still looks very weak to us. The secondary actually performed decently last season, but even that relative strength looks weaker this year with the losses of Andre Goodman and R.W. McQuarters to free agency. Detroit is lucky to be in the same division as the Green Bay Packers, as even with a projected record of around 5-11, we look for the Detroit Lions to finish third in the division this season. Prediction for 2006: 3rd Place NFC North to on all games and view lines and .

CHICAGO BEARS

The Bears exceeded all pre-season expectations by winning the NFC North last year by going 11-5. Now we realize that they were not really as good as that record is this is a one-dimensional team with a fantastic defense and dreadful offense. The thing is though that the division is just as weak this year as in 2005.

What is puzzling is that Chicago went out and used its first five draft picks on defense! Well one of those picks, Devin Hester of Miami, was a wide receiver in college but the Bears plan on using him at cornerback. Apparently Chicago feels that it could get by with a dominant defense and a conservative, mistake-free offense again. The Bears did add quarterback Brian Griese, but he is not a big-play type himself and he is actually in a three-way battle with Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton for the starting spot. The running game should be solid again, and it will have to be considering ineptitude of the receiving corps! Thomas Jones rushed for 1335 yards on 4.3 yards per carry with nine touchdowns last season, and back-up Adrian Peterson also performed well when called upon averaging an impressive 5.1 yards per carry.

However this team is 100 percent about defense, as that unit ranked second in the NFL in total defense and first in fewest points allowed last season. Brian Urlacher was a monster all season while earning the 2005 Defensive Player of the Year Award, and he may actually get some added help this year if the blue-chip rookies play to their capabilities. Now we realize that teams have to score SOME points to go far in the post-season, and this club will not do that. However the Chicago Bears do have a good enough defense to repeat as NFC North champs.

Prediction for 2006: 1st Place NFC North

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MINNESOTA VIKINGS

The Vikings of 2006 will have no resemblance to the teams of recent seasons, as this team has undergone a major overhaul. This is not to say that they will not finish second in this watered-down division.

Minnesota used to have one of the most explosive offenses in football, but that is simply no longer the case. This team has lost quarterback Daunte Culpepper, running back Michael Bennett and wide receivers Randy Moss, Nate Burleson and Kelly Campbell just in the last two years! This leaves the capable Brad Johnson as the starting quarterback, and he did perform well last year throwing 12 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. Still he is not getting any younger and he was never that mobile to begin with. The running game is also a question mark with Chester Taylor, recently acquired from Baltimore, and Mewelde Moore topping the depth chart. We are not sure that either one of them is capable of being an every-down running back at this stage of their careers. The staring wide receivers are also up in the air, with Koren Robinson, Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson and Troy Williamson all competing for those positions. While there is some talent there, there are certainly no game-breakers in the bunch.

The defense finished 20th in the league last season, and believe it or not that was actually an improvement over prior years. However we do not expect this unit to play any better this year, and it already suffered a key blow with first round draft selection, linebacker Chad Greenway of Iowa, lost for the season. Given that the offense is no longer capable of just outscoring people like in recent years, the lack of improvement on defense should be a deathblow to any playoff aspirations. Luckily the Minnesota Vikings play in the NFC North, where they should still finish in second place this season virtually by default.

Prediction for 2006: 2nd Place NFC North

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By: David Michaels - theSpread.com - Email Us

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