Each NFC North’s Biggest Draft Need

By Leo Silbert

It is getting to the point of the year that fans are trying to figure out who their team needs to draft or what position needs the most help. Some teams like the Patriots don’t have a glaring need so they are able to pick for desire and are allowed greater risks. Other teams like the Browns have needs all over the map so they are best suited to just take the best available player. I’m going to sort this out by division and within the divisions I’ll sort them by 2016 records.

Next up, the NFC North:

  1. Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons  Green Bay Packers- The Packers started the season out very slow at 4-6 and there were rumblings of how they should fire Mike McCarthy and that Aaron Rodgers might be done.  Then Rodgers made his now famous “we just have to run the table” comment and he proceeded to do that for the rest of the regular season while putting together one of the best 6 game stretches of quarterback play ever with 18 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions.  His great play over the closing weeks of the season and through the first two playoff games helped to mask some severe deficiencies on the rest of the team.  They were down to using wide receiver Ty Montgomery as their starting running back while they were moving safeties to corner back due to all the injuries suffered there.  The latter of those two is their biggest need because Ty Montgomery didn’t look too bad as a running back and they may be able to get away with him and a healthy Eddy Lacy is he is resigned.  Their corner backs on the other hand were Micah Hyde and a bunch of warm bodies, and Micah Hyde was a safety.  Sure, they’ll be getting Sam Shields off of injury, but before his injury he wasn’t looking that good.  If Green Bay can start building their corner back depth chart with some real corners, then their defense can start to complement Aaron Rodgers’ ability to play incredible even when he is at a talent disadvantage.
  2. matt-staffordDetroit Lions- The Lions are a team that has to think “if only Matt Stafford didn’t injure his throwing hand in the last month of the season.”  Before Stafford’s injury, he had the Lions looking like the comeback kids of the league and he had an outside shot at being named the MVP.  That was when the Lions were 9-4 and Stafford had engineered 8 fourth quarter comebacks.  After he injured his hand though, the team finished with 3 regular season losses and a wildcard round exit in the playoffs.  It sucks when an injury causes a meltdown for a team but now they need to focus on what they can do next year to help the team if Stafford ends up dealing with another injury?  Something that would really help them is a good running game.  The Lions have a stable of running backs who are all primarily talented at receiving the ball, but aren’t much of a threat to run the ball which is their primary job.  They have an offensive line that can create holes and move on pull blocks so the blame really does go back to the running backs.  If the Lions can get a true running back instead of what basically amounts to a short yardage receiver, then maybe Stafford won’t have to make so many comebacks and the team’s fortunes won’t solely be tied to his ability to stay healthy.
  3. Xavier RhodesMinnesota Vikings- During the early part of training camp and the preseason, the Vikings were a trendy Superbowl pick.  They had a great defense some people thought could be as good as the 2015 Broncos defense, a legendary running back in Adrian Peterson, and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who was able to do enough to get his offense to score more than the defense would allow.  Then about a week before the season, Bridgewater went down with a horrific injury which prompted the Vikings to trade a first round pick and a future fourth round pick to the Eagles in exchange for Sam Bradford.  They started the season out 5-0, showing that the Superbowl predictions may have been well warranted, but after that hot start, they finished a disappointing 8-8.  Losing eight of your final 11 games shows that they had the same old Sam Bradford as he has always been (inconsistent qb who can show flashed of brilliance, but flashes of “why is this guy an NFL qb”).  That also shows that they had more deeply entrenched  deficiencies throughout the team.  The biggest need for this team is the same as many other teams I have done this for (and likely will again), offensive line.  Matt Kalil when healthy is one of the biggest draft busts of the last 10 years while his replacement TJ Clemmings was somehow even worse.  When you have some of the worst tackle play in the league, the rest of your offense suffers.  They also had some of the worst play in the league of any center in the league.  Nick Easton was below average in pass blocking and in run blocking he struggled to create any push.  The Vikings had okay play from their guards, but when they are surrounded by bad play, it is hard to see their impact.  If the Vikings can fix their offensive line, they may be able to prove that they could deserve Superbowl talk next season.
  4. leonard-floydChicago Bears- The Bears are a team of many needs at many positions.  They went into the season with many people having low expectations for their team and they definitely lived up to those lowly expectations.  They made some good draft picks with Leonard Floyd and Cody Whitehair, but there is a position that they need more than any other, and it is one of the positions they are most highly invested in.  Jay Cutler is done as a starting caliber NFL quarterback.  If the Bears want to compete in this league, they need a quarterback who can lead them there.  They have the pieces to have at least an average offensive line.  They have a good running back tandem, good receivers, a good tight end and a bunch of pieces on defense.  This team needs a quarterback probably more than any other team in the league and if they get a good one, then the Bears can finally be relevant again in today’s NFL.

Previous articles in this series:

AFC East- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-east-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC North- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/each-afc-north-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC South- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need/

AFC West- https://sportselite1.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/each-afc-south-teams-biggest-draft-need-2/

NFC East-

NFL Weak 11 Powder Rankings: *All around the world same song*

By: Will Stevenson

What an NFL Sunday! Well, I only watch the Redzone Channel, so I don’t know what bad football looks like at the moment. As they say, ignorance is bliss. All in all, there is no way to avoid these bad teams, and as the season wears on, teams and players are falling off one by one. This week I can’t ignore the bad play, even if your team has some W’s in the win column; Bad is Bad! Alright, let’s look at the usual suspects and a few returners in NFL Weak 11 Powder Rankings.

  1. Cleveland (0-10)

The Browns are bad, but they aren’t super terrible. They have had six quarterbacks start this year and there is talk of another regime change. Last Thursday we were able to witness their Powderness. The thing is, it was Thursday Night Football, and I refuse to subject myself to such malarkey.

2. Green Bay Packers (4-5)

Have you seen their defense? I know their secondary has been banged up all season, but that performance against the Titans had me checking the ESPN scroll to see if Ted Thompson was going to let Mike McCarthy go. With the Vikings on a slide themselves, and the Lions being the Lions, the Packers could still win the North. Regardless, they suck right now. P-A-N-I-C.

3. New York Jets (3-7)

Even as I root for the Patriots, I refuse to delight in the misery of other fellow AFC East contenders. It’s tough because Bryce Petty is as bad as Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he’s as bad as Geno Smith, and they’re all as bad as Mark Sanchez and whoever was there previously. The defense is suffering, they are -65 in point differential, and have only won one game at home. They have a bye week coming up, so the y might as well go to Petty.

4. Jaguars (2-7)

Blake Bortles sure does overthrow his receivers on the deep ball. It’s getting worse in Jacksonville as the Jags have not forced a turnover since Week 4; It’s Week 11. Turnovers are a bit of luck, but there is strategy in forcing them, just ask the Chiefs. Another regime change in Jacksonville, I’ll stay tuned to the Espn scroll.

5. Buffalo Bills (4-5)

Remember when the Bills were riding high? Yeh, neither. The season will tell you who’s good and who’s not, and with Rex Ryan at the helm, they surely will suffer. The Bills are +34 in point differential, but have lost three straight games. Looks to be another marginal season for Rex and the Bills.

6. Bears (2-7)

Alshon Jeffrey is gone for four games. Jay Cutler is the quarterback. I don’t know what we expect form a John Fox coached team, we know what it looks like when the ship goes down. The Bears will start anew, again after the season.

7. 49ers (1-8)

Colin Kaepernick looked good yesterday. The 49ers didn’t allow 800 yards of offense, so that is a plus. They’re so bad that this feels like moral victories, even though it seems that nobody will be back for this team next year.

8. Rams (4-5)

I wasn’t going to put the Rams on here, because they won, but they still are a bad team. As long as Jeff Fisher is here, they will be average, and they are. Yes, they beat the Jets, but beating a bad team 9-6 isn’t something that excites me.

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Defense is Key for the Chicago Bears

1200By Christopher Lindenmier

The Chicago Bears are looking for the famous “Fox Magic” coming into year two of his regime Coach John Fox is known for his stifling defenses and over the course of the off season general manager, Ryan Pace has brought in key players to attribute to Fox and Vic Fangios style of defense.

 

Akiem Hicks is a player to watch for coming to the Bears on a two-year deal from the Patriots.  So far in camp Hicks has applied steady pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler, both in and out of pads.  Akiem was brought in partly to keep blockers off of newly acquired inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, showing Fangio his pass rushing abilities is a plus and should allow the defensive coordinator to be more open with his play calling.  This should allow the Bears to be a suddenly interesting linebacking corps and shine this year.

 

Lamarr Houston has shown up looking to earn a bigger role on this defense.  In camp, thus far, he has sacked Cutler and shown he is no stranger to defending the run, ultimately shutting down a number of run plays.  Look for Houston to make an impact this season both on passing downs as well as a run stuffer on first down.

 

Leonard Floyd was sidelined Thursday with an illness, but we saw him in full pads Saturday.  The ninth overall pick was limited by coaches and mostly played with the third team defense. Saturday was streaky for Floyd, common to rookies. He has shown explosiveness while rushing the passer, but we saw a mental breakdown in pass coverage.  All in all, while undersized he is, he is a very athletic football player and John Fox, along with the rest of us are eager to watch the young man progress.

 

The Bears defense last year was ranked 14th overall in yards and was bottom of the league in takeaways.  With new additions all over their front seven, I expect them to not only jump into the top ten in yards allowed, I also see their takeaways and impact plays making a huge jump from last year.  While the offense is getting the most attention with Adam Gase and Matt Forte leaving, as well as the return of last years’ seventh overall pick Kevin White, the defense will be what makes or breaks the Bears in 2016.

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