Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And In This Corner...

We here at TK On Toast decided that, since we have some down time, we'd take a look at the other teams in the NFC North not named the Vikings. Will it be completely impartial? Of course not. Will it be insightful? Maybe. Will it be ground breaking? Not likely. But was it convenient? Absolutely. Three writers, three teams; enjoy.
What do you call a sober Packer fan? --------- a liar. I’ve always loved that one. How about another one? Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and a smart Packer fan are walking down the street when they spot a $20 bill. Who picks it up? --------- None of them. There is no such thing as Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or a smart Packer fan.

There are many others and less clean ones that I could use, but I’ll stop here being this is a family site and all. I don’t know how good of an idea it is to have a Vikings fan write a Packers preview. This is easily the biggest rival Minnesota has out of any professional sport. I’ll try my best to be fair and kind. I can’t promise anything…

The first thing you need to talk about when you’re talking Packers is Brett Favre. I don’t think he’s even human in the eyes of Green Bay fans. You’ll hear things like: Brett Favre aka Football Jesus or #4 in your programs and #1 in your hearts. Pleeeasssseeee! I should say this though; I like Brett Favre. He’s the only Packer I’ve ever liked. I don’t like that he drags his decision to play or not to play every off-season for the last three years, but he’s been a hell of a football player. Well, Junkie, I mean Favre is back again for another year and will try to expand on the eight wins Green Bay had last year. However….

Is he really the same Football Jesus they think he is? Cheeseheads everywhere don’t really like to talk about Favre and his diminishing skills. And they are diminishing. His TD’s the last four years are 32, 30, 20 & 18. He’s dropped severely since his 30-touchdown year in 2004 as you can see. To further this point, according to for all qualified QB’s from the last two years, Favre’s averages are, he’s 11th in the league in TD’s thrown and 33rd in QB rating. That’s not good. I don’t see him ever getting back to that 30+ touchdown year that we’re accustomed too. He’s going to need some help…

That help is going to have to come from the defense and new draft pick, Brandon Jackson. Green Bay’s defense gave up around 22 pts a game last year, but during the end of the year, four game winning streak they only gave up 10 a game. This has cheeseheads drooling. If the defense can improve from their 12th overall position from last year, the Pack has a chance to match that eight win total and maybe go over. I said maybe. Favre will also have to rely heavily on Jackson after Packer staple Ahman “hands” Green is off to Houston. Living so close to green & gold country here in Minnesota, you get to hear a lot of the Packer rubes gloating about their players and Brandon Jackson is getting some big time play right now. Everyone likes to get excited about draft picks because of their youth and energy. I’m the same way. They bring newness to the team. But, Jackson was the 6th running back taken in last year’s draft. The 6th!!! I understand that players emerge all time in the NFL, but we need to settle down a little bit on the impact Jackson is going to have this year.

Therefore, I expect the Packers to be worse then 8-8. I’m expecting a 5-11 season and Favre finally retiring after the year is done. This will definitely throw the whole state of Wisconsin in a complete tizzy, but eventually they’ll learn to cope without Football Jesus. And by cope, I mean they’ll have bronzed statues of the man on every street corner and will have the number 4 be taught like this in schools, 1,2,3, Favre, 5, etc… The bottom line is that they have the 12th ranked defense, an aging quarterback trying to hang on to every bit of talent he has, the 23rd ranked running offense last year now with a rookie running back and not one impact free agent signing this off season. Unfortunately, I see that win total falling. Unfortunately? Haha, that’s funny!

This of course is my opinion, a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan. I couldn’t defend the Packers if my life depended on it. You’ll never hear a Yankee or Red Sox fan admit the other team is better. Or, you’ll never hear Donald Trump say kind words about Rosie O’Donnell. Some things you just can’t do. The Packers are the team I love to hate. Therefore, I went out and got a quick opinion from my friend Mitch Hiley, a die-hard Packer fan. Wisconsin born, Minnesota resident (smart man this Mitch). Here’s his excerpt:

As I stare at the 2007 Packer schedule hanging in my cube, mind you this is my only decoration, I once again start this season with high hopes for the Packers. Following four straight victories at the end the 2006 season and a Redskins victory away from making the playoffs, I anxiously awaited for that big off-season acquisition to put the Pack back in the playoffs. Well the off-season has come and gone, and rumors of a trade for Randy Moss or Larry Johnson remained just that, rumors. What Packer fan wouldn't have wanted to see Moss moon the Metrodome crowd after catching a TD from the legendary Favre? Despite the lack of any big name additions to the roster and the loss of Ahman Green, I still expect the Packers to finish 8-8 or 9-7 and have an outside chance at the playoffs Overall, the NFC North remains weak and should guarantee the Pack at least 4 victories. Home games against the Raiders and Redskins should also help add to the victory total. The defense should keep the Packers competitive in most games. The question remains with Favre and the offense. Without a true number one running back, a lot pressure rest on the shoulders of 73-year-old Brett Favre and is young receiving core. Expect Brandon Jackson to emerge as the starter in the backfield and Donald Driver to remain Favre's number one target. The story remains the same as last 16 years; the Pack will go as far as Favre's arm can take them. Although I am not expecting fans to refer to Green Bay as Titletown again this season, Favre should give the Pack an outside chance at the playoffs.

Ummmm, Mr. Trebek, what is delusion? Kidding, he’s like everyone else, holding onto hope from his favorite club. As a Viking fan, I see the weaknesses and as a Packer fan he sees the strengths. I’m the same way with the Vikings, which scares the hell out of me right now. I’ve been sweeping the flaws underneath the rug and looking at the positives from the Purple. Is Mitch right with this hovering around .500 talk? Nahhhh, 5-11 and below the Vikings this year Sconies! Ok, one last one….

Why can’t Brett Favre get into his driveway? ----- Someone painted an endzone on it….hweyo!

Without a doubt, the prohibitive favorite to win the North is the Chicago Bears. Led by arguably the league’s best defense, they made it all the way to Miami last year for Super Bowl XLI. That’s where the magical run ended in a 29-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. That said, there’s reason for both optimism and pessimism heading into this season for Da Bears.

On the positive side of things, they return nearly their entire team from a year ago. The lone major departure was the trading of stud running back Thomas Jones (he of the 1200 yard season). For most NFL teams, this would be a crushing blow. Chicago, however, has former #4 pick Cedric Benson itching to carry the load. The team is hoping that running behind one of the top offensive lines in the league will make this a very smooth transition. Another reason to believe that the change in running back will not be a problem is the lack of pressure that will be put on Benson to carry the team. That responsibility goes to the defense, which will surely be one of the top two or three in the league once again. They are led by Paris Hilton’s ex, Brian Urlacher, but also have underrated playmakers in all-world DT Tommie Harris and the talented duo of Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher at corner. As has been the case for a number of years, the team will be leaning on these guys to create field position, turnovers, and the occasional score in order to keep themselves in games. And this group has proved that they have no problem carrying the rest of the squad. Plus, they now have this new special teams weapon called Devin Hester to help them out with that whole field position/scoring thing.

Of course, Chicago is not devoid of its own question marks and negativity. The first problem that they have is that history is not on their side. Before Seattle finished at 9-7 last year, the past five Super Bowl losers had followed up that oh-so-close finish with a record under .500. And there’s very good reason to believe that the Bears could reignite this trend. They are, of course, led by the hyper criticized Rex Grossman at quarterback. Despite throwing for over 3,000 yards last year, Rexy also threw 20 INT’s and finished the season with a meager QB rating of 73.9 (by comparison, Brad Johnson had a 72.0 rating before being benched last season). The receiving corps is also a major question mark. Mushin Muhammad is entering his 12th NFL season and is an average pass catcher to begin with. Bernard Berrian has a ton of potential, but has Grossman throwing him the ball, which could severely limit his production. Even the D has its share of potential problems. Tank Johnson will be suspended to begin the year because he was preparing himself for war, Lance Briggs is clearly very unhappy with his situation, and they signed 67 year old Adam Archuleta to be their starting strong safety. They’re even due for a drop off at kicker. Robbie Gould went from 82 points in ’05 to an amazing 143 last year. That won’t hold up, especially considering that 93 of those points came in the first half of the year. Expect him to be quite a bit less prolific this year—just like Devin Hester will be. Last year the rookie scored a ridiculous 6 TD’s on returns. Expecting the same this year is asinine.

So what conclusion can we come to? The Bears will likely win the division by default. They will be nowhere near that 13-3 record of a year ago, but the lack of talent in the NFC Norris means they will be on top for one more year.

In Detroit, the 2007 season started with a simple question. Who should the Lions draft? Well, sure enough, they went out and drafted another WR, which I didn’t mind because it was a complete athletic freak. The NFC North looks wide open once again and the outlook might look bright for the bottom feeders of the last 5 years.

QB – Jon Kitna – The guy has taken some average Seattle Seahawks teams to the postseason so everybody knows that he has potential to play well. The only problem is that he has potential to look like Aaron Brooks as well. He was quoted before training cramp saying “I will throw for 50+ TD’s and the Lions will win AT LEAST 10 games”. I enjoy his competitiveness on the field but that might’ve been the dumbest thing a player has proclaimed in 10 years. Either way the Lions will really need Kitna to lead this offense without making costly 2nd half mistakes.

RB – It looks right now like Tatum Bell is the lead candidate with Kevin Jones potentially placed on the IR which means he’ll be out at least the first 6 weeks. Tatum does have potential and the talent to be a star RB in this league but it’s always seemed to me that he will never go beyond the expectations. Work just hard enough to get some touches, stay in just good enough shape where he can last for 12-14 games but doesn’t have that drive to be the next big thing. It’s got to be upsetting for Detroit fans because Kevin Jones looked like he was on his way to becoming Mike Martz’s next Marshall, Marshall, Marshall.

WR – There are freaks everywhere at this position. This unit with Mike Furrey and Roy Williams was good enough, and now with additions Calvin Johnson and Marcus Robinson possibly making for a nice red zone WR, this group should be nothing short of spectacular. On a side note, Calvin Johnson WON’T be anything like Mike Williams or Charles Rogers. He definitely is a superstar in the making.

TE – Dan Campbell – He has a very simple job: protect Jon Kitna. That’s it.

OL – Led by Damien Woody as the anchor in the middle, the line which will just need to be average for this offense to be one of the most explosive units in the league.

Defense – All they have to do is keep the opponent under 24 and they’ll be golden.

K – Jason Hanson – He’s 142 years old but he’ll be kicking a lot of PAT’s so it won’t really matter.

Add it all up and what do you get? A 10-6 record and the surprise winners of the NFC North. Don’t believe it? Well when Martz is winning his coach of the year award and Kitna is in the running for MVP, just remember where you heard it first.


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