1) Minnesota Vikings – Say what you will about this team, our hated rival, but in the end, I think they will have too much talent to screw things up like they normally do. Adrian Peterson, if he stays healthy, has MVP-like talent (and if he goes down, their back-up isn’t bad either). They have a solid O-Line and I don’t think Tarvaris Jackson is going to be as bad as many Packer fans are expecting him to be. In fact, if he doesn’t have great numbers, I would be more inclined to attribute that to having nobody good to throw to except AP. Their defense will be very good. The Williams are beasts, Jared Allen is very good – I could play the other DE and the D-Line would be fine. Their linebacking corps has improved over the last couple years and Antoine Winfield will be good until he’s 70. Sharper isn’t that good anymore, but he’s an opportunist who can change games. Brad Childress is not a good coach and there is still a chance that he could foil the whole plan of the Vikes and I’ll root hard for that. 11-5.
2) Green Bay Packers – It’s hard to pick against my team – I rarely pick against them during the season. But I think Rodgers will struggle with consistency as many first year starters do. Still, overall, I don’t think Rodgers’ play will end up being the major reason the team falls short of the achievements of the previous year. The offense will be decent again (look for more action for the tight ends this year), the special teams will be very good, but the defense will struggle. I’m sure to get many comments quoting my word “struggle” here, but let me offer some support for this. Al Harris is getting old and while he’s still strong and good at bumping at the line, he is not very good anymore at covering beyond that. While Collins and Bigby offer excitement due to speed and the potential for big hits, neither have been very consistent in their careers. (Subbing Rouse in if Collins isn’t very good may improve this situation). Our linebacking group should be fine, but the lack of depth on the defensive line could prove problematic. The loss of Corey Williams will affect our depth quite a bit, because having the luxury of bringing in fresh a KGB and a fresh Jolly was nice while it lasted last year. Jenkins could be an x-factor this year because he’s underperformed his fat contract thus far – he has the talent to be a difference maker this year and could ease some of the concerns many of us have re the D-Line. In the end, I think the Packers might see a mid-season drop-off that could hurt their momentum going into the playoffs. 10-6.
3) Detroit Lions – Matt Millen will get fired after this year – finally. The Lions have some quality players and will win some games that people may not expect them to win. Kitna and his 2 monster receivers could be really good this year if their running game truly takes off like some think it will with Kevin Smith running the ball. But outside of Ernie Sims and quality corner Brian Kelly, the defense could be bad. When they win, they will likely win shoot-outs. 6-10.
4) Chicago Bears – The Bears time came and went in one season – 2006 when they went to the Super Bowl. I still contend that they weren’t really that good even then. They are in rebuilding mode on offense with a newish QB, new RB and other new guys. Their attempts to rebuild a shoddy O-Line took another hit when their draft pick Chris WIlliams was determined to be lost for the year. Even though I’ve ripped on Chicago for their terrible decision-making re their QBs, Orton may not end up being too bad this year (better than Grossman for sure). Greg Olsen will be a TD machine. In fact, it may get to the U-71 package point where everyone will know who Orton is going to throw to, and they will still get the ball to Olsen for a TD on many an occasion. Their defense has the familiar faces but they are older and starting this year, will be noticeably less effective. Hester can still change any game in the span of 7-10 seconds, which is a great x-factor have, but it won’t be enough to bring more wins. The Bears will struggle this year and Lovie will be on the hot seat. 5-11.