Welcome to the 2019 NFL round robin version of “Be Careful What You Wish For?” No division has had its teams decide to go down a given path then have to ask themselves if they have bitten off more than they could chew. Over in Packerland Aaron Rodgers questioned the game planning of Mike McCarthy and became downright ambivalent. Now he’s already made grumblings about new caoach Matt LaFleur’s decision to hold joint practices. Not exactly the way to show unity with the new coaching regime establishing a new culture.
Then off to Chicago where the NFC North defending champions entered last year’s playoffs, and the fear The Chancellor had “Would Coach Nagy call too cutesy a game in blustery conditions and cost the Bears a playoff game?”
Then came this nonsense on a 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter of the Wild Card Game at home against the Eagles:
Wouldn’t you know that ill fated 2 point conversion is the difference between the NFL’s #3 ranked defense going to New Orleans in the divisional round. They lost 16-15. Why not run former RB Jordan Howard on the 2 pt conversion vs a shovel pass in frigid conditions?? Remember him?? The 6’0 224 lb running back nicknamed “Bulldozer?”
Shovel pass to a 165 lb WR Taylor Gabriel at the goal line?? That is too cutesy…
This was the difference between winning a playoff by 1 and losing by 1…17-16 well that and Cody Parkey’s missed field goal at the end of the game. Then turnaround and trade your power back to the NFC rival Eagles who just beat you in the playoffs?? Who does Chicago give the ball to for the tough yards. On that ill fated 2 point conversion that was Khalil Mack motioning out of the backfield. What did I say about cutesy play calling??
2019 NFC North Predictions
- Minn. Vikings 12-4** (Homefield)
- Chicago Bears 9-7
- Green Bay Packers 6-10
- Detroit Lions 5-11
Watching all this is the division’s best team in the Minnesota Vikings. The national press and pressure is off of QB Kirk Cousins who didn’t live up to expectations after signing a huge contract to come over from Washington. As a team they fell from grace after an NFC Championship visit in 2017.
Despite the smoke Cousins completed 425 of 606 passes for 4,298 yards 30 TDs and 10 picks and has the best WR tandem in Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen. All Diggs (102 rec / 1,021 yds/ 9 TDs) and Thielen (113 rec / 1,373 yds/ 9 TDs) did was power the 13th best passing attack with room for improvement. There were 87 missed connections on passes that short circuited drives forcing punts and disrupted offensive rhythm in games. Cousins is a beta quarterback however this is the spot where he performs without expectations.
This is also the year Dalvin Cook has his break out year now that he is 2 years removed from a knee reconstruction. The same time frame Jamal Lewis ran for 2,000 and a year shorter than Adrian Peterson ran for his 2,000. Not to say Cook is going for 2K, just illustrating this is that explosive year post surgery and a 1,400 yard season is within reach.
Keep in mind the Vikings field the 4th best defense in all of football. This could vault to a number one status if Cook and the running game dominate time of possession. LBs Anthony Barr and Eddie Kendricks need to have great seasons against the run and covering speedy backs and crossing receivers.
Chicago is going to field an even better defense although their statistics will be skewed with an offense that won’t possess the football as it did last year. Not only is defending Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack going to be in game shape week 1, Roquan Smith is ready to leap into player of the year status himself. Wearing #58 is like watching Wilber Marshall reincarnated and making plays all over the field.
Smith will now have his first complete offseason to get ready for 2019. In a year he didn’t make the Pro Bowl, he led the Bears with 121 tackles with 5 sacks and 1 pick. In the Wildcard he took an interception 60 yards for a touchdown that was called back when he was ruled down by contact.
Danny Trevathan was second in tackles (102 / 2 sacks/ 2 ints) roam the intermediate passing lanes with Smith. Together they knocked down an additional 17 passes.
Keep in mind these hunters are behind Pro Bowl and All Pro Khalil Mack, Pro Bowl DT Akiem Hicks, and both Pro Bowl and All Pro S Eddie Jackson & CB Kyle Fuller had the same accolades. This bunch will play for a new coordinator in 2019 but expect the same results. This overall is an incarnation of the 85 & 86 Bears who endured a coordinator change and will have that type of impact.
The problem is this defense will be let down by the offense who traded their hammer (RB Jordan Howard) and accounts reporting Mitch Trubisky has been off in training camp. Can Tarik Cohen carry the load at RB?? Taylor Blitz doesn’t think so. Great change of pace guy but doesn’t have the rocks in his pockets to last the season. Quick and flashy but doesn’t run with body lean to get tough yards.
Chicago is much better starting Mike Davis #25, who is 30lbs heavier than Cohen, and ran for 514 yards on 114 carries last year. Without a prominent running game to rest this defense puts the ball in Trubisky’s hands. Opponents have to watch for constant “jet sweeps” and “bubble screens”.. trickery plays where the propensity for fumbles and issues will arise. Taking this team back to the pack.
Speaking of the Pack, for the first time we can say this team is in a rebuilding year in many a moon. Rodgers is still the staple at QB and has a younger team around him than in year’s past. Entering year 15 it seems like just yesterday this was the fresh faced QB with so many years to come… now he is where Brett Bavre had been.
In 2018 Rodgers enjoyed a season where he completed 372 of 597 passes for 4,442 yards and 25 TDs to just 2 picks. However he was short circuited by a defense ranked 22nd against the run and 18th overall. Despite his best efforts he was forced to come onto the field in deficit situations pointwise and momentum-wise.
How do we know this?? The Packers were 22nd when it came to time of possession. It’s a catch 22 where Green Bay wasn’t in position to work on their running game if they wanted to.
By the way did you see the last preseason game against the Ravens? They gave up 36 carries for 171 yards and 4.6 yards per carry. You can’t win football games that way as the defense was pushed off the ball all night. Yes it’s preseason but you can’t turn on and off the ability to knock your opponent back. A staple in football for more than 100 years. 2019 will look much the same way as this will be a rebuilding year and defensive leaders and playmakers need to emerge.
In 2019 it’s all Minnesota Vikings and they will go deep in the playoffs.
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