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Football Predictions: A Second Slice
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April 30, 2008, 2008
Football Predictions: A Second Slice
8 Predictions For 2008 If You're A Fan Of The...
Green Bay Packers
1. Aaron Rodgers isn't Brett Favre. Okay, hardly Nostradamus as predictions go, but Rodgers won't be asked to be Favre in any case. For Packers fans who like to forget, a few seasons, including the last one, ended with Favre throwing a bravado pick, while Rodgers better fits a conservative game plan built around the running game — which is what the Packers have been trying for for a while.
2. It says Donald Driver and Greg Jennings at the top of the depth chart, but don't be surprised if James Jones, Ruvell Martin and others get an increased share of the action. Some of the lesser receivers know former backup Rodgers pretty well, and Jones was close to 50 catches last year.
3. Ryan Grant may be amongst the top 3 rushers in the league by yards — that makes sense as a projection from last year's part–season statistics alone. But even with defenses keying on Grant more this year without the reputation of Favre to worry about, Grant is one of a dying breed: a true one–back who carries the load.
4. Kabeer Gbaja–Biamila continues to challenge the validity of the term 'starter'. As a 'situational' pass rusher, KGB has had more sacks than any other Packer. He's in company with the likes of Willie Davis (around 100 sacks in the days when they didn't tally them) and Reggie White.
5. It won't take linebacker Aj Hawk 15 weeks to get a sack this season.
6. Kicking will be a weak point. Mason Crosby is amongst the better kickers in the league, but the Packers go into the season with a new long snapper, holder and punter.
7. Packers fans will be a huge part of this season. Some of the toughest opponents are in Wisconsin, so if a load contingent of Favre fans continue to live in the past, and boo their own instead of the enemy, they could bring down their own season.
8. This is officially a flip–flop (well, it is election season): Instead of taking the Packers as a wildcard, I'm putting them back atop the division.
1. Jared Allen's statistics do not lie. He will arrive in the NFC North in a big way, not least for the fumbles he forces.
2. Tarvaris Jackson doesn't take a great leap forward, merely a step, managing more TDs than picks, but still suggesting better things to come.
3. WR Bernard Berrian was paid shed loads of money to be the new top receiver for the Vikings. The ex–Bear will be a contributor, but won't set things alight.
4. WR Sidney Rice is the player who benefits most from Jackson's development. He heads into 2008 a little off the radar in fantasy terms, but keeper league owners might want to keep an eye on him for 2009.
5. Adrian Peterson and Green Bay's Ryan Grant battle to the last week for the rushing title.
6. Bryant McKinnie's 4–game suspension hands the divisional initiative to the Packers. The left tackle leaves QB Tavaris Jackson facing KGB in the season opener, in Green Bay. As well as the Packers to open, the Colts visit in week two, feisty Carolina bring Julius Peppers in his contract year in week 3, and the Vikings visit Tennessee where Albert Haynesworth is in a contract year. McKinnie misses all those games. Pundits who predicted the NFC title game for the Vikings start keeping a low profile.
7. The Vikings may not win the division, but they will the best of busy wildcard picture. Nonetheless, they will be one and done in the playoffs.
8. The Vikings will become everybody's 2009 pick in the NFC.
1. Jon Kitna famously predicted 10 wins for the Lions last season — except he didn't, he just said that with the talent they had they should win 10 games. This year, they're a step closer to that.
2. It seems madness to talk about the end of the Kitna era when he's just had back–to–back 4000 yard seasons, but this will be his 12th season (more if you count NFL Europe), and another playoff miss might start to draw attention to the number of times Kitna gives up the ball — 20 picks in 2007, plus losing 6 fumbles. He has also been sacked 114 times in the past two years. No Martz means no 4000 yard season either. Questions will be raised about how former 2nd round pick Drew Stanton is coming along.
3. Rudi Johnson may have turned Tatum Bell into excess baggage, but Kevin Smith is going to hold onto his opening day start throughout the season.
4. FB Jerome Felton may the most significant addition, however, a strong runner, goal–line scorer and pass blocker.
5. Don't be surprised if the linebacking lineup undergoes some mid–season shuffling as Rod Marinelli–favorite Ryan Nece gets into the mix.
6. The Lions will get better against the pass... much better. They signed Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson at safety, and Brian Kelly and Leigh Boden at corner. In a division where no team has a QB without question marks except the Lions, that's a big advantage.
7. The Detroit Lions miss the playoffs. Again.
8. The still don't sack Matt Millen.
1. With lots of big–name first round running backs making their debut in the NFL this season, Matt Forte could be the forgotten back. All he did his senior year was run for 2,127 yards with 23 scores. But the key number is 361 carries, suggesting he can carry the load if (when) the Bears get frightened of throwing.
2. Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman will still both end up on the field this year. That's because Orton is more careful with the ball, and when coverage sacks abound, will eat the ball rather than throw the pick. He'll also get hurt doing so.
3. Rex Grossman will come onto the field in relief, will play a great game, then two stinkers. Enough already. The Bears won't want to see his face again after this season.
4. The receiving stats are going to be HORRIBLE. When you bring back 10–year veteran Marty Booker as the best, you're in trouble. His last season great season was 2002. Beyond him, Rashied Mathis and Devin Hester are two small target.
5. Brandon Lloyd will have a comeback season after 25 catches over the past two seasons with Washington. Well, everything's relative in Chicago.
6. The offense has been so frustrating for so long that some fans begin to pelt the field with rubbish — drinks, hot dogs, season tickets — and are banned from Soldier Field.
7. The Bears had the 28th best defense in the league last season — there's statistics for you. This year, they start to look a lot better statistically, and part of that, unlikely as it may sound, will be the doing of Orton and Forte. The offense may be dull, but it'll eat up more time, and the defense won't end up wheezing so badly late in games.
8. The Bears continue to face a 5–11 season, and that may be generous. This is the least talented offense I'm ever seen the Bears field.