It's tough being a blogger for an NFL franchise this time of year if you're team isn't in the Super Bowl, which the Minnesota Vikings never are.
But I did spy some stories recently about the Vikings NFC North brethren that were of interest to me. I hope those stories (and my observations in this post) will be of interest to you.
Green Bay Packers
After the Packers got smacked around by the 49ers two weeks ago, I tweeted that Green Bay's performance was the definition of soft. Packers beat writer Bob McGinn agrees, and notes that the Pack were a soft team all season.
But please hold off on any talk that the Vikings are set to unseat Green Bay as the NFC North's gold standard. I say that because the Packers have a guy wearing #12 under center and all he's done since becoming the franchise's starting quarterback in 2008 is average 4,300 passing yards, 34 TD passes, completed 65 per cent of his passes and only averaged 9 ints per season. The Packers have also averaged 10 wins in those five seasons and won a Super Bowl. The Packers - and more specifically Rodgers - will torment the Vikings for the next 10 years if Rodgers stays healthy and in Green Bay, softness and warts and all. Rodgers is the best QB in a QB-driven league, and he only turned 29 in December.
New Chicago head coach Marc Trestman hired Mel Tucker as his defensive coordinator this week. You might remember that Tucker turned down a chance to be Minnesota's defensive coordinator last offseason to return in that role in Jacksonville - a move that did not work out very well for Tucker. It was also Tucker who employed the soft prevent zone during the season opener against the Vikings that allowed the Vikes to move 32 yards in two plays and set up a Blair Walsh 55-yard last-second field goal that tied the game at 23-23 and sent it into OT, which Minnesota won. Bravo, Mel.
Anyway, a bigger issue for the Bears than whether Tucker is a good hire or not is the age of the Bears defense. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher will be 35 in May, and probably won't be back. Other key defensive cogs like Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije are all over 30. There are no obvious replacements on the Chicago roster for any of these guys. This is an old defense and I expect it will really start to show its age in 2013. The Bears might have gone 10-6 this season, but I think they are going in the wrong direction. That's good news for the Vikings.
Expect the Lions to target cornerback early and often in April's NFL draft. It was one of the team's biggest weaknesses in 2012. It wasn't the only one, however, which is why Detroit went 4-12. I often hear that the Lions are loaded with talent, but that doesn't square with a 4-12 record. What the Lions have is some great talent in a few places and a lot of mediocre-to-bad talent everywhere else. Calvin Johnson is awesome. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh have the potential to be a tremendous defensive tackle tandem. Matt Stafford - sidearm throws and all - almost posted back-to-back 5,000 yard passing seasons. Unfortunately for the Leos, they've got little pass rushing talent at the defensive end position (Cliff Avril won't be resigning and Kyle Vanden Bosch is declining), the linebackers are just OK, the running game is average and so is the O-line. In short, Detroit needs to get better in a lot of areas if it wants to challenge for a playoff spot in 2013. Again, this is good for the Vikings