In day one of this 2-part NFC Playoff Prediction series, I told you that the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, and the Washington Redskins will repeat as division champions and make it to the playoffs this upcoming 2013-2014 season.
I will now tell you who and why I believe will win the NFC North Division, and who will also take up the the two final spots in the wildcard region of the 2013-2014 NFC Playoffs.
2013-2014 NFC North Champions-Green Bay Packers
In his first NFL Draft as the GM of the Packers, Ted Thompson drafted a quarterback named Aaron Rodgers who was expected to play behind former Packer quarterback Brett Favre until he was to retire. But after a couple of disappointing ends to the seasons with Favre as the quarterback for the Packers, Thompson decided to part ways with the franchises all-time leader in passing yards and give way to Rodgers.
Two years later, the Packers won their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history after the beating the Pittsburg Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV, becoming the first #6 seed from the NFC to win the Super Bowl, and second #6 seed to win the Super Bowl since the Pittsburgh Steelers did it in 2005. Since then, the Packers have never looked back, winning the NFC North title the past two seasons, and developing who I believe is now the best quarterback in the NFL, that being Aaron Rodgers.
The two biggest question marks the Packers had coming into this 2013 off-season was making sure they had a solid pass rush on defense and making sure they established a running game so that their offense can be more two-dimensional.
And of course, just like in the past, there is no place Thompson likes to go to fill in the gaps his team more than the NFL Draft.
In their first round pick the Packers addressed their lack of a pass rush by drafting Datone Jones, defensive end out of UCLA. The Packers then followed that pick of what I think was one of the biggest steals of the draft, trading up to get running back Eddie Lacy from Alabama in the second round. But the Packers didn’t stop there in addressing their needs.
In the fourth round the Packers drafted running back Jonathan Franklin, who is also from UCLA. I’m looking forward to watching the one-two combo of Lacy and Franklin, as I believe the competition for who will get the most touches will make both players perform that much better.
Last but not least, in the 6th round of the NFL Draft, the Packers selected Josh Boyd, defensive lineman from Mississippi State, who is an explosive 300-pound player coming off of the line.
With the new rookie acquisitions Thompson has added to this team, you can expect the Packers to once again be at the top of the division once the season is over.
2013-2014 Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks
If I were a GM in the NFL and I had the chance to redo the 2012 NFL Draft all over again, the first quarterback I would have chosen off the board would have been Russell Wilson, followed by Andrew Luck, and then Robert Griffin III. That’s how much I believe in the quarterback IQ and leadership from the former 3rd round pick out of Wisconsin.
After watching him play in college and in his first year as a pro, there is one thing I know you are for sure getting with a player like Wilson, which is someone that just knows how to win.
In his first season as a starter, Wilson led the Seahawks to a 11-5 record and their first winning season since 2007. The Seahawks went into the playoffs as the #5 seed and the only team that season to go undefeated at home. In the Wild Card Round, the Seahawks overcame a 14 point deficit to defeat fellow rookie quarterback, RGIII, and the Washington Redskins. This was the first time since the 1983 Divisional Round that the Seahawks won a playoff game on the road.
Unfortunately, in the 2013 Divisional Round, overcoming a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit wouldn’t be enough to defeat the #1 seeded Atlanta Falcons. The game ended in a heartbreaking fashion after an inexplicable timeout called by head coach of the Seahawks, Pete Carroll. Carroll chose to ice kicker Matt Bryant, only giving him another chance to be the hero, and he was successful in the final seconds of the game giving Atlanta the 30-28 victory.
But after acquiring wide receiver Percy Harvin via trade from the Minnesota Vikings this past offseason, there should be no reason why this 2013 Seahawks team is not back in the postseason competing for a chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle ends up taking the division title from the San Francisco 49ers.
2013-2014 Wild Card-Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions had to be the best below .500 team in the NFL in 2012. Nine out of the twelve losses Detroit had this past season were by eight points or fewer; three in which came in overtime. Finishing the 2012 season with a disappointing record of 4-12 didn’t stop the Lions from breaking records on the offensive side of the ball though. Even if the records which were being broken were not the best milestones you would want to be a part of, records are records.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson finished the year with 1,964 receiving yards, which is the most single-season receiving yards by a player in NFL history. The former record of 1,848 receiving yards was held by San Francisco 49ers Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 1995. Johnson was only 36 yards away from becoming the first wide receiver ever to eclipse the 2,000 receiving yards plateau in one season.
On the other hand, Lions quarterback Mathew Stafford broke the single season record with the most pass attempts by a single player with 727 attempts in 2012. Stafford finished the year with 4,967 passing yards; 33 yards away from being the only quarterback in history next to Drew Brees to have multiple 5,000 passing yards seasons.
So what do these records actually mean for Detroit? That the Lions may need to establish some kind of running game if they plan on matching anywhere near those numbers in 2013. Which is why the Lions went out and acquired free agent running back Reggie Bush.
The situation that Reggie Bush is coming into with the Lions is more perfect than the one he had going into Miami (or Kim Kardashian for that matter). The Lions needed a running back who was able to run between the tackles, in which Bush showed he can do in his short stint with the Dolphins.
What makes this relationship even more special is Bush’s ability to catch the ball, and we all know how much Stafford loves checking down to his running backs. Stafford is also comfortable playing when theres an empty backfield, which means Bush will be able to line up in the slot as a wideout for the Lions, which again, is a proven position for Bush. As long as Bush stays healthy, expect him to put up top 5 fantasy football running back kind of numbers for Detroit.
Lastly, this year’s first round draft pick for the Lions, Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end out of BYU, will be a great fit in this young/revamped defensive line for Detroit. At first I didn’t like the pick, but then I realized that the style of play Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh possess will help “Ziggy” Ansah perform with a certain kind of viciousness that this Lions defense needs.
If the Lions are expecting to make any kind of noise this upcoming year, their defensive line will have to perform as a top 5 caliber in the league. Especially since you have players like Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson playing within the division, who both can single handily take over a game at any time.