2014 NFL Preview and Predictions

Aaron Rodgers

NFC North

Detroit Lions 11-5: Fool me once, shame on you. The Lions are the typical loaded-with-talent team, but never seem to miss an opportunity to commit a penalty (according to nflpenalties.com, Detroit ranked in the top-10 in penalties twice in the past three seasons, and third overall in 2011).

Discipline stems from the top. The move from Jim Schwartz to Jim Caldwell releases a bottleneck of potential that should flourish out of the gate. Caldwell last coached the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-2011. In those three seasons, Caldwell’s team ranked sixth, fourth, and first in fewest penalties. No coincidence.

Green Bay Packers 10-6 Wild Card: Consider this. There was a time when people didn’t know how good Aaron Rodgers was. It was only after his Super Bowl XLV victory that Rodgers’ stock soared. Three straight division titles and a Most Valuable Player award later, Rodgers (now healthy) continues to lead his team to the playoffs year in and year out. Add in what could be Rodgers’ best running back in Eddie Lacy, and the Packers should keep their postseason streak alive for the sixth consecutive year.

Chicago Bears 6-10: While Robert Griffin III has to deal with rumors that his backup is more suited for victory, Jay Cutler had to face the scrutiny last year. In the five games Josh McCown started in place of the injured Cutler in 2013, the backup quarterback went 3-2 with twelve touchdowns and only one interception. McCown is now gone (more on him later), but the questions remain unanswered. Can Cutler stay healthy (he hasn’t started all 16 games since 2009)? Can he limit his turnovers and convert victories? Can the league’s second-worst defense, typically its strength, return to form? Chances are, the Bears won’t make it through the strong NFC North.

Minnesota Vikings 6-10: If not for the Lions and Packers, the Vikings could be making a strong push for the playoffs in 2014. Teddy Bridgewater, largely considered one of college football’s best quarterbacks entering last year, saw his draft stock slip until the end of the first round. The starting job was ultimately given to Matt Cassel, but the Bridgewater era is not far off. Consider this a transition year, although the likelihood is high that Adrian Peterson will be on the decline when Bridgewater gets his chance.

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Mario Mergola
Mario Mergola is a writer, avid sports fan, former ESPN Radio producer, husband, and father who specializes in finding the hidden gems of the less-explored option. Follow @MarioMergola

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