Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Dog Days and the NFC North

In recent years this series - Sawx-Yanks - in the dog days of August has meant a lot to the complexion of the American League East. It has played a part in determining the East Champ, and even the Wild Card contender. It's where the wheels came off of the Sawx in 2005.

It's where the Sawx gave Yankees hope for the division last season.

This year it's less about the division than who ends up out of the playoffs. Nothing is written in stone, and both the Yankees and Sox have looked a little cooked lately, while the Twins have surged recently. Granted, the Sox were looking a little cooked at the beginning of
September last season, dropping five of their six to the Yanks in August and September and look what happened there.

But let's face a few basic facts - a month ago the Sox were by themselves as the wild card entrant if the season ended then. Now the margin of the Twins is smaller than the space between the Sox and the division leading Rays - who have added games between the two teams in the last month. The Sox still have a chance to pull it off - even the division - but the team has to play better ball of the next month than they have for the last month.

Needless to say, it's gonna be one hairy September in the Hub of the Universe.

And onto the gridiron...

The NFC North - Something feels weird about this division. It's filled with teams that all have issues, fatal flaws if you will, in regards to their aspirations to a Lombardi Trophy. All have an issue at a key position - quarterback - and some have issues that go deeper.

4. Lions - They may actually have the best quarterback in the division in John Kitna (and this might be the first time in Kitna's career that has EVER been written about him), and based on last year, Rod Marinelly might finally have this team heading in the right direction. But let's face two basic facts: The Ford Family ownership of this team has been an unending nightmare, and Matt Millen's tenure as a GM has been record shattering, and not in a good way. No team in the history of the NFL has had as many consecutive seasons with double-digits in the loss column, and I have a hard time buying that he's learned to be better than any of his in-division counterparts. If the Lions finish ahead of another team in the division, I'm guessing it has less to do with the Lions elevating their level of play than it does with the other team spitting the bit. I have a hard time seeing this team improving on their 7-9 season of last year, and considering their schedule gets considerably tougher after the first three games of their season, I wouldn't be surprised if they regressed to four wins.

3. Bears - The carousel goes around and around at the signal caller position, and it looks like Kyle Orton is getting the call again. You'd think someone there could pick a pro-caliber QB, but alas, no. But the real killer for this team is that the D is not what it once was, and lacks depth. I'm guessing in the vicinity of 8-8.

2. Vikings - Despite the deficiencies of Tavaris Jackson, I think this team will compete for the division, and may even win the division, but that's going to depend on three things. One - Jackson has to keep from making the mistake that kills the team. Two - the health of Adrian Peterson. The young running back racked up some hard miles in his rookie year, and breaking down is a strong possibility, and if that happens this team will plummet in the standings. His ability to pound the ball last season made the Minnesota defense better by keeping them rested. If he's not touching the ball, they pay. Three - the health of Aaron Rogers.

1. Packers - The Packers won 13 games last season and were a few plays away from the Super Bowl. Their only major change was at quarterback. Rogers has been in the system for three seasons already, has been solid in preseason, and was better against the Cowboys last season than Brett Favre. If Rogers stays healthy, the Pack wins the division, albeit not by much. Last year they were five games better than the 8-8 Vikings. This season they're maybe two games better, and maybe not even that.


Suldog said...

I very much enjoyed seeing Wake get a win in NYC. That's the way life should be.

One of my favorite moments of every year is watching the Lions on Thanksgiving. They are usually out of it by then and, for some sadistic reason, I always find it fascinating to watch them disgrace themselves on national TV.

Kevin Smith said...

The win was nice.

I'm absolutely amazed by the Lions. They've been historically bad, and yet no changes have been made where they need to be made.

Just blows my mind.