Can you smell what is in the air? We are not talking basil or sage here; we are talking about some good ol’ blood and sweat. That is right folks, it is football season and with that it brings a certain pristine fall warming to all of the NFL souls in the land. We here at the Sport City Chefs are no different as we have a lot going on in the kitchen and we are not talking about cooking either. We are discussing the up-and-coming NFL season like no one else can. In this eight-part series we will be tackling each division in its’ own separate round table. This week we will be discussing the NFC North. So grab a seat, a fork and knife and enjoy. This promises to be as juicy as a Porter House steak.
Today in the kitchen discussing the NFL North will be Tyrone Powell from the Sport City Chefs, Chris Ziza from Sport City Chefs/Working Man Sports, Mark Moseley host of the Callers Cook Out/Sunday Morning Brunch and Jeffrey Walk from the Sport City Chefs.
The Appetizers (Quick Snacks Of NFL Opinion)
1. What NFC North team has the best rookie class going into the 2010/11 season?
Chris – It is very hard to determine how strong a rookie class will be as a whole in any given season, but the Detroit Lions definitely have a heads up on the competition as they have both DT Ndamukong Suh as well as RB Jahvid Best to help out on both sides of the ball. With their immense talent I have to roll with Detroit.
Jeffrey- I’d have to say the Lions. They’ve immediately upgraded their offense by moving up into the 1st round and selecting a bonafide homerun threat RB in Jahvid Best from Cal. Best has tremendous speed along with excellent hands and can take it to the house on any given play. He will be asked to shoulder most of the carries early on in the season especially with Kevin Smith now recovering from a torn ACL injury which occurred back in mid December. My main concern with Best is his durability considering how dinged up he was throughout his college career. I’m expecting the Lions to place Kevin Smith on the PUP list at the beginning of the 2010 season despite all the positive reports from Lions camp and media. The Lions organization claim that he’s ahead of schedule at this point however ACL injuries normally take 8-12 months to recover from and he most likely won’t be back to full speed until 2011. Also, the Lions went ahead and drafted Ndamukong Suh, who was regarded by many as the nation’s top defensive lineman in this year’s draft. Suh has the technique and size to play inside in a 3-4 scheme but can also dominate teams off the edge in a 4-3 set by showcasing his excellent quickness and relentless style of play. Suh is an instant impact player and could be playing in many Pro Bowls throughout his professional career.
Tyrone – Hands Down Detroit! We put another threat in the backfield in Best and then the dominating presence of Suh on the other side of the ball.
Mose- Detroit. The Lions were the winners in the NFL draft this year. They were able to draft 2 players in the first round that can impact games right away. Suh and Best are both going to start and play from week 1. They have all the talent in the world but can the live up to the expectations? The Vikings traded out of the first round, setting up the Lions to select Best. Will this come back to haunt them for the next 5 years? I do think the Vikings are a team that is focused on winning this year instead of adding pieces for future (Clausen). The Vikings did select Chris Cook and Toby Gerhart in the 2nd round. They are solid selections but will they impact games this season. The Green Bay Packers selected Byran Bulaga at #23 overall. Yes not the sexiest pick, but winning the battle of the trenches and keeping Rodgers upright is important. The Chicago Bears did not draft in the first 2 rounds due to trades for Jay Cutler and Gaines Adams. Therefore the Bears will try to turn late round selections into studs. Does anyone think Major Wright is ready for that task? The true verdict about this NFC North rookie class wont be accurate until 3 years down the road. This off season the Lions showed the still can roar when trying to build up their roster.
2. Which combination would you rather be sitting with on your NFL roster? Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant, Brett Favre (he should return) and Adrian Peterson, Jay Cutler and Matt Forte or Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best? The combination would be considered for both 2010/11 and the future.
Mose – The NFC North division has the most talented QB-RB duos in the league. This is a division that has plenty of game changing talent. I will place the following as the pecking order of duos. At #4 is Stafford and Best for the Lions. The Lions duo is young and talented that have promising careers ahead of them. The downside is lack of experience for Stafford and Best. That is why for this upcoming season I have to place them at the bottom until they can prove different.At #3 is Cutler and Forte for the Bears. Jay has a rocket arm and Forte is dynamic running back. Will Forte regain his rookie swagger in Mike Martz system? Can Cutler reform back to his Pro Bowl season? This group is high risk and high reward type that is why they land at #3. The #2 duo is Rodgers and Grant. I love Ryan Grant and his ability on the field. Rodgers is well a SUPER STUD. He can make all the throws and has earned the hearts of Packers fans. I have all the respect in the world for the #1 duo of Brett Favre and Adrain Peterson. I know AP fumbles the ball but I think 30 NFL teams would take that problem any week of the season. All day AP is a monster with the ball and is the elite back of this division. The only back you can compare league wide to AP is CJ2k. As for Mr. Favre and his ability in Minnesota, well its freakish. He is 40 years old and still passed for 4200 yards, 33 tds, and 7 ints. He is playing out of his mind. Did he find the fountain of youth and not tell us? He posted the best statistical season of his career last season. The Vikings have the best QB-RB duo in this division, at least for next season.
Tyrone – Stafford and Best, two young talents that if they get their wings open the league don’t have much to work off of as in film of their habits.
Chris – As much as I want to say Stafford and Best here, they simply are secondary to the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant. Both of the Packers are stars at the moment where as the Lions have yet to prove their worth. While in time the Lions may prove to have the better combination, for the time being and into the future it is hard to go with anyone other than the Packers duo.
Jeffrey - Again, I’ll have to say the Lions young combo of Stafford and Best. Stafford was the Lions #1 overall pick in 2009 and made plenty of mistakes as a rookie. However, I’ve been impressed with his strong arm and the mental toughness that he brings to the huddle. He has shown great leadership qualities and should develope into a very solid NFL QB in the future. Best, on the other hand is a RB that defenses are gonna have to really deal with simply because of his unbelievable speed and quickness. Aside from his phenomenal speed and explosiveness, Best displays good vision and patience while being a terrific instinct runner. He can get outside and turn the corner very quickly. I look for Best to be in contention for offensive ROY honors this season considering the amount of touches and opportunities that he’ll be receiving with the Lions.
3. When it comes to the retirement of Brett Favre do you mind how long he takes on his decision to return or not return to the game takes?
Tyrone – It probably irritates me the worst. If everybody is out there working hard then he should too.
Jeffrey - This seems to be a very hot topic among many football minds lately. As a huge NFL fan for over 35 years Brett Favre has been one of the best and most exciting players to ever play the game. He’s never missed an NFL start and is truly an ironmen. He owns many passing records and will certainly be a future Hall of Fame QB soon. However, as he potentially enters a 20th NFL season, I think Favre’s body has really worn down from all the wear and tear over his illustrious career. The Vikings seem to be giving him plenty of time to decide on weather he wants to come back and play again. I believe he comes back and plays one more year especially after having the ankle surgery performed in the off season. In saying all of this I don’t think it’s fair to the rest of the Vikings team and organzation. He is being pampered because of his name and what all he’s accomplished. This sets a bad example for other players and he needs to atleast be in attendance thoughout all of the off season workouts. The Vikings championship success hinges solely on the arm of Favre and they’ll need him to contend for the Vince Lombardi Trophy this season. I just hope that he doesn’t come back and get injured during the season otherwise this could be a situation where a legendary player has hung around the game to long and this would tarnish his image.
Chris - Being a fan of a team in the NFC North, I have had to deal with Brett Favre’s swaying from one extreme to the other. I personally think that it is very selfish that he takes his time and leaves his teams in limbo for so long. As any professional player, it is his decision and he should take time to make it, but don’t hint around. Either commit or say you are not sure yet.
Mose – I think Brett has earned every right to do as HE wants. He is a Hall of Fame quarterback that is still playing at an elite level. Brett take your time, show up for preseason, and display your magic during the regular season and playoffs. You have earned every right to walk away or join your team whenever you want.
The Meal (5 Questions On The Minds Of NFL Fans)
1. The Chicago Bears have brought in offensive guru Mike Martz to work on bringing an up-tempo offense to the field. Martz is known as a pass-first, second, third type of guy. How do you see him fitting in with the Bears and how do you see his presence affecting quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte?
Chris -This is going to be a classic test to see if Jay Cutler is mature enough to quarterback as someone wanting to achieve for other than for himself. By that I mean, his maturity level has been questioned numerous times throughout his brief career. Interception numbers of 14, 18 and ultimately a career high 26 last season in 555 attempts is a bit high. Mike Martz is going to push Cutler to the point of wanting to snap and then push him even further after that. How Cutler handles that will show if he will be able to make a jump to the next level. As far as Matt Forte is concerned, Martz loves to use the back in the aerial game. From Marshall Faulk to Frank Gore and to a much lesser extent of Kevin Jones, I believe Forte will get ample opportunities to shine. As for Martz, as long as he can keep his ego in check, the Detroit reunion with Rod Marinelli could be interesting.
Mose – I want to be very clear, I am a die hard Chicago Bears fan. So I am going to be as unbiased as I can. The offensive wizard Mike Martz will turn the Bears into a very solid offense. He has a gun slinger in Jay Culter passing the ball. Cutler has been getting bashed for last season. He still managed to throw 3666 yards and 27 tds while throwing 26 ints. His overall numbers will improve in Mike Martz system. I just have to hope the turnovers are cut down. Martz has the best NFC North RB duo in Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. They are going to be used early and often in this offense. I think splitting carries with Taylor will help Forte regain his rookie year swagger. Mike Martz is know as being pass happy. I think Martz is attack happy and tries to exploit a defense’s weakness. The Bears are playing for playoffs or bust next season. This will not be the same offense Ron Turner managed last year. Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu are both ready for a huge break out season. The also have game changer Devin Hester in his 3rd season playing WR. The receiver group will be a lot better than everyone expects. The lost in translation player is Greg Olsen. I think Martz will find a way to use a tight end in his offensive very effectively. Greg is a big and reliable target for Cutler in the passing game. The Chicago offense will rank in the top ten for the 2010-11 season. Write it down and get ready to draft a few Bears players in your fantasy draft.
Jeffrey - This situation has the makings to be a “match made in heaven” or a complete failure. Mike Martz is well known throughout the NFL world for his great offensive mind and play calling. Cutler is a solid QB that possesses a big arm and is regarded as one of the better young signal callers in the game today. I believe Jay will need to be more patient with his decision making and also do a better job of protecting the football for the Bears offense to be successful in 2010. He doesn’t have a great group of WR’s and they’ll need to develope rather quickly in Martz’s system. Regarding Forte, I think he’s being slightly overlooked because of his sophomore slump last year and they’ve also added Chester Taylor via free agency. Remember it was only two years ago when Forte combined for over 1700 total yards from scrimmage in a great rookie season. I believe that Taylor fits well into Martz’s system and will most likely be used on third down situations because of his fine pass catching skills. Forte can also catch the ball well and does an excellent job of reading his blocks. However, Forte doesn’t possess much break away speed. These two RB’s should compliment each other well though. The question still remains on weather the Bears WR’s will be able to consistently move the chains and take the added pressure off there running game. I still think that Cutler will have a big year assuming his offensive line can protect him. I would like to see him check down more often to his RB’s rather than just force the ball down field too.
Tyrone – This can actually be a very tough season for Forte, I truly do like and respect his game but as they pull in Martz as a passing coordinator this takes alot away from Forte’s strengths.
2. If you were personally starting an NFL franchise and all things considered were the same as far as age went, who would you rather have manning your quarterback position? The Chicago Bears Jay Cutler or the Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford? Why?
Tyrone – Stafford by far though, just think Cutler has had a few years under his belt and his tomorrow is not too promising, just think Stafford came off a rookie season and turned the organization around somewhat. Not as we would like it to be but there can be a better future for a second year QB then a 4 year veteran who started everywhere he has gone.
Jeffrey – This one is a difficult question to answer. However, I believe that Stafford is maturing quickly and he does manage the game a bit better. Even though he’ll still make mistakes I love Matt’s ability to step back onto the field and still be a team leader. Jay has a rocket of an arm but loves to force balls downfield way too often. Also, Stafford has Megatron and better weapons around him than Cutler. I still think Cutler’s stats will be more impressive overall because of Martz’s pass heavy offense which consistently produces big numbers each year. What really impresses me about Stafford though is his toughness and willingness to stand in the pocket and take a big hit. Cutler tends to lose his composure after being pressured or hit which can sometimes force him into making huge mistakes.
Mose – I know everyone is going with Stafford. I think he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl player one day. Jay Cutler on the other hand has already earn Pro Bowl status. They are both talented QB’s looking to progress in the NFL. I think Stafford has great potential but I would go with Cutler. Jay Cutler is a gun slinger, yes. He throws too many interceptions, yes. I still like the big arm and the fire he plays with. I believe he is going to have a huge break out season for the Bears this year. I do not want to knock Stafford at all, I do think he is a very goodplayer. I just think it will take him a few more seasons to become elite. Cutler is already in the top half of quarterbacks in the league. Jay Cutler needs to work on controlling his emotions and allowing his play to speak for him. I am going with the Bears Cutler slightly over the young Lions Stafford. I would love to see everyone’s opinion after this upcoming season, how winning games changes everything.
Chris – Many people compare the young Matthew Stafford to the seasoned NFL veteran, yet Jay Cutler is light years behind Stafford if you ask me. If I were starting a franchise and had to pick one of the two quarterbacks it would be the one the one that is a gamer, puts his teammates first and is willing to get out onto the field even though he is a walking wreck from the play before. If you want to know what Stafford can mean to this Detroit Lions organization and see how much of a gamer he is, look back to when Detroit beat the Cleveland Browns 38-37 last November 22nd. That is all that you need to know. Cutler and his immaturity issues can stick with the Chicago Bears. He belongs in the “Whiny City.”
3. Sidney Rice of the Minnesota Vikings blew up the wide out position last year. A lot of it had to do with the fact that Brett Favre was tossing around the rock. Once Favre does decide to retire do you see Rice continuing his success, or for that matter do you even see him repeating in 2010 even with Favre there? Explain.
Jeffrey - I think Sidney Rice made great strides last season especially with Favre being in town. Rice possesses tremendous size, ability and solid hands which has quickly developed him into one of the premiere young WR’s in the NFL. Rice is coming off his best season as a pro by posting 83 receptions, 1312 receiving yards to go along with his 8 TD’s. However, he’ll need Favre to stick around a bit longer if he wants to post similiar numbers every year. I’m not sure that Tavaris Jackson, Joe Webb and Sage Rosenfels will provide the same chemistry as what Favre has already shown with Rice now. With defenses still trying to focus on stopping Adrian Peterson, this will allow many opportunities for Rice, Harvin, Shiancoe and the rest of the Vikings WR core to make some big plays. However, if and when Favre retires, it will impact Rice in a negative way.
Mose – I want to thank Sidney Rice for helping me earn a fantasy league title last season. He put up 1300 yards and 8 td’s last season for the Vikings. I think he is the number 1 option and becoming an elite receiver. I still have to give credit when credit is due. Brett Favre is the reason Rice is an elite wide out. He turned Sidney Rice into a BEAST. I love the chemistry and connection those two displayed last year. I do think Sidney Rice needs Favre to be successful in the Vikings offense. When Favre walks away from the game, Sidney Rice will be effected more than anyone else. He still will be the number 1 option in Minnesota after Brett. The numbers will decrease for Rice though, once the legend hangs up his jersey.
Chris – Sidney Rice, who is entering his fourth season in the NFL, definitely broke out in 2009. Was it all because of Brett Favre, or was there something deeper to the story? I was listening to a Sidney Rice interview with whom I believe was Dan Patrick a handful of months ago and Rice admitted to having many injury issues in 2007. He said last year was his first year in the NFL that he could run at full speed without any pain while being able to make the cuts, dashes and leaps needed from a great receiver. While I do believe that he was in the best condition of his career, I find it hard to believe that he would had been able to duplicate those numbers if Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels had been under-center. Rice will continue to be a solid receiver beyond the years of Favre as long as he can remain healthy and continues to have similar talent surrounding him. But once a cannon of a arm is gone, so are many of his deep-route touchdowns.
Tyrone – I think he will truly be a player to be concerned about defensively but without Favre the other QB’s in Minnesota are not the t
4. The Green Bay Packers have a pair of outstanding young talents in quarterback Aaron Rodgers and running back Ryan Grant. With their offensive line being built like Swiss Cheese, do you see these two remaining relatively healthy for another 16 games? Can the Packers survive a major injury to either of these players?
Mose – The Green Bay Packers offensive line has improved and should be able to keep these two healthy next season. We all know that freak accidents do occur in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant are both key players in Green Bay. If Green Bay lost Ryan Grant it would hurt them but nowhere near as much if they lost Rodgers. He is the man in Green Bay. The season would be lost if Aaron Rodgers were to miss an extended period of time. They need to keep him off his back and throwing touchdown passes. I do love what Ryan Grant adds to the offense but it is pale in comparison to Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers need to find every way to keep Rodgers on the field this season or it could turn ugly in Lambeau Field.
Tyrone – Interesting. I think Rodgers will but Grant can actually get a hampering injury that can hold him down for quite some time if the Packers front line do not get their act in order.
Chris - The Green Bay Packers did very little to upgrade one of their dire needs heading into the off season. While I feel for Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant, I am looking forward to seeing my Detroit Lions throw them around with a much improved defensive line on our end. With the homer mentality out of the way and just concentrating on the question at hand, I don’t believe that both players will survive all 16-games unless the O-Line gels and improves in significant ways over last year. While I do believe both injuries would cripple what they are trying to do on offense, it is Rodgers injury that would send them from contender to pretender. The Packers can ill-afford to lose Rodgers for any amount of time.
Jeffrey - Heading into the 2010 season the Green Packers are my choice to win the NFC North. However, a couple of the things must first happen for them to accomplish there feat. First, the Packers offensive line must do a better job of protecting Aaron Rodgers than what they showed the first half of last season. With both starting tackles, Tauscher and Clifton returning and healthy for 2010, hopefully this will allow AROD the extra time in the pocket to throw to his plethora of weapons. I believe the Packers have as good of a WR core in the NFL although there are still questions surrounding Donald Driver’s age (35) and health. Driver recently had both knees scoped during the off season. Greg Jennings looks primed and ready for a bounce back season and Jermichael Finley is an absolute beast of an athlete that will look to build on last year’s success. Rodgers will look to him early and often and Finley should have alot of success especially inside the red zone. The Packers drafted Bryan Bulaga, who was regarded as one of the better offensive lineman in last April’s draft. Bulaga will add instant depth to an already aging o-line and will eventually supplant Tauscher or Clifton in the forseeable future. As far as Rodgers, he’ll still need to release the ball alot quicker to help reduce some of the extra hits and sacks. AROD has the tendency to hold onto the ball too long, which can go a long way in keeping himself upright. I like Ryan Grant and have always viewed him as being under appreciated. He’ll consistently give you 1200 yards rushing and 8-10 TD’s but certainly won’t strike fear into opposing defenses. However, I would like to see Grant improve in the Packers passing game. Since joining the Pack back in 2007, he’s only averaged around 25 catches per season. Despite those mediocre numbers, I think that he can be a nice safety valve option for Rodgers anytime whenever he’s feeling the pressure. Grant is an upright runner that runs particularly well between the tackles and displays pretty good vision while reading his own blocks. I believe the Packers will be able to score points in bunches this season but alot of there success will hinge solely on Rodgers and Grant performing consistently.
5. With the additions of Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler and Jahvid Best to go along with young talents such as Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Brandon Pettigrew as well as a majorly upgraded defensive line headlined by rookie Ndamukong Suh, do you foresee a return to respectability or are they still at least a year off?
Tyrone – Back in the driver seat of not only closing the games out but now having the rest of the league notice what an impact these young players are showing . Truly we have struggled in the past but now is the time for the Lions to stop being laughed at.
Chris -I don’t want this coming out as if this were coming from a Detroit Lions fan, although it is, so I have to look at it from outside the box. There are very few teams in the NFL that can admit to having that wealth of young, offensive talent in their organization. Not to mention that Kevin Smith also looks to be ahead of schedule as he could also play a significant role in the Lions offensive scheme this year. There is no doubt in my mind that as long as they can stay relatively healthy, Detroit should be able to put ample points on the board. The question is whether or not their defense, which has rated horribly the past several years, can allow less points than the offense accrues. In some games that answer will be yes, in others it will be no. I do believe that they have the best group of players on their roster that they have had since Matt Millen took over many years ago. For the first time in a very long time, I honestly do believe that opposing teams will have to take the Lions serious and not sleep-walk through their game week.
Mose – The Lions have improved dramatically this off season. They have added lots of talent on both sides of the ball. They look ready to play real football in Detroit finally. They are poised to have a very solid season this year and have a bright future ahead. I do think they are 2 to 3 years away from a playoff appearance. They have a very hard schedule this season playing the NFC North (as usual), NFC East, and AFC East. They also get the Rams and Bucs tossed at them to round of the season. They have to earn W’s on the field one week at a time. I think this Lions team is ready to get over the hump. Matthew Stafford has talent but yet is inexperienced and has to prove he can be a winner in this league. The bright side for Lions fans is they can only go up at this point.
Desert (Division Predictions)
Chris – The NFC North has upgraded its’ talent base immensely over the spring months and should see themselves in a dogfight for their division title. When all the smoke is cleared and gone I see the Minnesota Vikings once again leading the pack with a 11-5 record. It won’t be at such a huge margin this year though as it was in 2009. The Green Bay Packers will finish second with a shot at the wild-card with a 10-6 overall record while both the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions finish up the rear with each going 7-9.
Tyrone – This is too tough, but I have to be real I truly think there is a toss up between the Packers and the Lions. The old rivalry will be renewed and hopefully finally get to see why they really call Calvin the alias Megatron.
Mose – This division is wide open to me. We have 4 teams that can compete for the division crowd. When the dust settles I am going with the Minnesota Vikings at 10-6, winning the division. The Bears will surprise everyone and finish in 2nd place at 9-7, making the playoffs for the first time since their Super Bowl appearance. Yes that means the Packers will not make the playoffs this season. They will finish 9-7 as well but due to tie breakers will be out of the playoff picture. The Lions will finish a respectable 6-10 this season and have Detroit fans excited about the future. The NFC North will be considered the best division in football this year.
Can’t Stand The Heat? Get Out Of The Kitchen!
Today’s no holds barred topic stems from the Motor City as the Detroit Lions President Tom Lewand was recently arrested on suspicion of DUI, or driving under the influence. All the people in the NFL, not just the players, are subject to the Personal Conduct Policy. If you were commissioner Roger Goodell how would you deal with this infraction? Keep in mind that Lewand had been seeking help from his alcohol addiction for over a year at the time of his arrest.
Mose – I do not think Lewand should be terminated for his actions. He should be fined by the NFL for representing the league in a bad situation. The league must lay guidelines for front office executives to be accountable.
Tyrone – He should be held accountable like every other person in office or professionally in that matter. He represents the NFL and even if I love the Lions I think he should see some type of situation where he has to suffer at least a little.
Chris – Being a Detroit Lions fan I hate to see any person get slapped with the book, but in this case it happens to finally be with a NFL front office person and not a player. I think both Lewand and Martin Mayhew have done a fine job turning this around in Detroit the past season and a half but you can’t punish the players and not the bosses. In this case I would unfortunately have to say that I would bring him in, demand that he takes his recovery more serious and have him attend classes to aid in his recovery. I would not suspend him, but I would let it be known that if this were to happen again that he would in fact miss time just as the players would.
Thank you for checking out the NFC North edition for the Sport City Chefs NFL Round Table. Don’t hesitate to let us know what you thought. Who do you agree more with? Who do you think is absolutely insane? Let the Chefs know. We promise not to spit in your food! Check back soon as we will be releasing the AFC North.