Believe it or not, folks. Jon Kitna is not crazy. Widely quoted saying his team would win 10 games and then later upping it to 12, ESPN briefly halted its obsession with the Yankees and whether they’d reach .500 to discuss the Lions of all teams. In traditional media fashion, no one looked deeply enough to see that there was a tad bit of wisdom there. I am calling them to win the division. Let’s see why:
Detroit-You really have to love the way this schedule sets up for them. They start with games against Oakland, Minnesota, and very possibly an Eagles team with a rusty/still rehabbing Donovan McNabb. Chicago comes to town in week 4 and they Lions could be riding high on a 3-0 start while the Bears could still be working out the losses of Lance Briggs and Ron Rivera. Week 5, they come to Fed Ex and I have to admit I’m more frightened of that game than I generally would be if you told me Detroit was coming to town. The thing is, I’m not really high on this team so much as I am the schedule. Let me be the first to go on record as saying Calvin Johnson will be a bust. He disappeared in big games and that’s a sign of someone feasting on bad talent. But I’m really high on the schedule. I think they get 4 guaranteed wins from Green Bay and Minnesota. Tampa, Arizona, and Oakland make 7. If they can get one from Chicago which I think is possible they need two wins from the the following: Philly, Washington, Dallas, New York, Denver, and San Diego. That seems possible. One seems certain. That’s 9-7 or 10-6 team. I’m calling 10-6 and a division championship. Go Kitna!
Chicago-Not signing or trading Lance Briggs was a mistake. Letting their defensive coordinator go to become a linebackers coach was terrible. Trading Thomas Jones was a blunder of high proportions. But despite that, they still retain a lot of talent. Rex Grossman is not very good, but he is not nearly as bad as people think. I don’t believe in Cedric Benson, but Garrett Wolfe will be a fabulous change of pace back that might cancel out the loss of Thomas Jones. And even with the loses on defense, this is still a strong unit. The problem is the schedule. They play strong teams in San Diego, New Orleans, Denver, Seattle. We have beaten them several times recently and play them again. If they drop one against Detroit like I am predicting, they have to run the table against the rest of the NFC East and KC (I know I say they suck but they play them in week 2 before age and injuries are liable to set in) to go 10-6. I think that spells 9-7 and a wild card berth.
Green Bay-What a mess. Favre is holding the team hostage and worse yet, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t look like the answer when Favre finally goes away. The best rebuilding projects in the NFL start with the QB because it takes the longest to develop and the Packers tried that. Their intentions were good. But after years of drafting great players to back up Favre (Matt Hasselbeck anyone?) they dropped the ball when it really counted. Favre will bumble through another season and hang it up at 4-12.
Minnesota- The Vikings are doing everything right. They picked their future franchise QB in Tarvaris Jackson. The defense is strong which will allow Jackson to mature. They added a running game with Adrian Peterson to compliment Chester Taylor. Peterson will thrive with Taylor taking 150 of his carries allowing him to stay healthier. The missing piece for Jackson will be a set of targets for the passing game. Until he has that, we’ll see too many turnovers and not enough points. 4-12 but kudos for rebuilding it right.
With all the preliminaries out of the way, we turn to the only division that matters tomorrow and I tell you whether to be looking forward to next season or not.