Posted 08/19/2007 at 09:09 PM
There are two season win totals that I'm playing on teams from the NFC North. I love the Bears to go 'over' 10. In fact, I have Chicago finishing 13-3 just like it did in the 2006 regular season.
I know all the history of Super Bowl runner-ups going in the tank the following year, but that trend isn't going to blind me from the facts.
Many pundits feel like the Bears had a tumultuous off-season. There was the Lovie Smith contract situation, the tirades from Lance Briggs, the Tank Johnson distraction and the loss of Thomas Jones.
But the Smith contract situation worked itself out. Even Briggs showed up at training camp, pledging his allegiance to the team (at least for this year). And Johnson is no longer part of the organization.
As for Thomas Jones, I really don't think his loss is going to be that big of a deal. Cedric Benson should be fine and if not, Adrian Peterson is a capable fill-in.
During his five-year career, Peterson has been a special-teams star, but hasn't been able to get into the running back rotation much because of the presence of Anthony Thomas and Thomas Jones initially, followed by the 1-2 combo of Jones and Benson.
When Peterson, the brother of Jags LB Mike Peterson, has gotten touches, he's been outstanding. And, lest we forget, he had a workhorse collegiate career at Georgia Southern.
The Bears also drafted Garrett Wolfe in the third round. Wolfe is small in stature, but his speed will allow him to be a factor as a third-down back sorta in the mold of Joe Washington, who would replace John Riggins in passing situations on those great Redskins teams in the 1980s. Wolfe enjoyed a sensational college career at Northern Illinois.
Of course, there is the Rex Grossman factor. The University of Florida product had some great games in 2006, but he became a turnover machine at times. Grossman has to become more consistent, and I think that'll happen. Remember, 2006 was his first full season as a starter, and the team did go all the way to the Super Bowl.
I think Grossman will have more talent around him. The Bears took Greg Olsen, an outstanding tight end out of Miami who has enjoyed a terrific training camp, with their first-round pick. Also, Devin Hester is now in the wide receiver rotation, giving the offense a home-run option on any given touch.
Last but not least, the Bears play in a weak division. There's a good chance Chicago could sweep its six games against Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota.
The other play I have is the 'under' for the Vikings (6.5 at most spots). The main thought process driving this play is the QB combination of Tavaris Jackson, the starter, and back-up Brooks Bollinger.
Neither player has much experience and quite frankly, neither player is very good. Going into the season with Tavaris Jackson as your starter reminds me of the ignorant decision by the Browns to go into 2006 with Charlie Frye as their starter. In a word: stupid!
I love Minnesota's first two picks from the draft: RB Adrian Peterson out of Oklahoma and WR Sidney Rice from South Carolina. Plus, the Vikes have three outstanding offensive linemen in C Matt Birk, G Steve Hutchinson and T Bryant McKinnie.
But the offense lost its two best receivers from last year. WR Travis Taylor led the team with 57 catches, while TE Jermaine Wiggins had 46 receptions.
Look for the Vikings to limp to a 3-13 record. I'd say Minnesota's best-case scenario is 5-11, which would still be an easy winner.
So there ya go. Two plays: Bears 'over' and Vikes 'under.'
Bet 'em with confidence!