Two weeks till the start of the 2020 NFL season.
The league’s way of fighting the Coronavirus was an astonishing achievement to at least start the season.
Twice a day testing, social distancing, and a mask mandate.
On this day, there is one player on the COVID-19/Reserve List.
Jaguars offensive lineman Ryan Pope.
It is why I am sitting here watching the start of my “America’s Game” documentary marathon. A tradition I have done for ten years now and a coincidence that it is about the 1966 Packers who are historically known for winning the first Super Bowl over the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs (who will defend their crown this year)
Enough talk, let’s see how the NFC North will look this year, the odds were surprise you ,and a player to watch out for to bolster your lineup.
Green Bay Packers (11-5)
Outlook: The Packers under rookie head coach Matt LaFleur went 13-3 in 2019. Wait…did I read that right? In this writer’s opinion, the Packers were disguised as a up-and-coming 10-6 team. They were transitioning from a west coast offense where quarterback Aaron Rodgers would let the ball fly to a run-heavy offense led by running back Aaron Jones. Jones was a stalwart for the offense rushing for 1084 yards and a league-high 16 rushing touchdowns. Expect a small drop-off though as Green Bay drafted the multitalented AJ Dillon out of Boston College in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Dillon was the premier weapon on the Eagles, in three years he had 38 touchdowns and 4382 rushing yards. You don’t draft a running back in the second round unless you are planning to use him while Jones is heading into the final year of his contract.
Rodgers’ time in Green Bay is possibly nearing its end after they drafted 26th overall Jordan Love, a multitool quarterback out of Utah State. It was also one of the most overrated headlines of the offseason. However, all eyes will be on the wide receiver position with Devin Funchess opting out, it will be interesting to see who will help out superstar receiver Davante Adams.
On the defensive side, the Packers were developing a formidable front seven led by free agent acquisitions outside linebackers Preston Smith (Washington) and Za’Darius Smith (Baltimore). The duo known as “The Smith Bros.” had garnered nearly 26 sacks and became one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. While the pass defense finished 18th overall, they saw an under-the-radar cornerback rise up in Kevin King who led the team in interceptions with 5 and tied for fourth in the NFL. They brought in linebacker Christian Kirksey to replace Blake Martinez (now with Giants) who is looking to embrace his second chance after an injury-riddled 2019 after suffering a torn pectoral.
The Packers will be one of those teams to not underestimate in 2020. Hopefully, if they meet San Francisco in the playoffs again, they don’t find themselves down 27-0 at halftime like in the 2019 NFC Championship.
Odds: +2800, 28 to 1.
Fantasy Football Player to Watch: WR Davante Adams. Adams missed five games due to injury in 2019. However, he was still productive with 83 receptions for 997 yards and five touchdowns. If Adams can stay healthy this season, he could have a 100-plus reception season with double-digit scores.
Minnesota Vikings (9-7)
Outlook: Second place will be quite a showdown in the NFC North between the Vikings and Lions. However, I don’t trust head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit. I believe the Vikings while not loaded with playmakers like Detroit. They are far better coached under old-school defensive guru Mike Zimmer.
The Vikings were in the headlines this offseason when they sent stud receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo for a 2020 first-round pick (No. 22 overall), a 2020 fifth-round pick, a 2020 sixth-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. They used that first-round pick to nab LSU receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson was created to be included in the highlight reels. In his senior year as a Tiger, 111 catches for 1540 yards and an astonishing 18 scores. He’s expected to be a solid number two receiver lining up opposite of Adam Thielen. Don’t let this walking sports rags to riches biography fool you. While he was hampered with a hamstring injury throughout the season, Thielen showed off in front of a national audience with a seven-catch, 129-yard performance in the 2019 Wild Card game at New Orleans. Heading into his third year in Minnesota is quarterback Kirk Cousins, under offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski in 2019. Cousins only was intercepted six times (his lowest since 2014) and 26 touchdowns. Stefanski is now the head coach in Cleveland, the offense will now be under Super Bowl-winning coach Gary Kubiak and is expecting big things out of their “Thunder/Lightning” running game with Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison.
The defense will be under a microscope after losing cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, defensive end Everson Griffen, defensive tackle Linval Joseph to free agency. The defensive line will have a new leader in up-and-coming star Danielle Hunter who is a pain for offensive tackles. Coming off of back to back years of nearly 15 sacks will be an injection to keep this defensive line from collapse. Thankfully, they will have solidarity at the linebacker with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks who leads the team in tackles. While the secondary will be in transition, it is imperative to be careful if you see #22 Harrison Smith, the sledgehammer in pads on the field.
The Vikings will have a lot to overcome, but they still have enough weapons on offense to keep this team above .500.
Odds:+2500, 25 to 1
Fantasy Football Player to Watch: RB Dalvin Cook. Speaking about that running game, Cook was the reason to see this Vikings offense. He was like a steamroller in the backfield with incredible speed off the snap. Last year, he had 250 rushes for 1135 yards and 13 touchdowns. If he can play 16 games in 2020, he will remain a top 5 running back and a fantasy football star.
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Detroit Lions (8-8)
Outlook: I looked at this roster and continue to be dumbfounded. This is a loaded roster with playmakers on every position ranging from quarterback Matthew Stafford to the incredibly talented wideout Kenny Golladay. Oh…coaching once again is the problem with Matt Patricia. How do you go 3-12-1? I know that Stafford’s back issues kept him out but there was no excuse for this team to be this awful. Golladay had a career-making season with 65 catches for 1190 yards and 11 touchdowns and fellow receiver Marvin Jones Jr. also loved the end zone, scoring nine times. The running game once again stalled though. Kerryon Johnson was lost for the majority of the season with a right-knee injury. It leads to the Lions drafting the speedy De’Andre Swift out of Georgia in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. Unfortunately, Swift is dealing with an undisclosed injury during training camp. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was looking to make Johnson/Swift into his own SEC-powered backfield if they can stay healthy.
Anyone getting tired of this Lions defense not playing up to their potential? They brought in Eagles defensive backs coach Cory Undlin to bring an old-school toughness to a defense that has not been formidable since the days of Robert Porcher and Chris Spielman. However, a big loss happened when they lost the leadership of cornerback Darius Slay in trade with Philadelphia. Luckily, they found a strong replacement with former Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant and drafted the Ohio State shutdown corner Jeff Okudah. Undlin will have his work cut out for him as he tries to remake a pass defense that was ranked 31st last year.
Odds:+6600, 66 to 1
Fantasy Football Player to Watch: TE TJ Hockenson. Hockenson was destined to be that raw but talented tight end that the Lions needed with 367 yards and two touchdowns. However, the 2019 first rounder dealt with a severe ankle injury on Thanksgiving and ended his season. He has all the tools to be a top tight end in the NFL and is a sleeper to watch out for.
Chicago Bears (6-10)
Outlook: Do not tell me this is another year where the Bears defense will be one of the best in the NFL and the offense will be a question mark? Oh…it is. The Bears dove deep and traded for the Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles, however Foles is coming off a left clavicle injury when he was in Jacksonville. So the question remains with the 2nd pick in the 2017 draft, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky is nearing closer to the dreaded two words, “draft bust” unless he has a successful 2020 campaign. It was a career-low for Trubisky last year with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, he was also sacked 38 times. It is amazing how a guy who made 13 starts in college football could be labeled a soon-to-be bust. According to Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, Foles is the front runner as starting quarterback after Trubisky has struggled with accuracy.
Then, a blow to the running game as second-year running back David Montgomery was carted off the field this week with a groin injury and will be out for 2-4 weeks. That will give Tarik Cohen a chance to carry the load in the running game. The wide receiver position will be interesting to watch after they brought in deep-ball specialist Ted Ginn Jr to help out Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. The tight end position is also going through changes as they traded Adam Shaheen to the Dolphins, Trey Burton went to Indianapolis and they signed former Packers tight end Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal. I think my brain hurts over breaking down this offense.
However, the key to winning will lie with the defense once again. You look at this front seven and say to yourself, this will be a top-10 defense to be reckoned with. With playmakers at every position from defensive end Akiem Hicks, safety Eddie Jackson, and the cyborg lined up at outside linebacker. Khalil Mack. Mack is coming off a “meh” 2019 campaign with nearly 9 sacks which was the first time since his rookie season that he did not have double-digit sacks. Underneath the tutelage of defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, be prepared because this will be a stingy defense to deal with.
Odds:+4000, 40 to 1
Fantasy Football Player to Watch: WR Allen Robinson. Robinson has a top-level talent and is never complimented for it. While dealing with a messy offense, he caught 98 balls for 1147 yards and seven touchdowns. That alone is astonishing and you would be missing out on a receiver that lets his play do the talking, not his mouth.