2011 NFL Division Preview
Happy Football is Back Day everybody!
That’s right, tonight is the night that the NFL makes it’s triumphant return to our television screens. I feel like the proverbial kid on Christmas morning. This is always one of my top days of the year, and this year with an offseason full of lockouts and lawsuits it feels all the more sweet to finally have real, actual football back in my life. I know the games don’t count, but simply because I’ve been deprived of football for so many months each year after the Super Bowl ends, this is the day I get more excited for than even the start of actual games.
To help us all get back into the swing of the NFL season I bring you the second installment in my series of NFL Division Previews. Today we go over the NFC Norris division, or the NFC North if we have to be all formal and stuff. This division has great historical rivalries, is a case study in how NFL offenses are evolving and above all is the best division top to bottom in the NFL. All of the teams have potential to win games, and the team that comes out on top will be battle tested and ready for playoff success.
In case you missed it, here is my NFC East Division Preview from earlier this week. And make sure to come back on Monday, where after a weekend of pigging out on glorious, glorious football we'll talk about the NFC South.
Green Bay Packers
2010: 10-6, second place in the NFC North
Better or Worse in 2011: Better
If the Green Bay Packers 2011 Super Bowl victory proved anything, it’s that the NFL has officially completed it’s transformation from a downhill running league to a spread formation, pass first league.
The Packers dominated the air, both on offense and defense, and rode that strategy all the way to a Lombardi trophy. The writing has been on the wall for a decade now, offenses that feature the pass first, like the Patriots, Colts, Saints and even the Steelers (yes I put the Steelers in there, the 2006 championship was still a run first team, but by 2009 they were a predominantly passing squad), have gobbled up the championships.
I mean, every 16 year old who grew up playing Madden knows that the way to win is to spread a defense out and beat them with speedy receivers and an accurate, strong armed quarterback. It’s not that these offenses don’t run the ball well, the key here is that it all starts with the pass, leading to openings in the running game.
The Packers personified this pass first mentality in 2010, basically running an “air raid” offense, the same kind of multiple receiver, downfield passing attack that colleges have been using to put up crazy numbers for years. I could go on for another thousand or so words about the Xs and Os advantages of this offensive philosophy, but your already probably skimming through this, so I’ll just say that it takes advantage of vertical seem routes and the fact that defenses can’t cover the whole field, and it all relies on how good the quarterback is.
The Packers aren’t likely to change anything in 2011, after all defensive coordinators are still probably about two or three years away from figuring out how to stop their attack (hint: look at the TCU 4-2-5 scheme). They have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and an aggressive, disrupting defense.