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Thread: NFC North Preview, By Tim Sullivan

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    Default NFC North Preview, By Tim Sullivan

    NFC North Preview

    By Tim Sullivan
    Contributing Writer
    Brett Favre wrestled with the notion of retirement for months. The Packers, after all, are smarting after a disappointing 4-12 season. They have a new coach, a new system and are clearly in a youth movement. An argument can be made that Favre may hamper those plans.
    But with all that he's accomplished in Green Bay, obviously, it was Favre's choice to stay or go. And considering Hollywood isn't knocking his door down after that memorable bit in "There's Something About Mary," he must have figured he'd give the old dice another roll.
    So, as usual, when the Packers open the season against the archrival Chicago Bears on Sept. 10, No. 4 will be front and center. But the question that Green Bay fans -- many of whom rush to sportsbooks far and wide to bet on their beloved team to win the NFC North year in and year out -- really want to know is this:
    Is that a good thing?
    "I don't anticipate any problems," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I just think it's an old dog with new tricks. We've jolted him a little bit with some new learning, but frankly I told him I think it's healthy for him."
    Perhaps he's right. But how much longer can Green Bay survive with Favre, who will turn 37 on Oct. 10, and fragile running back Ahman Green occupying two of its most important positions? How much longer can first-rounder Aaron Rodgers spoil on the bench as Favre's backup?
    "I think we'll be fine. As long as we're healthy I think we'll be fine," Favre said. "And I think that with Ahman, he looks as good as I've ever seen him. When Ahman has been in the lineup he has played as hard and has practiced as hard as any guy that I've ever played with. I don't see that changing."
    But will that translate into results? Will that pull the Packers -- bound to have great value to win the North at any sportsbook -- out of the basement? Only time will tell.
    This much we do know: If that does happen, McCarthy's new-look defense will have a lot to do with it. The Packers signed Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson, Rams defensive lineman Ryan Pickett and Seahawks safety Marquand Manuel. All have played in a Super Bowl. McCarthy also drafted Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk.
    So, obviously, there is a renewed sense of optimism on that side of the ball. And to be honest, when you consider the Pack gave up 344 points last year, there had to be.
    "I think we've got a lot more depth than I realized, particularly in the secondary and defensive line," McCarthy said. "And I think our linebacker group is really coming together."
    That bunch will get a good taste at just how strong their rivals are right off the bat. The Bears -- who won the division after going 11-5 last season and are favorites to win it again -- have a healthy Rex Grossman at quarterback, a 1,300-yard running back in Thomas Jones and a two-time Pro Bowler, Muhsin Muhammad, at wide receiver.
    And on defense? Well, the Monsters of the Midway allowed just 12.6 points per game last season.
    "I think that we can build on what we established last year," Muhammad said. "That excites me because I don't think the team really reached its full potential. We can be a lot better than we were, and we still were pretty darn good last year."
    Consider that a warning to a pair of other rebuilding North tenants, the Vikings and Lions. Minnesota, under first-year Coach Brad Childress, will go back in time with veteran quarterback Brad Johnson. Detroit, under rookie Coach Rod Marinelli, will do the same with Jon Kitna.
    There is mild talent -- and solid betting value -- with both of those teams. But, like the Packers, there are also several questions.
    What it boils down to, is this: Unless, you're talking about the incumbent Bears, take the buyer-beware approach to this division.
    ROCKY'S ROAD: Redskins fans have a right to be upset that their club has lost two elite linebackers to the rival Giants in two years: Antonio Pierce and LaVar Arrington. With those two stars went name power and an awful lot of tackles.
    But if Rocky McIntosh has anything to do with it, fans in D.C. will soon forget about departures and focus more on arrivals. McIntosh, a second-round draft pick out of the University of Miami, appears to have the skill and mentality to excel at Coach Joe Gibbs' vacant weakside spot.
    "I have to learn to do what's required of me now in the NFL," he said. "I just have to go out there and make that transition."
    It won't be easy. At Miami -- where he led the Hurricanes with 89 tackles last year -- things always seemed simple for McIntosh. At times, he even looked bored.
    Just ask the Temple Owls, whom the Hurricanes defeated 31-3 last Oct. 15. During that victory, McIntosh was feeling so confident, he often stopped in between plays and did sets of push-ups ... on the field.
    Those days are over. And he knows it.
    "I have to learn to stop doing some of the things I did in college," he said. "But as each day goes by, I get more comfortable and I'm able to do what the coaches want me to do. There are some excellent teachers out there and I'm just trying to be a good student and try to learn."
    Music to the ears of Redskins Nation.

    HERM KNOWS THE LAW: As Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law continues to mull his future, rumors are swirling around Kansas City and first-year coach Herman Edwards, who signed Law last year with the Jets. The former Patriot had an up-and-down coverage season in New York, but did manage 10 interceptions.
    So, it's clear that despite 11 years of mileage, Law can still play. But will the next stop be Kansas City?
    "We'll see him in someone's training camp," Edwards said. "I'll leave it at that."
    Keep in mind, Edwards is a master at dancing around the obvious. He needs a veteran corner. Law needs a job. If he can fit under the Chiefs' cap -- and if he doesn't get sentimental by returning to New England -- look for Law in Red and Gold come August.

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    He is coming to your little town! BR7's Avatar
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    Thanks for the read edueche I am even more impressed with that site it will be nice to see it finished

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    Sounds like a Packer backer, Vikings are gonna win the division

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