Michael breaks down the NFC North Division



Photo: USA Today

Not that it mattered – Aaron Rodgers’ injury crippled the Green Bay Packers’ chances last year – but in early September, soon-to-be-former general manager Ted Thompson made two big mistakes when he trimmed the final roster down to its league-mandated 53 players. The first was one letting go of former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill.

The second, and most prescient given the current roster makeup, was letting Reggie Gilbert sit on the practice squad for all but two games.

Gilbert, who went undrafted out of Arizona, came into Green Bay from a 4-3 system where he played with his hand in the dirt. As expected, it took Gilbert some time, but he eventually found his way during his second year in training camp. Through four preseason games, Gilbert collected two sacks and eight tackles.

By late August, it looked like Gilbert was well on his way to becoming that next undrafted Packer who cuts his teeth as an unheralded undrafted free agent on the practice squad before eventually making an impact on the active roster. Continue Reading By  Packerwire

Photo: USA Today

The Vikings are coming off a 13-3 season and appearance in the NFC Championship Game. But they know that 2018 starts with a blank slate and, as Head Coach Mike Zimmer says, all 32 teams will start at 0-0.

As the Vikings set their sights on returning to the postseason,’s Adam Rank and Marc Sessler recently highlighted Minnesota as part of an ongoing series in which they provide five reasons why each of the NFL teams could make the playoffs.

Listed as two of the reasons were free-agent signings Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson. Rank said the Richardson deal “could be a game-changer” for the Vikings in 2018. He wrote:

_The Vikings already had the top-rated defense in the league last season, including a defensive line filled with superstars like Danielle Hunter (they signed him to a new deal, BTW), Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph. It was already the reincarnation of the Purple People Eaters and then you go out and bring in a talent like Richardson. It’s almost not fair. _

Rank said that Cousins “could be the top gun the Vikings have been looking for” under center. Continue Reading By Lindsey Young

By now you get the picture: We’re cycling our way through the entire league and attempting to piece together reasons why even the shoddiest of teams will make the playoffs. It’s an exercise that ebbs and flows in terms of believability, but the Lions — typically on the outside looking in — have a new coach, a new identity and a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford.

The Lions are bound to operate as a more balanced offense under Matt Patricia, but the first-year head coach was wise to retain play-caller Jim Bob Cooter. Detroit’s creative coordinator has managed to maximize Stafford over the past two-plus seasons. Stafford’s completion percentage totals since 2015 are the best of his career, while his 10 picks in each of the past two campaigns are also career bests. Same goes with last year’s 7.9 yards per attempt, but forget the numbers: Stafford has played with more confidence and seen the field better under Cooter.

He was one of the league’s more frustrating signal-callers for years on end, but the Stafford we saw last season finished as the NFL’s sixth-most valuable fantasy arm and looked the part in real life. He can make every throw on the field and has a better cast around him than in years past. It’s understandable if fans have typecast Stafford as a somewhat blasé presence, but here’s what he really is: a top-10 quarterback zooming into September. With Jim Bob still dialing up the calls, I see a passer ready to deliver his finest season yet. Continue Reading By Marc Sessler

The following is the eighth of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

The Bears defense boasts continuity in the secondary, returning all four starters in cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara and safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos.

The Bears placed a transition tag on Fuller and then retained him by matching an offer sheet he signed with the rival Packers in March.

“We could not be happier to have Kyle under contract for four more years,” general manager Ryan Pace said at the time. “We feel he is an ascending player on our top 10 defense and we look forward to him having many more productive seasons here in Chicago.”

Fuller had a resurgent 2017 season after missing the entire 2016 campaign following knee surgery. He started all 16 games, recording 68 tackles, two interceptions and a career-high 22 pass breakups.

“It was really just kind of about showing I was healthy and showing what type of player I could really be,” Fuller said. “I was just happy to be able to come out and have fun, enjoy it, and be myself, and I think I showed that last year.” Continue Reading By

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