The NFC North will probably provide more prurient interest for 49er fans than the other divisions, given the cast of characters banging heads up there. All four teams have some link to the 49ers. Green Bay has Aaron Rogers, who is not Alex Smith. Detroit has Shaun Hill, who also is not Alex Smith. Chicago has Mike Martz, who did not have Alex Smith. And Minnesota has Bret (grrrrrrrr) Farve, who has been a dagger in the 49ers’ heart for fifteen years.
What fun! Detroit is being touted by the expert touters who are wrong at least as much as everyone else in the tout universe, amateur and pro. Touted as being much improved this year. Some expert fume throwers even boldly predict this franchise will win five entire games this coming year. Superb!
Moving right along, da Bears are in a Mike Nolan do or die situation, with Lovie Smith starring in the Nolan role and Martz reprising his supporting actor role as the hired gunslinger brought in to blow the doors off the passing game and turn Jay Cutler into his best self. As opposed to his worst self, which was selfishly on display last season.
Lovie has had an interesting rise and fall career with the Bears. Taking over in 2004, the team gradually improved and landed in the 2006 SB. After that pinnacle year, Smith squabbled about his paycheck, eventually getting a big raise. Then he dumped Ron Rivera, his respected D Coordinator, and promptly watched his vaunted defense head straight into the toilet over the next three years, taking with them their contending status.
They are the Bears, however, so most of the blame for the team’s demise fell upon the offense, specifically Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton. 49er fans are all familiar with the dramatic 2009 off season trade of “Wonder Boy” Cutler to the Bears. It was one of the primary 49er blog wars of last year, pitting Niner fans who gave Cutler big props and the 49ers management no chops for not going after him versus those fans who felt the spoiled little brat was not worth the whopping price of the trade.
The 2009 results tended to overwhelming support the Cutler-is-a-bum opinionizers. Folks in Chicago, however preferred to think the Bears OC was the bum. And Lovie preferred them to think that, also, distracting them from thinking he was the bum. Welcome to another hairball situation, Mr. Martz. You have one year 8 games to save Lovie’s job. Your chances of succeeding in this mission do not seem promising.
Over in cheese land, the Packers are the favorite choice of many toutmongers as the team that will take over the division this year and in years to come. Aaron Rogers, after three years on the oblivion bench, has become “the next great QB” according to the aforementioned toutsters (okay, maybe it’s only Chris Mortensen who’s fawning, plus all bloggers who hate Alex Smith). Anyway, wouldn’t it be amusing if the two QBs from the continuously panned 2005 draft class, both rose up this year and led their teams back to prominence? It could happen, but the Packers better do something to muscle up their defense as well. That baby was torched last year and they will never get to the SB winning week to week shootouts.
The Vikings. A cursed franchise. Maybe it’s the city, which never could decide which name to use for star billing. The Vikings are a better, more perfected version of Buffalo. Buffalo muddles around in mediocrity, but the Vikings muddle around at the top. Oh for four in the SB, and lately just one play or two not good enough to get there. Their two best D linemen, the Williams Wall guys, are both tip-toeing around a 4 game steroid suspension that could trip them up this year. Their QB has proven for three straight years that he can’t win the big one anymore. Heck, Farve hasn’t won the big one since 1996. But he sure piles up stats, hopes, press, and, for more than a few NFL fans, a lot of primadonna nausea. The Vikings HC, Brad Childress, has publicly sold his soul for two years, fawning and crawling after Farve. Sorry, this franchise looks ready to implode. Maybe not this year, but soon.
The 49ers play only the Packers this year, naturally. The rising team. While the Cardinals play the Vikings, the falling team. And we again play them in Green Bay. Maybe there is a glimmer of truth to the conspiracy theories that insist the NFL likes to SCREW the 49ers at every little turn. Or maybe if the team was just better none of this horse pucky would matter.
At any rate, this year we will see ROGERS vs SMITH: THE SEQUEL. The blogosphere should be quite lively before and after this game.