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NFL Preview Issue Hits Newsstand Obscenely Early

The Pro Football Weekly NFL preview issue is already at a newsstand or a bookstore near you.  Usually I wait and order the one with the cool NFC North players on the cover. . .but for you, my public, I have settled for one with Rashean Mathis, Carnell Williams, and Jason Taylor on the cover.  The sacrifices I make for you people sometimes.

Anyway, this is absolutely insanely early for an NFL preview issue to hit the streets.  There's just too much that can happen between now and the start of the season.  But it's still something interesting to take a look at. Shoot, I fully expect that one of these years, someone will have an NFL preview issue available the day after the draft. For the record, the draft was one month ago today.

Predictably, they've picked the Vikings to finish in last place in the NFC North with a record of 5-11.  That in and of itself is pretty much a joke, especially when you look at the "grades" that PFW gives each team, it shows that they don't even think the Vikings are the worst team in the North.

PFW grades each team's roster in 8 different categories. . .quarterback, running back, wide receiver/tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs, and special teams.  I've taken the liberty of figuring out an overall grade for each NFC North team based on a high school-style GPA system (i.e. an A is a 4.0, an A- is a 3.7, and so forth).  Let's take a look at how the teams rank at each position and the grades they received.

QB - Packers (B-), Lions (C+), Bears (C+), Vikings (D+)
RB - Vikings (B+), Lions (B-), Bears (B-), Packers (D+)
WR - Lions (B+), Bears (C+), Packers (C), Vikings (D)
OL - Bears (B+), Vikings (B), Packers (C+), Lions (D)
DL - Bears (B), Vikings (B-), Lions (B-), Packers (C)
LB - Bears (A-), Vikings (B-), Packers (B-), Lions (C-)
DB - Bears (B+), Vikings (B-), Packers (B-), Lions (C)
ST - Chicago (A), Lions (B), Vikings (C), Packers (C-)

Now, if you take the numerical values from a standard 4.0 GPA scale and apply them to the letter grades above, you come up with the following:

Chicago - 3.08 (a solid B)
Minnesota - 2.34 (in the C+ range)
Detroit - 2.34 (another C+)
Green Bay - 2.18 (closer to a C than a C+)

Yet the predicted records for the division are as follows:

Chicago - 11-5
Green Bay - 7-9
Detroit - 6-10
Minnesota - 5-11

Now, there are only two of those 8 slots where the #1 rating isn't even remotely debatable. . .those being Chicago's special teams and Minnesota's running backs.  Both of those units are easily the best that the NFC North has to offer in those departments.

The summary for the Vikings' section says:

Between their inexperience at quarterback and lack of playmakers out wide, Minnesota will be one-dimensional no matter how potentially dominant its ground game is.  They have the defense to contend, and both the division and the conference are weak enough for a sleeper to emerge, but even with Adrian Peterson toting the rock, the Vikings still may not have the horses on offense to stay above water.

So while PFW appears to be among the Tarvaris Jackson naysayers, it certainly doesn't appear as though they're buying into the Bears, either, never mind the Lions or the Packers.  I still maintain that the Vikings are, at worst, the second best team in the NFC North.

Oh, and PFW's Super Bowl prediction?  New England over New Orleans.  Whoop-de-doo.