Continuing with our team previews for the upcoming Madden 18 we turn our attention to the NFC North. Rayski joins us to preview the NFC North along with our good friends at Brits in the Endzone who provide their pick of the bunch for the NFC North. The NFC North has a lot of interesting teams ranging from the ever present Packers to the Lions and Vikings who present excellent value in the CFM.
Rayski provides his expert analysis below.
Let’s start the analysis of the NFC North with the Detroit Lions. After a huge year, making the playoffs with 9-7, there’s a lot to look forward as a Lion fan. If we can trust the first glimpses at the new game, offensive line will matter more than ever and that’s what the Lions upgraded the most this offseason. Got one of the best RT’s in the game from the Ravens, Ricky Wagner, along with a top RG, while also weakening a divisional rival, with TJ Lang. With these additions, the Lions have more than a formidable offensive line to help Stafford. I would also like to mention that the Lions can be transformed to your liking in pretty much a season. In 2018 you need to resign, Stafford, Ansah, Ngata, Quin just to name a few, these also can be traded if your wish is to mix things up. It’s totally up to you wether you keep this core or you make your own during the first 2 seasons. Very flexible either way in my opinion. The linebacker core is very weak, after letting DeAndre Levy go but with good user skills, rookie LB Jarran Davis can quickly become a monster in the middle of your defense.
Player to watch – Jarran Davis – mentioned above – is a beast, he’s got very good speed and acc, agility is questionable but he has high jumping and good hit power. In good hands he can be lethal. He also has a decent defensive line in front of him what has the ability to be transformed into 3-4 if needed. Could have also mentioned the cornerbacks, especially Slay, which seems unusually okay position for the Lions. Good two solid CB’s to start, with the potential of Tabor to be the future at the position.
Over-Rated Player – Well, this is a difficult one for the Lions. I don’t think they massively overpay anyone on their roster, especially with the ending contracts in 2018. So it really depends on what direction you would take them. Is Stafford your future? Well then you probably going to have to make him the highest paid QB in the league. In that case, he might be well overpaid on a roster that does need more help around. Are you prepared to take a chance on someone else (cheaper draft pick maybe or Kayaa) and trade him for a fortune? Then I’d say you have a lot of cash to throw around in the following off-seasons to upgrade this team all around.
Wrap-Up – Make no mistake, the Lions are not consistent playoff team in the NFL, yet. This team could very easily be the NFC North champ next year with the right moves but just as easily could be ruined in a season if you make bad decisions the next offseason. That’s why I actually quite like them. You’ll have an up and down season in 2017 but if you can be smart and stick to a plan, you can take them to places where they never been before. Stafford is solid, got his best offensive line ever probably, with good targets on offense while the defense needs attention but can take the ball from you with solid pieces in the secondary. I also like their cap situation a lot.
Connected Franchise Grade: B-
Make no mistake, this team should be avoided at all cost. Unless you are a die hard Bears fan and enjoy losing a lot. I mean a LOT. All jokes aside, this is a very difficult team to turn around and requires a healthy dose of dedication and football knowledge to do so. Let’s see the offseason additions first. CB Amukamara and CB Marcus Cooper should give a little bit of a depth to an otherwise very weak secondary, topping it with S Q Demps but we all know that the biggest signing was their not so QB of the future, Mike Glennon who will be the highest paid player on your roster for years to come. I personally like the idea to have options at QB but the price tag it came with, is silly looking back at it now. Their draft was somewhat mediocre, obviously depending how well QB Trubisky will play but apart from him and maybe SS Jackson there’s not much to hope for here. Their cap situation is lovely but their roster is somewhat ageing. All in all, it’s gonna be HARD WORK. (Quoting Mayweather here)
Player to watch – C Cody Whitehair – As far as I understand the new game, your center will be the second most important player on your offense, as it should be, so developing this guy even further will be a key. The Bears have no outside protection as their LT/RT position is non existent, but their interior lineman are solid to say the least. (All 85+ overall, maybe its worth thinking about, moving Long to LT)
Over-Rated Player – QB Mike Glennon – I hate to name a QB as an overrated player as it is the most important position, but looking at stats right now, it is more than likely that most coaches controlling the Bears will pick Trubisky over Glennon. Which means $8Million dollar out of the window.
Wrap up – I like the pieces here and there but definitely a coach with patience is required at the driver seat of this franchise. There are no players 90+ overall on the roster. No protectors on the outside of the offensive line as of now, very shaky wide receiver core as their ratings are very inconsistent all around. Your best TE is 32 years old while the running back position looks the best on paper for the offense. The defense looks better overall but somehow I feel it lacks that special player to make it attractive for coaches. Looking at the names only, I couldn’t tell you wether they are 3-4 or 4-3 (they are 3-4) and the key players are all past their primes. That being said I think they have a foundation, especially in their secondary to get started and learn how to utilise them as a unit early on.
Connected Franchise Grade: D
I will not surprise anyone by saying that this is the most exciting team in this division. Where the Bears lack that special talent, this team is full of them all around. Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter just to name the few. Unfortunately, all these guys play on defense. While their defense is stacked with talent, they lack one thing without most teams cannot be utilised, the offensive line. You will get raped behind this offensive line on a very consistent basis. Top that with two of the most injury prone QB’s in the league and you have trouble. It’s not even funny. Your best rated offensive linemen is LG Alex Boone with 79 overall then you have RT Mike Remmers at 73 overall and the cherry on top, newly signed LT Rieff with staggering 71 overall for a “mere” $6 million. That’s shocking. A coach with a strong offensive identity needed here to give a chance to the rookie Cook to thrive. The first season will be a hit and miss. You can dominate people on defense but a mediocre defense can look like an All-Pro team against this offensive line.
Player to watch – HB Dalvin Cook – Once you sorted out who starts as QB (Bradford/Bridgewater) that QB will have this guy at his will. Decent moves, okay catching ability and he’s got the getaway speed. Forget about Murray, he can be bargained with in trade talks, this guy is the future at the position.
Over-Rated Player – LT Riley Rieff – Unfortunately, your new LT makes $6.2 million which was not an economically wise decision in the offseason for a 71 overall LT. He’s got okay strength and awareness but awful blocking ability. With okay cap situation in your first year it’s acceptable, but remember you gonna have to resign Bradford/Bridgewater, Shariff Floyd, Joe Berger and Xavier Rhodes (I believe he has been resigned last week)
Wrap-up – I believe this team has a lot of potential and could be seen as a dominating team in the NFC North in capable hands. But be assured, patience is required. One of the most infuriating things in Madden when your offensive line is incapable of blocking for you. Without a much needed upgrade on all 5 positions on the line, you’ll surely be the most sacked QB in the league, no matter who is under center.
Connected Franchise Grade: C+
Green Bay Packers
The power house in the division, the reining champions with a Hall of Famer QB who is still one of the best in the business right now. Where to start with these guys? This offense is stacked. How about the fact that one of your top receiver is actually the running back, HB Montgomery who can be a big time weapon all around the field. If you are more keen to have a bruiser in the backfield, here comes not so fat HB Eddie Lacy to save the day for you. The offensive line is more than decent with two big time pass blockers on the outsides while the interior has solid pieces around especially at center.
The wide receiver core is full of playmakers, even at TE as well. The problem starts at defense. Green Bay spent most of his draft picks on cornerbacks which at the moment hasn’t really translated into Madden success with both King and Jones having lower ratings, 71 and 74 respectively. Clay Matthews is not going to get any younger which really puts a pressure on you to find that solid elite player to revitalise this front seven. I like the look of the two safeties, they can do damage both in the running (both has top 5 highest pursuits on your team) and in the passing game too. I also like the fact that you are somewhat set with cap for the first two years. You need to resign S Burnett in 2018 but that’s really it, not to mention rookie Jones will be waiting all year to be ready for that starting safety spot. 2019 going to be a bigger year for the front office as Haha Clinton-Dix, Matthews, Cobb, Nelson and Montgomery will all need to be resigned, just to name a few.
Player to watch – HB Ty Montgomery – I think this guy has a chance to be special at RB for the right coach. Great acceleration with good spin and great juke, with possibly the best hands in the league at the running back position. Coaches who loved players like Jamaal Charles or LeSean Mccoy will be thrilled to find this gem in the passing game. Look out for this guy in Madden.
Over-Rated Player – OLB Clay Matthews – Well, I know it’s a blasphemy to mention someone as over rated with majestic hair like his, but this one is down to how regressions will kick in on this version. He is 31 years old and hasn’t been the enforcer he used to be and paring that with $10 million in each of the first two seasons, doesn’t sound like a happy marriage. The Packers need all the help they can get on the front seven, but it might be time to let the younger players prove themselves for quarter of the money he gets paid.
Wrap up – This team will give you the best chance to win in this division. QB and offensive line play will be more important than ever and there is none else better equipped at these positions than the Packers. A-Rod is A-Rod and with these weapons on offense, with the right coach and good offensive scheme, they can get to the playoffs every single year. The defense is formidable, not great but not bad either. With the first offseason focused at them, they can be turned into a dangerous unit with ease. This team has potential and definitely should be picked in the top 10.
Connected Franchise Grade: A-
Guest Pick – Brits in the Endzone – Adley – Green Bay Packers
Adley: Packers – “A team with a lot of history and have a strong team, but not necessarily the best. Aaron Rodgers.”
Well that recaps our NFC North Preview with only 1 division left, the NFC East which will arrive tomorrow. What are your thoughts on Rayskis thoughts – do you think the Packers deserve to be ranked that high? Were the Vikings and Lions overlooked?
Also thanks to the guys at the Brits in the Endzone podcast – we definately recommend to give these guys a listen – you can catch them Here