NFC North: 2013 NFL All-Division Team NFC

All-NFC North: Minnesota Vikings

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
10:00
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NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

 The Vikings had five players named to the All-NFC North team, which was the second fewest in the division. Of those, only running back Adrian Peterson is headed to the Pro Bowl (though kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson probably would have earned a spot if the NFL hadn't curtailed kickoffs from the game).

Other than Patterson -- who is a rookie -- and Brian Robison, it's tough to say that any of the selections played better in 2013 than they did in 2012. Offensive tackles Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt round out the Vikings' representation.

Even if several players got spots because they were the best options in a mediocre division, the Vikings' group of all-division players did provide highlights. Patterson was the best kick returner in the NFL, leading the league with a 32.4-yard return average and becoming the only player in the league to return two kicks for touchdowns. Peterson finished fifth in the NFL with 1,266 rushing yards, despite carrying only 18 times in the final four games and missing two with groin and foot injuries. And Robison had the best year of his career, finishing with nine sacks and ending the year second in the NFL with 81 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

It's tough to find too many snubs on the Vikings roster. The biggest one might be punt returner Marcus Sherels, who surged at the end of the season and finished third in the NFL with a 15.2-yard return average. Sherels, though, was up against a strong field; every punt returner in the NFC North had a touchdown this season.

 

All-NFC North: Detroit Lions

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
10:00
AM ET
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Despite their collapse in the second half of the season, the Lions were well-represented on the ESPN.com All-NFC North team, placing four players on the offense and six on its defense.

This, though, might speak to the overall rough nature of the NFC North, where injuries took a lot of stars on other teams away. Every player I felt that should have made it for the Lions did, other than maybe punter Sam Martin.

But even for some of those who did make it from the Lions, it was more a case of limited pickings in the division than anything else. That has to be why Matthew Stafford was named as the division’s quarterback -- due to injuries to Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers, along with the dysfunction at quarterback in Minnesota.

The other surprise to make it was Louis Delmas, but there was a lack of safeties in the division and Delmas was the only player other than Glover Quin to receive a vote, so he made the team.

Otherwise, status quo for the Lions, who expectedly had Calvin Johnson, Dominic Raiola and Larry Warford join Stafford on the offense. And they had Ndamukong Suh, DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch and Willie Young join Quin and Delmas on the defense.

All-NFC North: Chicago Bears

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
10:00
AM ET
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


The Chicago Bears placed three offensive players on ESPN.com's All-NFC North team in Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, with one notable exception in Brandon Marshall.

Meanwhile, cornerback Tim Jennings served as the lone representative from Chicago’s struggling defense.

For the record, we nominated both Jeffery and Marshall since they are the NFL’s top receiving duo. They combined for 2,716 yards -- the highest for a receiving pair in franchise history. Despite his pedigree as a four-time Pro Bowler and the fact he’s caught 90-plus balls in two consecutive seasons, Marshall fell victim to the numbers game as Detroit’s Calvin Johnson earned the spot on the all-division team opposite Jeffery. Marshall recorded his fifth 100-reception season, tying him for the most in NFL history.

Interestingly, Jeffery, Marshall and Forte are just the seventh trio of teammates in NFL history to feature one 1,200-yard rusher and two 1,200-yard receivers in a season.

In his second season, Jeffery posted 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns on 89 receptions. Both Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler have campaigned pretty hard for Jeffery to be named to his first Pro Bowl. It’s almost certain that Marshall will make the Pro Bowl despite the snub on this NFC North team.

Having hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the fourth time in his career, Forte has also broken Chicago’s single-season record for catches by a running back (70), a mark he previously set as a rookie.

Bennett, meanwhile, set career highs in receptions (65) and receiving yards (759), while tying a career high in receiving touchdowns (5).

With the way the Bears have performed on defense, Jennings is definitely the only player deserving of All-NFC North mention. His 12 interceptions since 2012 rank second in the NFL only to Seattle’s Richard Sherman (16). Jennings is also one of six players in 2013 to return multiple interceptions for touchdowns, and his three interception returns for TDs since 2012 are tied for second-most in the league over that span.

One of the most notable absences on the all-division team is Bears return man Devin Hester, who tied Deion Sanders' NFL record for return touchdowns with an 81-yard punt return score in Week 7 at Washington. Hester's 2013 campaign has been decent, but Cordarrelle Patterson of the Minnesota Vikings put together a better season than arguably the best returner in NFL history.

All-NFC North: Green Bay Packers

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
10:00
AM ET
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

In any other year, it’s hard to imagine the Green Bay Packers having only one offensive player on the All-NFC North team.

But when Aaron Rodgers misses nearly half the season with a broken collarbone, and the Packers use three different backup quarterbacks behind him, it’s safe to say this isn’t like any other season.

One constant, however, was guard Josh Sitton. A Pro Bowl selection at right guard last season, Sitton made the switch to left guard in the offseason and has performed just as well, if not better, despite not getting voted back into the Pro Bowl.

An argument could have been made for running back Eddie Lacy, who became the Packers’ first rookie since 1971 to rush for 1,000 yards. He wasn’t going to edge Adrian Peterson, but it should have been a close call between him and Matt Forte for the other running back spot. (Sorry, John Kuhn, there’s no place for a fullback on the all-division team these days.)

On the defensive side of the ball, Clay Matthews remained one of the division’s biggest impact players despite missing five games because of a broken thumb. But the biggest surprise was the development of second-year defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who was the Packers’ best interior pass-rusher. Cornerback Sam Shields' emergence as the team’s top cover cornerback will earn him a big paycheck in free agency, whether it’s from the Packers or another team.

No one kicks in more difficult conditions than the Packers’ specialists, which makes their selections even more impressive. Few are better at pinning teams inside the 20 than punter Tim Masthay, and kicker Mason Crosby put the demons of his dismal 2012 season behind him and had a career year.

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