NFC North - What You Need To Know

NFC North - What You Need To Know

Green Bay Packers (15-1, 560 Points For, lost in Divisional Playoffs): The Packers looked so sluggish in their playoff loss to the Giants, it's easy to forget just how dominant this offense was in the regular season. Aaron Rodgers has established himself as the best quarterback in the league, and fantasy owners appreciate that he'll run for a handful of yards and touchdowns every year, too. Perhaps a few of those cheapies at the goal will fade away with Cedric Benson in the fold, but make no mistake, Rodgers can pass his way to another MVP award either way. Although Greg Jennings is the de-facto No. 1 receiver here, he didn't even see 100 targets in 2011 - that's how much the Packers spread things around. No one thinks Jordy Nelson can score 15 times again, but his crisp routes and breakaway speed should give him a strong chance at 9-11 spikes. James Jones and Randall Cobb will struggle to get significant looks; Cobb has a big upside but didn't do much this summer. Jermichael Finley would be a star at tight end if he found a way to fix his ongoing drop problem. Look for another division title in Wisconsin, and at least 450 points. Bang the drum all day.

Detroit Lions (10-6, 474 PF, lost in Wild Card Round): Everything broke right for Matthew Stafford as a fantasy play last year: he stayed healthy and the Lions couldn't run the ball or stop anyone else from the scoring. Detroit wound up throwing the ball 66 percent of the time, the highest clip in the league. Head coach Jim Schwartz would like more balance in the offense (as anyone would), but the Lions don't have any special backs between Kevin Smith (ordinary vet), Mikel Leshoure (injury issues, drug suspension) and Jahvid Best (concussion problems, may not play again). Okay then, let Stafford line up in the shotgun and let it rip. Calvin Johnson is an uncoverable freak at receiver and a justifiable fantasy pick in the overall Top 5, and he'll get more help from Titus Young this year (try to snag Young as your fourth or fifth receiver). Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is a solid volume play, but he's not a dominator in the red zone.

Chicago Bears (8-8, 353 PF): The Bears were on the short list of Super Bowl contenders before Jay Cutler busted his thumb in November. A 1-5 crash landing followed, as a nation grimaced at the sight of backup QB Caleb Hanie. The front office did all it could to help Cutler for 2012, adding his old running mate Brandon Marshall in addition to RB Michael Bush and rookie WR Alshon Jeffery. Marshall should be a force between the 20s, but he never had big touchdown counts back in the Denver days with Cutler. He's a strong fantasy play but not a Top 10 wideout. Bush probably can poach 6-8 rushing touchdowns from tailback Matt Forte, but Forte will get his 1500-1800 total yards anyway, even behind a pedestrian offensive line. If you're looking for a safe back in the late-first or early-second round, Forte is a smart play. TE Kellen Davis has a some sleeper value in deeper leagues.

Minnesota Vikings (3-13, 340 PF): It's notable to see 340 points tied to a team that just won three games; the Vikings outscored 13 clubs last year. There's offensive talent here, and second-year starter Christian Ponder might be the most improved quarterback in the league. Percy Harvin is a Top 10 wideout if the migraines leave him alone, and TE Kyle Rudolph has breakout written all over him. No. 2 wideout Jerome Simpson can jump out of the dome, but he's on a drug suspension to open the year. No one knows what to expect from RB Adrian Peterson after his holiday knee blowout last year. He didn't take contact or play in any preseason games. You need a lot of nerve to select AP in the Top 25 - we'll pass on that option, thanks. Backup Toby Gerhart will be underrated in many leagues; he went for 4.9 YPC last year and caught 23 passes (three for touchdowns). Even if Peterson is able to start most of the season, Gerhart might be good enough to see 8-12 touches a week.

After 20 years, Dan Sharp steps down as Joliet Catholic head coach

After 20 years, Dan Sharp steps down as Joliet Catholic head coach

Joliet Catholic Academy head football coach Dan Sharp has resigned his coaching position at the school and will retain his athletic director position.

"It was time," Sharp said. "It's been a long, great and wonderful coaching career for me coaching the Hilltoppers, and now it's the right time to step aside. It's been an emotional drain handling both jobs. I'm going to miss the kids and the coaches, but also it was just time."

Sharp hired assistant coach Jake Jaworski as the school's next varsity football coach. Jaworski, a teacher at Joliet Catholic Academy, was also a multi-sport athlete and starting defensive back on Joliet Catholic's state-championship teams in 2000 and 2001.

"It's not very often that you are allowed to hand-pick your successor," Sharp said. "Jaws is more than ready to take over the program and bring in some excitement, and I know that I'm leaving the football program into great hands."

Sharp, who posted a 199-51 record in 20 seasons at Joliet Catholic (223-69 record overall in 24 years), is also excited to help his new head coach take over the reins of one of the state's traditional power programs.

"I'm looking forward to getting Jake off to a good start."

White Sox chariman Jerry Reinsdorf knows 'it will be very hard to trade' Chris Sale

White Sox chariman Jerry Reinsdorf knows 'it will be very hard to trade' Chris Sale

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The baseball world has come to suburban DC for the winter meetings. In a hotel just steps away from the Potomac River, the White Sox are holding onto the biggest fish available.

But trading their ace Chris Sale might be tougher than it seems because of the White Sox steep asking price. Will any team meet their demands? That’s the question.

"You have to have four prospects who can’t possibly miss to get one," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told CSN. "I’ve seen so many players over the years who were going to be phenoms, they were going to be future Hall of Famers, and we don’t even remember what their names are anymore. That’s why when you’re trading a player of stature you’ve got to get multiple can’t-miss prospects back. That’s why it makes it tough to trade a player of great stature."

With the meetings in their hometown this year, the Washington Nationals could make quite the splash by acquiring Sale, which would give them a dominating 1-2 punch with Sale and Max Scherzer, not to mention Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals have the pieces to pull off such a deal, but they’ve reportedly been unwilling to trade their top prospect, Trea Turner, a 23-year-old who slashed .342/.370/.567 in 307 at-bats after getting called up last season. He can play second base, shortstop and center field. Oh, and he also stole 33 bases.

But Sale is no slouch himself. He’s finished in the top six in AL Cy Young voting in each of the last five seasons. And then there's his salary. He’s owed $12 million for 2017, with club options for each of the following two seasons at $12.5 million and $13.5 million. That’s three years for $38 million. Compare that with top free-agent pitcher Rich Hill, who is 10 years older than Sale and reportedly got a three-year, $48 million contract when he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. This is one of the weakest free-agent classes for starting pitchers we’ve ever seen.

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On the surface, the White Sox hold all the cards. But so far teams are holding onto their top prospects like gold and have been unwilling to deal them even for one of the best pitchers in the game.

Knowing what Sale has meant to the franchise, Reinsdorf admitted "it will be very hard to trade him."

For it to happen, the White Sox don’t sound like they are willing to put Sale in the clearance section.

"We’d have to really feel we were coming back with a lot of goods, a lot of merchandise," Reinsdorf said.

But for the first time, the White Sox are open to trading Sale, an idea few could fathom a year ago.

"I’ve said it many, many times, I’ve only had one player that couldn’t be traded (Michael Jordan), and the only reason he couldn’t be traded was that I would have been shot dead the day after,” Reinsdorf said. “We love our players, and we want our players when their careers are over to say that 'the best place I played was with the White Sox.' But again our obligation is to the fans to make our teams as good as we can make them, and we have to look at the players basically as assets and if we can make a team better by trading somebody no matter how much we love the guy, we have to go ahead and do it.

"Having said that, I don’t know what’s going to happen here."