NFC North Division Preview
Everything in the NFC North this season could depend on the plans of Brett Favre.
With Favre's future in the league still up in the air the Minnesota Vikings are not the favorites to win the division. That could quickly change once Favre makes up his mind and gets back on the gridiron, but until that happens the top of the odds list belongs to the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay Packers (+110) The Packers finished only a game behind the Vikings in the division last season, but they could leapfrog them this season behind what should be a powerful offense. Aaron Rodgers has quickly come into his own and is among the elite quarterbacks in the league. Greg Jennings is coming off what was considered a down year, but with his breakaway speed he should bounce back nicely. Donald Driver had knee surgery in the offseason and is reportedly feeling better than he has in years. A new three-year deal for Driver should also put off any concerns about his knees. The running game is in the capable hands of Ryan Grant, who rushed for a career-high 1,253 yards last season. On defense the Packers already took a hit after lineman John Jolly was suspended for the season due to substance abuse. That weakens the pass rush, which could be a problem unless a suitable replacement is found. The secondary should be strong again as long as Al Harris can successfully return from a knee injury to line up alongside Charles Woodson.
Minnesota Vikings (+150) The Vikings' chances of repeating as division champs will likely depend on whether or not Favre returns. Without Favre the Vikings are stuck with the inconsistent Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. No matter who's throwing the passes keep an eye on Sidney Rice. He had a breakout season last year, but declined recommended hip surgery and is rehabbing instead which currently has him on the PUP list. Adrian Peterson is still a beast in the backfield, but he's lost some value in some experts' eyes due to injury concerns and a case of fumblitis. Defensively the Vikings should terrorize opponents again this season. The Williams', Pat and Kevin, are two of the best run stuffers in the league and the rest of the d-line, Ray Edwards and Jared Allen, are sack machines. Healthy seasons from E.J. Henderson and Antoine Winfield should help the Vikings D be ranked among the best in the league.
Chicago Bears (+350) Things didn't go as planned for the Bears last season. Jay Cutler's first year in the Windy City was a disappointing one after he nearly equaled his touchdown total (27) with interceptions (26). The running game also under-performed. A lot was expected from Matt Forte, but he put up only 929 yards, or a lame 58.1 yards per game. The addition of Chester Taylor should take some of the pressure off Forte, who is looking good in camp and could be primed for a bounce-back campaign. Cutler gets a new offensive coordinator in pass-happy Mike Martz. Cutler's got a number of speedy and talented receivers with Devin Hester, Johnny Know, Earl Bennett, and tight end Greg Olsen, but he still needs to be smart with the ball to avoid turnovers. The Bears made a big splash in the free agency market by acquiring Julius Peppers. He should add some more roar to the D, and not having Brian Urlacher lost for the season in the first game should help as well.
Detroit Lions (+2000) The ongoing rebuilding process continues in Detroit. Matt Stafford had a good rookie campaign and the Lions hope he continues to grow this season as the No. 1 guy. He has one of the best young receivers in Calvin Johnson and they could become one of the top passing duos in the league if Stafford keeps improving. The defense has a building block in first-round pick Ndamukong Suh, but don't expect too much right away from the rookie.
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