Green Bay Packers are in position to win the dreadful NFC North by default. Stable at a handful of key positions, they are relying on miraculous rookie contributions in other areas. Changing to a 3-4 alignment could delay progress for the soft-cheese defense. QB Rodgers showed promise and chemistry with his WRs. However, he played poorly in 4th quarters. The running game was lame; they're relying on injury-prone RB Grant again. The line is in upheaval and will take time to jell - and there's no guarantee they will. With terrible run defense, the Packers decided to start over with a 3-4 alignment. It is a better fit for their personnel up front. The line won't make many plays but could free up Kampman (now an OLB) and the other LBs to make some tackles. They have a talented secondary that spends too much time supporting the run. Special teams are poor except for punt return. The Packers have the team with the least drama in this dreadful division.
Minnesota Vikings are breaking bad. Begging after Favre could seriously derail a team that’s been steadily building. RB Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher in 2008, is a great player. The Vikes need to spare Peterson from another 363-carry season behind an O-line in transition. The passing game is poor; WR Berrian has great talent but disappears ... he averages over 20 yards per catch but only caught 48. The D is just as lopsided as the offense, ranking #1 versus the run and #18 in passing. The Vikings are a bit better against the pass than the numbers indicate; they faced 530 attempts last year and produced 45 sacks. However, with that many chances, they need more than 12 INTs. Except for K Longwell, the Vikings have poor special teams. The Vikings will be making a detour around the playoffs.
Chicago Bears are pinning all their hopes on a brash, gunslingin’ QB. Sound familiar? He will play with a patchy O-line and a barren WR corps. RB Forte, a rookie sensation, is going to be asked to do it all alone. Expect a lot of INTs when Cutler forces the ball to WR Hester, the least-polished #1 receiver in the league. The defense is aging but could bounce back, especially against a division with melancholy offensive lines. Still stout against the run, they were diced up by the pass, ranking 30th. Special teams are very good. The Bears finally have a QB, but it’ll be a long year.
Detroit Lions have a harder schedule than the rest of the division because they don't get to play against themselves. Their new head coach was so bad in St. Louis that he was fired four games into 2008. The line, like the rest of the division, is in transition, although in Detroit's case it looks like poo transitioning to diarrhea. The new coaches will address a defense ranked dead last two years in a row, and nearly gave up the most points in NFL history last year. The line is old and weak; Detroit is relying on gambling CB Buchanon to help a secondary that only intercepted one pass in 2008. LB is suddenly a strength with the acquisition of Larry Foote and Julian Peterson. Special teams are strong with K Hanson’s leg. This team will have an opportunity to win a game.