If you’re a fan of the NFL, the middle of the summer can be the most monotonous time on the calendar. OTAs are over and training camp has yet to begin. Questions are about the only thing a fan has to keep their football fever from developing into a full-blown case of pigskin paralysis.
Now, as training camps begin across the league, we are prepared to start answering some of those questions in what will certainly be the first of about 2,500 season previews you’ll read between now and September 10th. We’ll break down every NFL team, and every division. We’ll walk you through the postseason, and tell you which players will stand out at the end of this season as the brightest stars the game can offer.
1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Predicting the Packers will make the playoffs in 2015 is kind of like predicting the sun will come up tomorrow. Barring catastrophe, it’s going to happen. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the game today, and his top flight receiving corps only makes him better. The question for Green Bay isn’t whether they’ll play postseason football, it’s how much postseason football they’ll play.
That question will have to be answered by the Packers notoriously inconsistent defense. If the team can successfully compensate for the loss of linebacker A.J. Hawk, and rookie cornerback Damarious Randall can successfully transition to safety, then the Packers will be set up for a deep playoff run this January. If it wasn’t for the increased competition inside the division, and a tough non-divisional schedule (including a November 1st trip to Denver), the Packers would be set up for a 14-2, or 13-3 season.
2. Detroit Lions (10-6)
When you think about the Lions, their high-powered offensive attack is the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, it was Detroit’s defense that played the Lions into the postseason in 2014. This offseason, they lost both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, two stalwarts along the defensive line, who helped put a bubble team over the edge last year.
In 2015, the Lions offense will have to compensate for the loss of those two dynamic defensive tackles. If there is any offense capable of doing that, it’s this one. Fans can again expect Matthew Stafford to put up enormous statistics this season, but can he lead the Lions to postseason glory?
3. Minnesota Vikings (9-7)
The Vikings will be a force in this division, and in the league in the very near future. Teddy Bridgewater was the most NFL-ready quarterback of the 2014 draft class. He proved that during his rookie campaign, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards in just twelve games. Bridgewater’s ceiling may not be as high as some of his classmates, but there’s little doubt the Vikings have found their franchise passer.
Thankfully, Bridgewater won’t have to carry the offensive load alone this season. Running back Adrian Peterson will be back in uniform. While Peterson may have been the best runner in football a year ago, ten months away from football, the passing of his 30th birthday, and a mountain of mental baggage may change that. However, thanks to the evolution of Bridgewater, and the leadership of second-year head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings could easily be a Wildcard team in 2015.
4. Chicago Bears (5-11)
John Fox has won everywhere he’s been. He won in Carolina. He won in Denver. Heck, he won as the defensive coordinator with the Giants in the ‘90s. Jay Cutler and the Bears horrific defense will change that. Cutler, already notorious for throwing interceptions, will struggle in new OC Adam Gase’s pass heavy offensive scheme.
The Bears got rid of the wrong man at the end of last season when they chose to fire head coach Marc Trestman, instead of addressing the cancer currently playing quarterback for them. So long as Cutler is their starter, the Bears will not make the playoffs.
Their defense won’t help much. The makeshift unit, which surrendered an astounding 27.6 points per game last year, has little talent and even less leadership. Even if Fox and Gase can find a way to improve offensive performance, the Bears defense will leave them vulnerable to even the most average of offensive attacks. The Bears will be lucky to patch together five wins this season. If there’s any bright spot for Bears fans this year, it’s that they’ll be able to expect a top-five draft pick in 2016 to finally replace the toxic Cutler.
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