We'll start with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers easily won the division last year at 12-4. They were involved in a three-way tie for the best record in the NFC with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Eagles. The Eagles ended up with the home field advantage on tiebreakers, but the Pack wound up with a first round match-up hosting the Atlanta Falcons at "The Frozen Tundra" where they have never lost in the playoffs. Until that game when Atlanta stunned the Packers and NFL fans all over the world with a 27-7 victory. Now the Packers have had the entire off-season to regroup, and will have a tougher division this year, but with the offense in place, the defense will need to step up to ensure another trip to the playoffs and another run for the Super Bowl.
The Minnesota Vikings (6-10) finished a distant second to the Packers last year. However, they finished last season with three strong victories and feel they can build on that momentum to make a run from the North. The Vikings have had a very distracting off-season. The only positive headline was locking up QB Daunte Culpepper to a new long-term deal worth $122 million dollars. Most news though was negative, beginning with a draft day disaster when they nearly lost their pick trying to trade with Baltimore and it fell through at the last minute. Then about a month later, RB Michael Bennett was shot at leaving a nightclub and has yet to have an on-field workout due to a foot surgery. Finally, the league suspended TE Byron Chamberlain for violating the substance abuse policy and he will miss at least the first four games. The defense will be a big question in what appears to be a defensively weak division. The Vikings spent every effort in the draft and free agency to sure up their defensive unit. If they get solid production on both sides of the ball, then they will be a strong contender for the North.
The Chicago Bears (4-12) should be the most improved team in the NFL this year. They have the best defense in the North lead by All-Pro LB Brian Urhlacher, and will get instant production from first round pick DE Michael Haynes (Penn State). Offensively they finally have a QB that should fit their offense in Kordell Stewart (Steelers) and drafted their QB of the future in Rex Grossman from Florida. The Bears should be primed to make the North a more competitive division then it has been in years.
The Detroit Lions (3-13) have a lot of work to do. They made a huge step in the right direction this off-season by hiring new head coach Steve Mariucci (San Francisco). They also used their first round pick on local standout WR Charles Johnson (Michigan State), who will instantly be productive for QB Joey Arrington. His addition should also improve the production of WR's Az-Zahir Hakim and Bill Schroeder. Defensively the Lions should improve as well with the additions of CB Dre Bly and MLB Earl Holmes (Cleveland). They could also get instant production out of second round pick LB Boss Bailey. Bailey, the brother of Washington's Champ Bailey, is considered a first round talent was a steal for the Lions. They Lions will earn a lot of respect this year and will win some games including at least one on the road where they haven't one the last two seasons..
Please be patient when waiting for the next team to be broken down by Carl. He is currently en-route home from Iraq and will have new articles once he settles into home life again.