Green Bay Packers (10-6). The one thing that keeps the Packers above the fray in the NFC North is one man: Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is a Top-3 QB who is capable of leading a one-man show, just as he did last season with an offense with a non-existent running game and a Swiss cheese defense. At least the Packers drafted Eddie Lacy out of Alabama to help with the running game. And as for the defense, if defensive coordinator Dom Capers could get the defense to be at least a Top-15 unit, that would help the Packers land one of the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs.
Toughest Games: at 49ers, at Bengals, at Ravens, at Giants, at Cowboys, vs. Falcons, vs. Steelers, both games against the Bears and Vikings. The Packers’ schedule is one of the toughest in the league. Ten wins against that slate would be good enough to win this division.
Chicago Bears (10-6). This is a season of transition for the Bears. Gone is coach Lovie Smith after a 10-win season (a move that I STILL do not agree with). Brian Urlacher retired leaving a leadership void in the defense. New coach Marc Trestman hails from the Canadian Football League and is looking to put his own stamp on the Bears’ offense. At least Trestman will have some weapons to work with in QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte and WR Brandon Marshall. Speaking of Cutler, this year will be his last stand. If he cannot lead the Bears to the playoffs with the new coaching staff, Cutler may find himself leading another team next season.
The defense still has playmakers in LB Lance Brooks, CB Peanut Tillman, and DE Julius Peppers. And I like that rookie LB Jonathan Bostic out of Florida. I mean, did you see the hit he put on that dude from San Diego last week?
This team is good enough to win this division. I just think that Cutler will find a way to blow a couple of games to keep that from happening.
Toughest Games: vs. Bengals, at Steelers, vs. Saints, vs. Giants, at Redskins, vs. Ravens, vs. Cowboys, both games against the Packers and Vikings.
Minnesota Vikings (8-8). The Vikings were a good story last season. Stud RB Adrian Peterson came back from a devastating knee injury to threaten Eric Dickerson’s rushing record. Head coach Leslie Frazier got the most out a not-so talented motley crew, leading Minnesota to a wild-card berth. And QB Christian Ponder came on late in the season to play an integral part in the Vikings playoff run before he was injured in the last game of the season.
I just don’t trust Ponder to repeat his late-season run this season. Even with the acquisition of WR Greg Jennings, I don’t see Ponder sneaking up on people. Couple that with a brutal 2013 schedule, the Vikings will come back to earth a bit.
Detroit Lions (7-9). It’s not that the Lions are merely a bad team. They are undisciplined AND bad. This season is Jim Schwartz’ last stand as head coach. If he cannot get his team out of the division basement, he’ll be gone before season’s end. And that’s too bad because the talents of QB Matthew Stafford, all-world WR Calvin Johnson and new RB Reggie Bush will be wasted.