1. Green Bay Packers– We all knew they wouldn’t be the same 15-1 team that we saw in 2011 and they did get off to a very rocky start in 2012 but they overcame it and it helps when you have the best quarterback in the NFL on your team. For the second straight season in 2012, the Packers were NFC North champs. Their offense has no problems scoring touchdowns. It’s almost expected with Aaron Rodgers and company. Jordy Nelson became Aaron’s go to guy and James Jones elevated his play becoming another target down the field. The defense for the green and yellow has been the issue other than Clay Matthews. They blow a lot of coverages and put no pressure on the quarterback. In 2013, the Packers enter the season without Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. They drafted Eddie Lacy to be that franchise running back this past April.
2. Minnesota Vikings– The Vikings were sneaky good last year. Many people didn’t have them making the playoffs yet alone winning more than 6 games in 2012. They earned a trip to the playoffs all due to the running of Adrian Peterson. Every game the Vikings won, Adrian was at the top of the stat sheet. He deserved MVP because nobody was the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER to their team than all day. The Vikings impressed me with their draft picks as well. They selected Cordarrelle Patterson to give Christian Ponder another weapon on the outside, Shariff Floyd from Florida to add size on the defensive line and defensive back Xavier Rhodes from Florida State and these rookies will be asked to have an immediate impact.
3. Chicago Bears– The Bears are an extremely up and down football team. After that hot 7-1 start, they won only 3 of their final 8 games. Yes, they finished with a 10-6 mark but that wasn’t good enough for Lovie to keep his job as he would be fired the day after the regular season ended. The Bears hired Marc Trestman as head coach, as offensive minded guru that can hopefully turn this Bears offense into a consistent force in the league. Another big issue has been the offensive line. No quarterback has been sacked more than Jay Cutler in the last three seasons. This Bears defense will look different without Brian Urlacher as he reitred this off-season.
4. Detroit Lions– What a disappointment the Lions were in 2012. After making the playoffs in 2011, the Lions really struggled. What could go wrong for a football team did go wrong in Motown. They lacked discipline, committed penalties, missed gap assignments on defense, bad tackling, blown coverages and they could never hold a lead or close out games which hurt them in the end. The only shining star for the Lions has been Calvin Johnson who’s emerged as the league’s best wide receiver. The Lions made some moves this off-season by signing Reggie Bush who will give this offense more of a balance and he’s a guy who can stretch the field.
1. Packers (11-5)
2. Bears (10-6)
3. Vikings (8-8)
4. Lions (6-10)
For the third straight season, I like the Packers to win the NFC North. With Aaron under center, this division could be their’s for the next 3-5 seasons. For the Packers to make another run at a Super Bowl, they must show balance on offense and hopefully Eddie Lacy can bring some of that as the featured running back. Defensively, the zone scheme of Dom Capers has been exposed. If they can get some pressure on the quarterback, the Packers can be good.