The NFC North has changed from the punishing, grind-it-out style of its NFC Central origins to the division of the quick strike. What division boasts better quarterbacks than
It is remarkable that Rodgers has remained upright considering the punishment he has endured behind a shaky offensive line. Much like the Packers themselves, the line showed improvement as the 2009 season wore on, but Rodgers can't afford a beating in a division that now has
The Packers mostly avoided the free-agent market, a nod both to their penchant to build through the draft and their belief that the team is Super Bowl-ready right now. If Green Bay can overcome its Brett Favre complex (the Packers were swept last season) it should dominate the NFC North and beyond.
The Vikings have the rare defensive front that is brilliant against both the pass and the run. With Jared Allen and
Because of injury and age, the Vikings secondary might need to play over its head in 2010. With cornerback
With a nod to pass protection and Chester Taylor's departure to Chicago, the Vikings drafted Gerhart, a bruiser expected to spell
The Vikings were the story of the 2009 regular season, with Favre playing like he was 25. So much went right for the Vikings last season -- particularly Favre's health -- but it feels like a big ask for Minnesota to pull of the same magic in 2010. The schedule includes a killer October (at the Jets, Dallas, at the Packers and at the Patriots) that could wreck Minnesota's postseason plans.
Is there a position and a team more closely linked than linebackers and the Chicago Bears? From
Cutler didn't help himself by forcing passes into tight spots in 2009, but the Bears offensive line didn't do him any favors either. The Bears brought in O-line coach
The biggest challenge for the line of scrimmage will be holding sturdy in a
While the "other" Devin (Hester) gets most of the pub in Chicago, Devin Aromashodu is more of a prototypical wide receiver. At 6-2 and 201 pounds, Aromashodu has the length to become a dependable player in Chicago's retooled offense. Though he has started just three games in five NFL seasons, Aromashodu offered a few glimpses of his potential at the end of 2009. Over the second half of last season, he caught 24 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns and found himself as one of Cutler's favorite targets. While Hester,
Predicted record: 8-8.
The Bears were big players in the free-agent sweepstakes, grabbing Julius Peppers,
Detroit was ranked 32nd (last) in the all-important turnover differential, finishing 2009 at an unsightly -18. Part of that was due to rookie quarterback
Detroit got rid of its starting cornerbacks from 2009 and traded for
This is a familiar role for
A four-game improvement from 2009 sounds right for a team that begins with three of its first four games on the road (at Chicago, at Minnesota, at Green Bay). The first home game? The Eagles in Week 2. The league didn't do the Lions any favors by loading them up with tough roadies to start, but Schwartz won't make any excuses. The year will be a better one, but the playoffs remain a couple of years away.