The Green Bay Packers enjoyed a wonderful regular season garnering a 15-1 record, but their loss to the New York Giants exposed the Packers greatest weakness, their defense. The only way they were able to have any sort of success last season was because of the spectacular play of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense.
I do not foresee such a prolific offense next season, or at least as effective, without better play from their defense.
Winning the NFC North this season will require not only great offense, but great defense. Doing so, however, will not be easy, especially considering the vast improvements from the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions.
Both the Lions and the Bears have great defenses, and both have great receivers, but I believe the Bears are poised to overtake the Packers because of their offensive balance. The Bears now have Brandon Marshall reunited with Jay Cutler, and on top of that prolific combo, there is Matt Forte.
Forte is arguably the biggest factor in a Bears NFC North Championship because he gives them the capability to keep opposing offenses off of the field, and keep opposing defenses on the field. That is even more important considering that the Green Bay defense allowed the most yards per game in the NFL last season.
In addition to Forte, Marshall will be able to keep opposing defenses honest and not simply stack the box, allowing an even better running attack from the Chicago Bears. A balanced offense is the key to the Bears' future success. Their new offensive coordinator, Mike Tice, understands that better than any body else in the Bears organization.
Keep in mind also that the Bears were in play off contention for most of the regular season and would have made it into the post season were it not for a costly Jay Cutler injury. I do not see the Lions winning the division because of their perceived discipline issues on defense. Offensively, the Lions do not run the ball as effectively as a healthy Chicago Bears offense.
The ability to run the ball effectively will be the deciding factor. As the NFL evolves into a pass first league, defenses will adjust to the pass more and more. The players we see in the future will become smaller and faster on defense.
The impact is that if a team is able to create a great power running attack, it will be tough to defend against, especially by a soft defense. Case in point, just look at the Patriots and the Packers. Great offenses, but extremely suspect defense.
With a great defense, the holy trinity on offense (Cutler, Marshall, and Forte) should help the Bears not only win the NFC North, but perhaps contend for a Super Bowl as well.