The NFC North as a whole has vastly improved this offseason. That's bad news for the Detroit Lions, because the same cannot be said of them.
The Lions have taken a step back.
Who Will Win The NFC North?
True Honolulu Blue fans may not like hearing this statement, but it's a very real possibility that Detroit will actually be worse in 2012. For a team that is supposed to be building towards being a Super Bowl contender, that would ultimately be a disappointment.
In fact, there's a good chance the Lions could end up finishing third in the NFC North. Here's why.
They've Been Their Own Worse Enemy
It's sad to say, but the Lions have become synonymous with the word arrest this offseason. They've totaled a shocking and embarrassing seven arrests over the offseason. As much as this hurts them from an image standpoint, the product on the field will suffer as well.
Cornerback Aaron Berry was arrested two times in one month and was subsequently released from the team. While this was undoubtedly the right move by the Lions, their already weak secondary is now much, much worse. Berry was supposed to be an integral part of the secondary, so now the Lions will have to scramble to find a player who can adequately fill that role.
I do not believe that player is on their roster. But even if he is, the lack of depth at the corner position will haunt this team, and there will be no room for error.
Questionable Running Game
The Lions' running game is questionable at best. Until it proves otherwise, this unit will be a liability on offense.
Jahvid Best was supposed to be the star back for this team, but he still hasn't been cleared for contact due to the concussion he suffered last season—one of two, mind you. We all know how serious the NFL takes concussions nowadays, so to hinge your hopes on a 5'10'', 199-pound back who has a history of them would be foolish.
This is where having a big back like Mikel Leshoure would come in handy. But lo and behold, he too found himself arrested twice this offseason and has been suspended for two games by the NFL. You could find solace in the fact that he'll only be gone two games, but remember, he missed his whole rookie season with a torn Achilles.
We haven't even seen the guy play in the NFL yet, so there are far more questions than answers in regards to Leshoure.
Finally, there's Kevin Smith—a guy who's dealt with his own injury problems. So are you really going to rally around him as a true No. 1 running back?
Good luck with that.
Hard To Repeat The Magic
Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford were absolutely incredible in 2011—there's really no better way to put it. They formed a near unstoppable combination and had a season that Lions fans will always remember.
The problem is, what are they chances that they both have career seasons two years in a row?
Stafford put up an incredible 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011. Megatron notched 1,681 of those yards and caught 16 touchdowns. Add that to the improbable comebacks that seemed to be the Lions' calling card, and it is safe to say that 2011 had a bit of a magical feel to it for Detroit.
The reality about magical seasons though is that they are products of luck and circumstance, just as much as they are products of skill.
The Lions still do have an incredible amount of skill—especially on offense—but the chances of them having the same luck and circumstance fall in their favor two years in a row is very low.
After all, this is the NFL.
Packers and Bears
Green Bay's defense was a problem in 2011, so they went into the NFL draft and drafted six defenders, including potential steals in first-round defensive end Nick Perry and Michigan State star Jerel Worthy in Round 2.
It's safe to say their defense will be improved. And as long as Rodgers is healthy, I don't see the offense taking a step back.
The Bears, on the other hand, needed to provide Cutler with some offensive help, so they went out and traded for Brandon Marshall, who played with Cutler in Denver. Then they got the offensive steal of the draft in wideout Alshon Jeffery in Round 2.
Matt Forte will provide a stable running attack, and Cutler now has two legitimate downfield threats that will be able to compliment his big arm. This offense will be dangerous.
Both the Packers and Bears addressed their major needs, and both will be better in 2012—which is a scary thought.
The Packers are still the class of the NFC North, and the Bears are much improved offensively. Meanwhile, for all intents and purposes, the Lions look to be well on their way towards regressing.
A third-place NFC North finish will be the best the Lions can hope for in 2012.