The Vikings were able to win the NFC North last year, yes, also they have the best player in the division and maybe the league in Adrian Peterson, but do they have what it takes to repeat as division champs in 2009?
The Chicago Bears made, by far, the biggest splash in the four team division by giving up first and third round picks in 2009 along with another first rounder in 2010 for QB Jay Cutler from the Broncos.
The Bears will have the most talented and most decorated quarterback in the division with only one other quarterback, at this moment, deserving of starting for an NFL team. Guess what, that other QB is not Gus Ferrotte, Tarvaris Jackson, or Sage Rosenfels, not even John David Booty.
Why the Bears will finish ahead of the Vikings
As said above, the Bears have the best quarterback in the division and one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. But don't count on the offense to be the strength of Lovie Smith's team this year, it will still be lead by Brian Urlacher, Tommy Davis and a strong, physical secondary.
Brian Urlacher is one of the best middle linebackers in the league, who has the ability to go from sideline to sideline, cover tight ends and backs in the Bears version of the Tampa Two defense, and is strong enough to shed blockers in run support which will be important while facing the run dependent Vikings.
Urlacher is the key for this defense which depends on his versatility to be one of the best ball-hawking teams of the last couple of years and it will all hinge on whether Urlacher will be healthy for the whole year, which he was not in 2008.
Chicago has also made changes other than the pick-up of Cutler to bolster its perpetually weak offense. The Bears picked up aging left tackle Orlando Pace to protect Cutler's blind side, but the test will be whether Pace still has the ability after 13 years of experience.
The Bears are lacking in weapons on offense, but have a key player in tight end Greg Olson and speedster Devon Hester at wide receiver who can have huge seasons with Jay Cutler under center instead of Kyle Orton.
Why the Packers will finish ahead of he Vikings
The Packers are the only other team besides the Bears with a reasonable shot at passing the Vikings in the NFC North. Green Bay has a better quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, who started off hot last year and cooled off in his first year in replacing the Lambeau Legend.
With the best group of receivers in the division, a solid running back and a good offensive line, Rodgers should be able to continue his improvement with the group surrounding him.
The defense is also strong for the Packers, with another group of tall, physical cornerbacks and hard hitting safeties. The linebacking corps for Green Bay is young, fast and strong also.
Their defensive line is not the best in the division, but with Cullen Jenkins and Aaron Kampman on the ends, the Packers can stop the run and get to the quarterback against the big Minnesota offensive line.
Why the Lions will finish ahead of the Vikings
Ha, only if Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield and Kevin Williams refuses to lace up their cleats and still the Vikings will be the favorites. Or if Matthew Stafford is twice the rookie quarterback Matt Ryan was.
Why the Vikings won't finish first in the NFC North
I am going to work under the assumption that the North is the Viking's to lose as the defending division champs, so I will make the case why they can't and won't repeat. The Vikings secondary is overrated, I am not a big believer in Antoine Winfield.
He is good in coverage, not great and short. While its true that he can tackle with the best of them in the open field, but that is not a corner's job. The league is obsessed with tall receivers and at 5'9" Winfield can not get up with the big receivers.
And he is the best of the secondary, Sharper is smart, but is in the twilight of his career, Griffin is still learning and free safety is not yet resolved. The linebacking group for the Vikes is okay, but outside of Chad Greenway, they are slow and not very deep, with no 'backers who can play in coverage.
On offense it is simple, no quarterback worthy of handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson and no go to receiver who can make things happen.
For this Vikings team to compete it will need to rely on the tandem of Peterson and Chester Taylor again and another strong defensive performance. This will be more difficult in 2009 because of the improvements made by the addition of Cutler in Chicago and Rodger's improvement in Green Bay.