The Minnesota Vikings Are Still The Team To Beat The NFC North

Joseph Gunther@@JosephEGuntherContributor IMay 9, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - JANUARY 4:   Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball in the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Wild Card playoff game on January 4,2009 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings have made several key roster changes for the 2009 season, but it is still the reigning NFC North champions.

The Vikings are not the only team in the division to make major changes, in fact every team in the north made a big change. The Vikings lost several starters and are replacing them from within, the Chicago Bears acquired Jay Cutler to lead its offense, the Green Bay Packers are changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense and the Detroit Lions have a new coaching staff, front office staff.

The Vikings lost former Pro Bowlers Darren Sharper and Matt Birk and are replacing them with second-year players Tyrell Johnson and John Sullivan, respectively. The question marks entering this season are the same as last season.

What will the Vikings get out its quarterback and will it be able to run and throw to the right side of the offensive line? The quarterbacks are better than last year, but there is not a big improvement.

The right side of the line has a tackle playing tackle, instead of a center playing tackle. Ryan Cook should be battling for the center or right guard spot not right tackle.

The Bears seem to have the best chance of knocking off the Vikings. Cutler is a big upgrade from Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, but to whom will he throw the ball.

Running back Matt Forte was team's leading receiver, followed by tight end Greg Olsen and returnman Devin Hester.

Defensively, I have never been high on the Bears. It is an aging, slow defense. The key to the Bears defense is the health of Tommie Harris.

The Packers change to a 3-4 defense will keep it from challenging for the division crown. It is too drastic of a change for quick success.

The Packers have the personel to make a run, but historically a change like that will need a year or two for the players to adjust to the new system. The Packers offense is not strong enough to cover the mistakes of a new defense.

The Lions are, well, the Lions. My fearless prediction is that the Lions will improve on last season. After going 0-16 the only way for the Lions to go is up.

It will be interesting to see when Matthew Stafford becomes the full-time starter. The Lions are at least two years away from contending.

The old saying goes, "in order to be the best, you have to beat the best." So, the NFC North division crown goes through Minneapolis.