NFC North Up for Grabs in 2009

Joseph MoroniContributor IMay 13, 2009

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 22: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers turns to hand off against the Chicago Bears on December 22, 2008 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Packers 20-17 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

For the past two years, the NFC North has not been much to look at. The traditional black and blue division has lived up to its name with the winner of the division always finding a way to win ugly.

Last year's champions, the Minnesota Vikings, won the division without much of a viable passing game. What they did have was a good defense, and one of the best running backs in the NFL in Adrian Peterson.

This offseason, there has been a lot of talk about the Vikings signing future Hall of Famer Brett Favre—which would immediately make them the favorites in this division.

If Favre does agree to sign with the Vikings, they will probably win the division and win more than 10 games. Without Favre, I expect the Vikings to come away with about nine wins.

This year's NFC North figures to be almost identical to last season's. The Detroit Lions probably won't lose all 16 games again like they did last year, but they have not done anything in the offseason that really make them much of a threat for the division this season.

While they did draft quarterback Matthew Stafford, it is very rare for a rookie quarterback to come in and lead a team to the playoffs in his first season. Expect the Lions to pick up a few more victories than they did last year but it will probably end up being less than six.

The Green Bay Packers will be entering into the second year of the Aaron Rogers era. The Packers looked promising at times last season as  Rogers started out as a pretty good quarterback.

But, the Packers lack of a running game (17th in the NFL) and a defense that was ranked 20th in the NFL last season cost the Packers a few games as they finished the season with a record of 6-10, finishing above the Detroit Lions. I expect the Packers to finish the season with an 8-8 record 

The way the NFC North looks as of now means that it is pretty much open to any of the teams that want it.

As it looks right now, the Bears and the Vikings will once again be fighting it out in the end for the division championship and a trip to the playoffs.

In my opinion, the Bears improvements that they have made in the off season combined with their schedule this season will enable them to get back to the playoffs in 2009.

The Bears probably have the easiest schedule in the division next to the Detroit Lions. This isn't counting the division games, which are always tough no matter what the standings are.

The only difficult matchup the prayers might have is against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that game is early in the season and it is at home.

As it stands right now, the Bears have the best quarterback in the division in Jay Cutler, as well as a pretty good running game with Matt Forte.

In my opinion, the NFC North is not a very strong division this season and I think that the Bears are in the best position to win the division and make the playoffs.

Realistically, if we are to believe last year's final standings it might take only 10 wins to win this division and if that is the case I believe that the Bears have the best chance out of any of the teams to make the playoffs in  2009