Packers, Bears and Vikings Race to Improve in NFC North

G DCorrespondent IMay 19, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - MAY 1:  Linebacker Clay Mathews #52 walks on the field as he participates in practice drills during Green Bay Packers Minicamp at Don Hutson Center on May 1, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Anyone who tells you they know what will happen in the NFC North is lying.


Every team got better. The Bears got out the credit cards to bring in Jay Cutler. The Vikings will be better on offense (assuming he-who-can't-be-named re-un-retires).


The silver-lining for the Lions is that “The Worst Team Ever,” can't get worse (can it?). And the Packers finally got Ted Thompson to let his hair down, even if it was still a crew cut: trading up(!) to get two first-round caliber players for their new defensive scheme.


The North was pretty lame last year. Despite its black-and-blue mythology, the division was an evenly spread mediocre on pedestrian sandwich.


The Packers were better than their 6-10 record—losing seven games by four points or less, while splitting with both Chicago and Minnesota. And Chicago and Minnesota battled for first place all through the season.


Aside from the record-breaking Lions, the division was pretty even.


This did not go unnoticed. The teams can all taste that division crown, and the playoff run that goes with it. As a result they all took uncharacteristic risks to get better.


If all these teams start off evenly matched and all improved, the question of which will ultimately come out on top is a matter of degree and luck.


Does Cutler help the Bears more than the Packers' retooled defense helps them?


Will Adrian Peterson run wild when he no longer faces 11-in-the-box defenses?


Will any of the teams fighting for the divisional penthouse get tripped up by the Lions' blustery charge from the league cellar?


Those are all questions that chance and the season will answer.


But we do know the winner of the NFC North division will be the team that improved the most, not the team with the fewest flaws.


This is a good turn of events—unless you are the Lions.