The NFC North: A Team By Team Breakdown

Rob UsitaloContributor IMay 27, 2009

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 09:  The NFL shield logo on the goal post during play between the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on November 9, 2008 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The NFC North has been up for grabs over the last few years. Is there a clear front runner this season to win the NFC North? Let's take a look.

Minnesota Vikings

A team that won the NFC North last year with a record of 10-6, finishing the season with a 4-2 record in the division. The Vikings had a playoff birth but lost in the first round to the Philadelphia Eagles.

I believe the Vikings are a very strong team and are only a few pieces away from being a super bowl team. The most notable missing piece is, of course, quarterback.

With Brett Favre rumors swirling, the Vikings are prepared to enter the season with Tavaris Jackon and Sage Rosenfels competing for the starting job if No. 4 opts to stay retired.

It is unclear at this point whether or not Favre will sign with Minnesota, but if he does sign, the Vikings will become the immediate favorites to win the NFC North.

Chicago Bears

Last year's NFC North runners-up have had probably the biggest offseason of all the division's teams, with the acquisition of QB Jay Cutler.

The Bears finished with a divisional record 4-2 and an overall record of 9-7.

The Bears defense is getting older but should still be very effective for this upcoming season. The defense will do what they do best and force turnovers to give the offense more possessions during the game.

The Bears offense will be the question mark this season. The running game should be there with Matt Forte but can the receivers make enough plays to move the chains?

They have the other essential pieces on offense, but they will be depending on their receiving corps to catch the balls from their newly acquired QB.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers finished with a divisional record of 4-2 and an overall record of 6-10.  The Packers are switching to a 3-4 defense this year and it may take some time for them to make it work.

They don't have all of the required personnel for the defense and still have some question marks on that side of the ball. The defensive backs are getting older and the line is going to be anchored by first round pick BJ Raji.

I believe Raji will be a solid player but it takes defensive tackles time to translate into the NFL (See Glenn Dorsey).

Aaron Rodgers should have better control over the offense that struggled at times last year, but questions still remain at running back. Is Ryan Grant the every down back the Packers thought he was when they gave him an extension before last season?

Detroit Lions

The Lions became the worst NFL team in history in 2008 by going 0-16. They have brought a new coach into town in Jim Schwartz and are looking to turn things around.

Detroit's defense broke its own record and became the worst defense in history in terms of points allowed in 2008. Can the Lions' defense rebound and get off the field on third downs?

The Lions offense has some bright spots in Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith. Adding Matthew Stafford and Brandon Pettigrew in the draft will be helpful next season but question marks still remain on offense as well.

Can Culpepper play like he did in 2004 with Scott Linehan?

Will Matt Stafford get on the field in 2009?

The Lions are moving out of the Matt Millen era and into something new but it might not turn around as quickly as they may hope.


When I look at this division as a whole I really don't see a clear cut front runner.

The Vikings made the playoffs last year but had inconsistent quarterback play. Can they add veteran Brett Favre? Can Jackson or Rosenfels step in and be a quality starter if Favre doesn't sign?

For the Vikings to win the division it will take strong quarterback play and a healthy Adrian Peterson.

The Bears made the Superbowl a few years back with a below average quarterback and great defensive play. Can they make it now with good defense and Jay Cutler?

For the Bears to win the division, it will take good defensive play from an older defense and young receivers stepping up on offense to support Jay Cutler and the running game of Matt Forte.

The Packers' biggest problem in 2008 was inconsistency. Their defense lost several games in the fourth quarter. Can BJ Raji step in and anchor that new 3-4 defense? Can the Packers make an easy transition to the 3-4 defense?

If the Packers plan to win the division, it will take strong defensive line play and a great understanding of their new defensive scheme. Ryan Grant will have to have a big year and keep the offense balanced so defenses are off guard all the time.

The 2008 Lions were lacking talent and coaching. With a new coach in town and several new starters on both sides of the ball several question marks still remain. Can the defense get off the field this year? Can the young defensive lineman step up?

For the Lions to make a quick turnaround and compete for the NFC North, it will take great defensive line play from their young defensive lineman. Kevin Smith will have to have a big year and establish himself as a running threat in each game to help control the tempo and take the pressure off the quarterback.