4. Detroit Lions: 3-13
We know they are the absolute lame duck of this division and of the NFL for that matter, but the Detroit Lions are going to win a few games this year.
Matthew Stafford should be the starter, and I think he'll have a shot to do alright with the mediocre amount of talent he's been given. Stafford could just be the first building block in getting the Lions back to a legit NFL franchise.
Stafford will get to throw to Calvin Johnson, who was one of the only bright spots in Detroit's 2008 season. He improved so much from his first season, and I think he's only going to get better through NFL experience.
The Lions also traded for linebacker Julian Peterson. He was a Pro Bowler last season, and will be another bright spot for a team that will undoubtedly struggle.
New coach, new attitude, new franchise quarterback—all good things. It's just going to take time.
3. Green Bay Packers: 9-7
Aaron Rodgers is starting to get comfortable in his skin as a starter. And for most quarterbacks, success doesn't come immediately.
Rodgers has a couple experienced receivers in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. Rodgers' 4,000-plus yards, 28 touchdowns, and good passer rating last year can put some optimism for a winning season in Green Bay also.
I'm not too sure what to expect from Ryan Grant. He had average stats last season, but it will be interesting to see if he can return to '07 form this year.
The Packers defense was still pretty good last season, and B.J. Raji could add a whole lot to that side of the ball. Green Bay also has one of the best sets of cornerbacks in the league.
Green Bay looks good, but they'll be playing in what could pan out to be one of the tougher and more competitive divisions in football.
2. Minnesota Vikings: 10-6
Before Brett Favre decided to show up all movie star like, Adrian Peterson looked like the only player who would shine for the Vikes on the offensive side of the ball, and it was hard to predict what Minnesota would look like.
But now that Favre is in Minnesota, not only is the quarterback position a whole lot better, but it's going to make Visanthe Shiancoe, Bernard Berrian, and all of the Vikings receivers better too.
Favre is coming off surgery, but it sounds like he'll be ready to go come Week One. My only concern is that Favre could potentially one big hit away from retirement, and if that happens, Minnesota has to turn to Tavaris Jackson and/or Sage Rosenfels.
With a beefy defense, a great O-line (i.e. Steve Hutchinson), the Vikings should reach double digit victories this year. Peterson is one of the best players in the NFL, and I don't see any reason why this team shouldn't make the playoffs.
1. Chicago Bears: 12-4
With the easiest schedule in football and a shiny new quarterback, I like the Bears to win the NFC North.
For the past few years, Chicago has had a strong defense, but they've had trouble finding consistent success on offense. Jay Cutler should help this problem quite a bit.
The Bears defense didn't really lose anyone in the offseason, and they added Pisa Tinoisamoa at linebacker. Tinoisamoa led the Rams in tackles last season, and could be an ace in the hole on a talented Bears' defense.
Chicago's offense will be strong in both running and passing for the first time in a while. The Bears have a proven quarterback to go along with Matt Forte, who had a stellar rookie season in 2008.
The pieces of the puzzle are all here in 2009 for the Bears. Both sides of the ball look strong, they're well coached, and Soldier Field is always a tough field to play on. Cutler will get his first taste of the post-season this year with Chicago.