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NFL Key Questions: NFC North

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IMay 6, 2009

LAKE FOREST, IL - APRIL 3:  Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, quarterback Jay Cutler and head coach Lovie Smith are all smiles after introducing Cutler as their new quarterback during a press conference on April 3, 2009 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Jim Prisching/Getty Images)

The 2009 NFL Draft is in the books, and despite the holes many teams were able to fill with their selections, there are still questions surrounding all 32 squads. The Bruno Boys though are here for you, attempting to shed light on the key issues surrounding all 32 NFL teams. This time we take a look at the NFC North.

Chicago Bears

Can newly acquired quarterback, Jay Cutler, turn Chicago's passing game, which finished 21st in 2008, around?

There is absolutely no doubt that when the Chicago Bears acquired Jay Cutler this off-season, they settled their quarterback problem for years to come. After all, Cutler, at the age of 26, is just entering his prime and has already proven that he has the skills to be a top QB in the league.

In each of his two years as a full-time starter, Cutler has thrown for at least 3,400+ yards and 20+ TDs, including a 2008 campaign that consisted of 4,526 passing yards and 25 passing TDs, numbers that helped the Denver Broncos finish the season with the 3rd best passing offense in the NFL.

So, can he rectify Chicago's passing game? Considering that Cutler threw for 1,465 more yards and five more TDs than the Bears' quarterbacks did last season, you have to believe there will be improvement in the Bears' aerial assault.

However, don't expect Cutler to turn this squad into one of the most feared passing offenses in the league. Much of a quarterback's success depends on the targets he has to throw to.

In Denver, Cutler was a bit spoiled in that department, getting to throw to the likes of wide receivers, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and Brandon Stokley, and tight end, Tony Scheffler.

In Chicago, Cutler won't be so lucky. While he'll still have a reliable tight end to wing the ball to in Greg Olsen, Cutler's wide outs, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis are definitely not the same caliber as Marshall and Royal. In fact, the two, if playing for Denver, would be entering camp in a competition with Stokley for that WR3 spot. 

In the end, what you'll see in Chicago is a little give and take. Cutler will be able to give the passing game a bit of a boost, but the lack of quality wide receivers will take away from the quarterback's stats come season's end.

Detroit Lions

In failing to add much to the league's worst defense, is another 0-16 season in the mix for Detroit?

It's hard to win football games when your defense allows a league worst 32.3 points per game. Case and point, last year's Detroit Lions, who managed to go the entire season without notching a "W."

With Matt Millen out of the picture though, there was hope in the Motor City that the team would be able to put together a sensible off-season, addressing their pressing needs and compiling a squad that could at least secure one victory in 2009.

However, with the off-season winding down, it's questionable whether the team has done that.

Sure, they have strengthened the offense. Not only did they add rookie quarterback, Matt Stafford, in this year's draft with their first overall selection, but they were also able to get Stafford a solid tight end to target for years to come later in the first round of the draft in Brandon Pettigrew.

They added even more to the offense in free agency, securing the services of wide receivers, Ronald Curry and Bryant Johnson, tight end, Will Heller, and running back, Maurice Morris. Granted none of these free agents are game changers, but they are solid players that can contribute to a team's overall success.

In the end, these offensive additions should help compile a unit that is able to outperform the 16.8 points Detroit averaged last season.

Still, even if they improve that average by a full TD, which is a generous jump, to 23.8, that may not be enough to get them in the win column. You see defense also counts for something in the NFL, and in that regard, the Lions are lacking.

Already a depleted squad, the Lions lost two strong components of their defense this off-season in cornerback, Leigh Bodden, and defensive tackle, Shaun Cody.

Granted, the team tried to fill these holes by acquiring cornerback, Phillip Buchanon, and defensive tackle, Grady Jackson, but these players are simply as good or worse than Bodden and Cody.

And, with no other real additions to the defensive side of the ball, Lions' fans are looking at a squad very similar to last year's league's worst.

Keep hope though Lions' fans because a team losing 32 straight games is simply preposterous. However, that is what many experts thought about an 0-16 season. 

Green Bay Packers

Can Ryan Grant return to his 2007 form?

Fantasy owners and Green Bay Packers' fans were both disappointed by Ryan Grant's 2009 season.

And, really, who can blame them? Bursting onto the scene in 2007, Grant was able to amass 956 rushing yards and eight total TDs while only really seeing quality playing time in 10 games. 2008 was a different story, though, as Grant tallied just 1,203 rushing yards and 5 total TDs despite playing in a full 16 games. 

The biggest problem for Grant in 2008 was that the back just wasn't able to do as much with his opportunities as he had been able to do in 2007.

In fact, Grant's yards per carry average dropped a whopping 1.2 from 5.1 in 2007 to 3.9 in 2008, which means the biggest question surrounding Grant for 2009 is whether or not he can get that number back up.

Our thoughts are that he can. For starters, Grant is healthy as of now, and if he can stay that way into the beginning of 2009, he'll already be ahead of where he was last year when he entered the season with a banged up hammy.

Further, strengthening Grant's cause in 2009 will be the fact that defenses will have to respect quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 4,038 yards and 28 TDs last season, even more now that he has a year of experience under his belt. That respect should translate into a little more running room for Grant.

Grant is a back you will be able to nab as a RB2, who has the potential to turn into a RB1 as the season progresses. Remember, five of his six double digit fantasy performances did come in the second half last season.

Minnesota Vikings

Can the Vikings' coax Brett Favre into one more year of football?

With the way Brett Favre has retired and then unretired in recent years, it seems that not a whole lot of coaxing will need to be done.

In fact, a face-to-face meeting between Minnesota Vikings' head coach, Brad Childress, and Favre could be enough to get the job done. And, fancy that, rumors around the league are stating that such a meeting is set to take place later on in the week.

If Favre decides to come back and does join the Vikings, the team quickly jumps to the front of the line when it comes to discussing the NFC favorites to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.

After all, the team was able to compile a 10-6 record and win the NFC North in 2008 despite having to place the elderly Gus Frerotte, and the schizophrenic Tarvaris Jackson under center.

Favre's arrival though will not change the Vikings' offensive philosophy. While Favre is a future Hall of Famer, he is a future Hall of Famer pass his prime.

Meanwhile, another future Hall of Famer on the Vikings, running back, Adrian Peterson, is just entering his prime. Peterson and the running game will remain the team's bread and butter even if Favre is donning the purple next season. Which begs the question, can a man who has thrown for 310 interceptions be relied on to be a game manager?

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