Occasionally throughout this offseason I will check in on how every NFC North team is faring and venture a guess at how they will stack up during this coming season.
1. Minnesota Vikings (2009 Record: 12-4)
For the most part the Vikings have been dormant throughout free agency. Brett Favre’s retirement decision is often thought to be the key to the Vikings success in 2010, and remains a relative unknown.
If Favre returns, then the Vikings will bring back every one of their starting players from the end of 2010. The only exceptions to this seem to be linked directly to the rehab of cornerback Cedric Griffin and middle linebacker E.J. Henderson.
The Vikings lost two key backups on offense in Artis Hicks and Chester Taylor. The plans to replace these two are not 100% clear yet, but the draft may provide answers to these questions.
The Vikings signed kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd, which should help solidify a special teams coverage unit that has been known as the occasional liability throughout the last two seasons.
The Vikings only other free agent signing is Mike Montgomery, who is expected to be the primary backup at left defensive end. He does, however, have the abilities to play at every spot along the defensive line if need be.
Other than Favre’s pending decision, the only thing that really seems to present a decrease in total wins in 2010 is what appears to be a very tough schedule.
2. Chicago Bears (2009 Record: 7-9)
For quite a stretch in 2009, the Bears appeared to be the Vikings biggest threat in the Division. After a mid-season implosion, however, the Bears were just another mediocre football team.
Mike Martz’s offense has its flaws, but the high flying spectacle that he puts out there on Sunday’s is usually capable of winning two or three games a season even without any talent. The Bears have some talent, however.
The Bears were this year’s big spenders in free agency where they were able to reel in Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor, filling needs that needed to be addressed.
Unfortunately for them, the draft will be of little help since they do not have their first selection until the third round.
With Jay Cutler entering his second season in Chicago, it is fair to expect some improvement out of him, especially if the Bears remain committed to improving the talent around him.
3. Green Bay Packers (2009 Record: 11-5)
Like the Vikings, the Packers were a good team and have managed to retain most of their lineup featured in 2009. Unfortunately for them, that may not be such a good thing.
They retained Mark Tauscher at age 33 and Chad Clifton at age 34. Plus they have aging cornerbacks. I feel like this team is just one injury to a key member away from being terrible, especially after seeing their O-Line crumble in the absence of Clifton and Tauscher last season.
The Packers have a promising draft ahead of them, but it may not be enough help to keep up with father time… who is catching up with much of their team.
Lastly, if the Packers think they can continue to depend on Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson to establish a run game, then they are going to continue to have a one-dimensional and predictable offense… especially in the latter half of the year.
4. Detroit Lions (2009 Record: 2-14)
The Lions may have a way to go before anyone takes them seriously, but I am really starting to suspect that Jim Schwartz knows how to build a good football team out of nothing.
Following a good draft in 2009, the Lions have added some talent to their roster via free agency. Sure they paid too much for him, but Nate Burleson is talented enough to take some pressure off of Calvin Johnson. Kyle Vanden Bosch will instantly improve what was once the worst defensive line in the NFL.
With the depth of talent in this draft class, the Lions could very well add another three of four starters to their team witht heir #2 position.
This team is on the rise (not that they could’ve fallen any farther) and may surprise a few teams in 2010.