In order to win the NFC North, a team must have a great offensive attack and that’s exactly what the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears have. Sorry Minnesota! The Packers are the cream of the crop in the division, coming off a league best 15-1 record last season. Chicago and Detroit will duke it out for second place while Minnesota’s mission is to just win more games than last year.

Let’s preview:

CHICAGO BEARS (8-8 in 2011)

Key Losses: None

New Faces: Shea McClellin (Defensive End); Jason Campbell (Quarterback); Michael Bush (Running Back); Eric Weems (Special Teams); Brandon Marshall (Wide Receiver)

Last season, the Chicago Bears were on course to make a huge playoff run. Quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte suffered season ending injuries. As a result, Chicago crumbled losing five out of the last six games in-route to a disappointing 8-8 record.

In 2012, some new faces have arrived in Chi-Town. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall reunited with Cutler. Running back Michael Bush and quarterback Jason Campbell are great backups. On special teams, Eric Weems will provide depth as will rookie defensive end Shea McClellin on the defensive side. With a healthy Forte and Marshall catching bombs from Cutler, Chicago will be a scary team this season.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher is still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is questionable for the season opener against the Colts. Chicago has additional concerns on defense as well. Free safety Chris Conte has a bum shoulder and his replacement, Brandon Hardin was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.

DETROIT LIONS (10-6 in 2011) 

Key Losses: Aaron Berry and Eric Wright (Corner Backs); Bobby Carpenter (Linebacker); Drew Stanton (Quarterback)

New Faces: Jacob Lacey (Corner Back); Everette Brown (Defensive End); Jonathan Scott (Offensive Tackle); Jarrett Dillard (Wide Receiver)

Image if you are a quarterback in the National Football League and you have wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, and tight end Brandon Pettigrew to throw to. Awesome isn’t it? Well those are the  weapons Lions  quarterback Matthew Stafford has at his disposal. What a luxury! Couple that with a strong defensive line, led by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Cliff Avril, and the Lions have a winning combination. Hopefully they well be able to run the ball better. Other than that, the sky’s the limit for a Detroit team that had a long history of turmoil.

GREEN BAY PACKERS (15-1 in 2011, NFC North Division Champions)

Key Losses:  Scott Wells (Center); Chad Clifton (Left Tackle); Matt Flynn (Quarterback); Ryan Grant (Running Back); Nick Collins (Safety)

New Faces: Jeff Saturday (Center); Nick Perry (Linebacker); Cedric Benson (Running Back)

Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL’s most potent offense. The acquisition of free agent running back Cedric Benson should make that offense even more dangerous.

The defense on the other hand is a little unsettling, especially with the lost of linebacker Desmond Bishop to a torn hamstring. The Packers used this year’s draft to beef up the defense. Hopefully it will pay off.  Look for another super bowl run from the boys in green and yellow.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (3-13 in 2011)

Key Losses:  Cedric Griffin (Corner Back); Steve Hutchinson (Guard); E.J. Henderson (Linebacker); Donovan McNabb (Quarterback); Tyrell Johnson (Safety); Visanthe Shiancoe (Tight End)

New Faces: Matt Kalil (Offensive Tackle);  John Carlson (Tight End); Jerome Simpson (Wide Receiver)

It’s an understatement to say that the Vikings had a disappointing season in 2011.  In 2012, finishing with more than three wins will be an accomplishment.

The defense should be decent. Defensive end Jared Allen will look to lead the charge. Running back Adrian Peterson  is coming back from season ending knee surgery and tight end Kyle Rudolph is starting to come into his own. Look for him to have a big season. The Vikings also got back corner backs Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook from issues that kept them off the field a lot last season.

Although Minnesota should improve from last season, that improvement won’t change their place in the standings of this tough division. The other teams are far too superior.

By Keith Madyun

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