NFC North preview
With the Brett Favre saga behind them, the Vikings can turn their attention to making a Super Bowl run. Minnesota came within one Favre interception in last seasonís NFC championship game of advancing to its first since 1976 and again is among the most complete teams in the league.
Favre had a resurgent season, throwing 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions for the best percentage of his career and the top touchdown to interception ratio in the NFL.
But Favre will be missing his most dynamic wide receiver for at least six games: Sidney Rice had hip surgery in the preseason. Another speedy receiver, Percy Harvin, has battled migraines. The Vikings will lean on running back Adrian Peterson, who had 1,383 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The defense finished sixth in the NFL last season and boasts a very stout front seven.
2. Green Bay
The Packers are glad they cut ties with Favre when they did, or Aaron Rodgers still might be an understudy to the future Hall of Famer. Rodgers instead threw for 4,434 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions, despite being sacked 50 times, tied for most in the NFL.
The rest of the offense is not too shabby. Wide receiver Greg Jennings had 1,113 yards and four touchdowns on 68 catches, down a bit from his breakout 2008 season.
Donald Driver added 1,061 yards and six touchdowns. Tight end Jermichael Finley figures to become a bigger part of the offense this season.
The Packers also count on running back Ryan Grant, who has had two straight seasons of at least 1,203 yards.
The 3-4 defense is powerful and fast; veteran cornerback Charles Woodson had nine interceptions, returning three for touchdowns.
Defense always has been the Bearsí trademark, and this season holds the return of Brian Urlacher and the addition of Julius Peppers. Urlacher missed all but one game last season after surgery on his dislocated right wrist, and the Bears defense finished 17th. Peppers signed a six-year deal reportedly worth $91.5 million.
With Urlacher out of the lineup, linebacker Lance Briggs became the centerpiece of the defense, with a career-high 118 tackles, including 2Ĺ sacks.
But the offense was stagnant last season in quarterback Jay Cutlerís first year with the team. The Bears added Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator to open up the passing game.
Running back Matt Forte did not live up to expectations last season, running for 929 yards and four touchdowns after amassing 1,238 and eight scores in 2008. For insurance, Chicago brought in versatile running back Chester Taylor.
Itís not often that a team with two wins has much to look forward to the following season, but the Lions just might be in store for considerable improvement. Quarterback Matthew Stafford enters his second season after throwing for 2,267 yards and 13 touchdowns with 20 interceptions as a rookie, but his performance was capable enough to perhaps end the Lionsí revolving door at that position.
The offense goes through Calvin Johnson, who at 6 feet 5 and 235 pounds is among the most physically imposing wide receivers in the NFL. In 2008, he had 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns on 78 catches despite being part of the first 0-16 team in league history.
Detroit has big plans for rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, considered perhaps the best defensive player in college football last season. He signed a five-year deal reportedly worth in the neighborhood of $60 million.