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NFL Divisional Preview: NFC North

The NFC North came down to one of the final plays of the final game a season ago. When Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass against the Chicago Bears, Green Bay wrapped up a divisional title, and sent them to the postseason. This season, Green Bay hopes to continue that success, but will need a healthy Aaron Rodgers the entire season. Chicago has one of the best offenses they have had in decades, while Detroit is under new leadership, and Minnesota is going to experience some growing pains. The NFC North should be a two horse race, with both teams being possible playoff contenders.

The Packers finished 8-7-1, Chicago completed an 8-8 season, while Detroit won 7 games, and the Vikings won 5. Green Bay lost three home games, which is unusual for a team that is usually dominant at home. Chicago was an offensive juggernaut, scoring 445 points, which was the most in the NFC. The Packers actually won the division having a -11 point differential throughout the regular season. Detroit was looking good heading into Week 14 with a 7-5 record, but losing their last four games and failing to make the postseason is what likely got Jim Schwartz fired. Minnesota had Adrian Peterson, the best running back in the game, but not a lot of pieces around him. What they will do in 2014 is a huge question mark in this division.

This season, the Packers are going to rely heavy on Aaron Rodgers, and also second year running back Eddie Lacy. Many feel Lacy is going to have a huge year, the biggest question with him is his healthy concerns. The receiving core led by Jordy Nelson seems to be enough to complement the strong arm of Rodgers. Green Bay’s top draft pick was a defensive player, HaHa Clinton Dix. Chicago with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Matt Forte may once again have the best offensive unit in the league. The question will be if adding Jared Allen and other enforcements will help the defense. Gone is Julius Peppers, who struggled in his final season and half in Chicago.

Jim Caldwell is now the new head coach of the Detroit Lions, and he inherits the top wide receiver in all of the National Football League. Calvin Johnson caught 84 passes, for just shy of 1,500 yards a season ago. The Lions will use him a ton again this year, as they ranked third in passing yards a season ago. In Minnesota, will rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater get the start? The Vikings with Adrian Peterson will apparently going to attempt to keep the ball on the ground, but when push comes to shove, defenses will make the Minnesota quarterbacks throw. The Vikings were 31st last season, allowing just shy of 300 yards via the pass. Minnesota drafted Anthony Barr, an outside linebacker with their #9 overall pick.

Green Bay will start the season with a tough one on Thursday night football at Seattle, quite the test early in the season for the Packers. Chicago hosts Buffalo, while Detroit will host the New York Giants on Monday Night. The Vikings start the season in St. Louis, against the Rams. Some key divisional dates include: Sunday September 21st Detroit vs. Green Bay, September 28th Chicago vs. Green Bay, November 9th Chicago at Green Bay, November 27th the Bears play at Detroit.

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