The Green Bay Packers, led by last year's regular seaon MVP, QB Aaron Rodgers, finished their 2011 season with a disappointing playoff loss to the Giants. To avoid the same type of result, the Packers will have to find some more balance in their overall offense. Rodgers has a bountiful harvest of receiving targets, (WR Jordy Nelson led the way, last year, with 15 touchdowns and over 1,000 receiving yards) but the running game needs to be more of a viable threat for the Packers to bring home another Lombardi trophy. Seeing the need for improvement, the Packers signed free agent RB Cedric Benson, hoping he put up the numbers he did while resurrecting his career with Cincinnati. Benson will vie for playing time in the backfield with RB James Starks and Brandon Saine, among others. On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers looked to improve their interior defense by drafting end Nick Perry and tackle Jerel Worthy with their first two picks. If Benson can spark the Packers running attack, the sky is the limit. If not, the Packers should still win the division and be a threat in the playoffs.
The Chicago Bears improved their offense by acquiring WR Brandon Marshall, which gives QB Jay Cutler a legitimate #1 receiver to throw to. Cutler is also very familiar with Marshall, having him as a receiver while they played in Denver. RB Matt Forte will probably be called on to carry the load, again, after his strong season in 2011. Knowing that he's been unable to stay healthy throughout his career, the Bears also signed free agent RB Michael Bush who last played in Oakland. The defense remains solid, led by LB stalwart Brian Urlacher and DE Israel Idonije. The Bears return game remains a threat with Devin Hester returning kicks and punts again this season. If the offensive line can improve and allow Cutler to play the entire 16-game schedule, the Bears should be in solid position to make the playoffs as the season winds down.
The Detroit Lions had a successful 2011, making the playoffs for the 1st time since 1999 (cue Prince). QB Matthew Stafford had a breakout year, last year, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. The best receiver in the game, WR Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, helped bring excitement back to the Motor City and should put up huge numbers, again, in the 2012 season. The Lions must find a running game to hit on all offensive cylinders and to keep their average at best secondary off the field as much as possible. On the defensive front, Ndamukong Suh is a force of nature, but he must find a way to keep his aggressive play without being penalized so often in his effort to improve. The Lions should be chasing for a wild card berth as the regular season comes to a close in this very competitive division.
The Minnesota Vikings spent much of last year's draft looking to upgrade at offensive line in an attempt to keep Christian Ponder off the disabled list. Matt Kalil, a standout lineman from USC, was taken by the Vikings with the 4th pick, to protect Ponder's blindside and will probably be an immediate starter. Of course this is a moot point in terms of team success if RB Adrian Peterson can't come back from ACL and MCL reconstructive surgery from a knee injury, last season. Peterson is hoping to be ready for week 1 of the regular season, but it's not a guarantee. Peterson's backup, RB Toby Gerhart, may be counted on for more of the ground game load. The Vikings still have multidimensional WR, Percy Harvin, who is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, but they don't seem to have much in terms of overall skill position talent. DE Jared Allen was the one bright spot of the defense and the porous secondary should have a lot of trouble keeping teams out of the end zone, all year. It's highly unlikely for the Vikings to avoid cellar dwelling, again, in the 2012 season.