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NFC North Preview/Review

[editor's note, by River City Rage]Please welcome "Ditka Fan" to Big Cat Country. He'll be keeping us posted on the happenings and progress of the NFL as a whole with some broder perspective commentary. He's a huge Saints fan, as you can probably guess from his user name.

Will this man Conquer the NFC North...again?

Well, I'm kicking off my stint here at Big Cat Country with a little general NFL analysis. I've been given a homework assignment to provide a division-by-division look at what has been happening in the offseason and what that means for the upcoming season. And the winner of the coin toss is the NFC North (probably because Chris doesn't trust me to talk about his precious Jags). So let's get to it.

Last year the Bears had control of this division from start to finish while the Vikings managed to disappoint with a meager six wins. Green Bay shocked the world by finishing at .500 and the Lions proved again why they are perennial contenders for a top draft spot. Will anything change this season or will the Bears enjoy another playoff birth thanks just because their front office isn't composed of chimps (and Matt Millen)?

Chiciago Bears (13-3) - Let's start at the top. They lose a premier defensive coordinator in Ron Rivera. Then they trade RB Thomas Jones, a 1,200 yard rusher and the glue that held this offense together all season, in order to move up in the second round of the draft. LB Lance Briggs is angry that the Bears want to pay him $7 million and DE Alex Brown is seeking a team where a rookie (Mark Anderson in this case) won't show him up despite playing half the time. How are these guys are the favorites of the division? In the draft, they added a solid TE with Greg Olsen, except Desmond Clark just emerged as a potential threat at this position. Then they added DE Dan Bazuin and the front office seems to love him already. The only problem is that they have plenty of depth at this position. Meanwhile, Lovie Smith is celebrating his new contract by attempting to move KR Devin "Mr. 100" Hester to offense. I personally applaud this move since this is what made Dante Hall a superstar. Wait, he's faded into obscurity? Well maybe we should just let Hester return kicks. Despite these problems, the Bears seem to be handling them well and they should be prepared to walk all over the NFC North for another season.

Favorite Offseason Story - The Bears refuse to learn their lesson about Florida-college quarterbacks inability to succeed in the NFL by sticking with QB Rex Grossman and adding his successor, undrafted Chris Leak. That ought to encourage one of the schools to develop a quality quarterback! NFL teams keep spending money to teach these schools that they can't recruit this position!

Green Bay Packers  (8-8) - The Packers offseason has once again been dominated by an egotistical, camera-hogging jerk. That's right. LB A.J. Hawk got married to PC Laura Quinn (Professional Cutaway) and, of course, the media has been all over it. Oh, meanwhile Brett Favre has been struggling to decide what he will do in the future. When he decided to comeback, he not only decided his future but the future of the Packers. Looks like another year of doing just well enough to miss out on both the best draft picks and the playoffs. They let RB Ahman Green get away and replaced him with... moving on!  The Packers draft didn't bring in any standouts but DT Justin Harrell should help to improve the defense. The Packers haven't made much noise during this offseason that did not involve Brett Favre and they are ready to prove it by turning one hell of an average season.

Favorite Offseason Story - Brett Favre is going to miss mandatory practice sessions so that he can attend graduation. Sure, this is only a one-day event, but it doesn't count as a graduation unless you make the rounds to all the graduation parties in town. I wonder if he'll show up at a party, stay too long, muse aloud about leaving, and then decide to sit down for another plate of cake all while the hosts are trying to clean up around him?

Minnesota Vikings (6-10) - The Vikes were supposed to be able to compete for the top spot in this division. They fell noticeably short. And we all know the cause of this; those new Arena-style uniforms. Who could take this team seriously when they look worse than the Philadelphia Soul? Also, the offense stalled under the aging QB Brad Johnson and eventually made the switch to Tarvaris Jackson in Week 15. The hope for this offseason is that the Vikings would be able to bring in some weapons that can keep the ball moving. Unproven and unreliable receivers Troy Williamson and Bobby Wade aren't going to be enough to give Jackson any chance to win. The draft brought in RB Adrian Peterson who should have an immediate impact as long as that impact isn't enough to shatter his brittle bones into a million pieces. WR Sidney Rice was also drafted out of South Carolina but he doesn't seem like he'll be NFL-ready out of the gates and won't help to move the ball down the field. This team has a solid defense with a very underrated secondary but their offense just will not be able to get it done as they are now.

Favorite Offseason Story - The lack of a real quarterback in Minnesota and the fact that no one in the media outlet seems to realize that they aren't even looking for one. This should be a team in the running for Kansas City's Trent Green. I mean, an aging, experienced quarterback is just what they need to get on track, right...?

Detroit Lions (3-13) - This team was bad last year. This team will be bad again. But I bet they will be pretty fun to watch. Mike Martz working his magic (insanity) with WR's Roy Williams and rookie Calvin Johnson should be quite a show. QB Jon Kitna may look scary but his play is... well, scary. But he manages to get the ball to his playmakers often enough to keep fans and fantasy players happy. Well, as happy as someone who roots for Detroit can be. The worst news was the loss of CB Dre Bly. He is a very talented player that gave some hope to a terrible defense and the Lions have failed to adequately replace him. The drafting of QB Drew Stanton shows that the front office is not satisfied with Kitna and it might be possible to see a change at quarterback once this season appears to be lost for the Lions. So, Stanton's first start will be around week 3? Week 4?

Favorite Offseason Story - I've actually found it funny that so many draft people thought it was impossible for Detroit to take Calvin Johnson at the number 2 spot despite the fact that he would obviously be the most talented player in the draft. The logic being that since Detroit had drafted so many WR's in the past, they would not be allowed to draft another. Well, Matt Millen once again defied the experts, only this time it might actually be for the better and they will be able to damn Johnson to a great career on an awful team.

Predictions - This division is full of flaws, issues, and idiots. Luckily for the Bears, they have the most talent and the least amount of problems. I really wouldn't expect too much of a shake-up in terms of results. The Bears will still run riot over this division and the chances of the North producing a wild card team is as likely as me not watching this Ninja Warrior show. This stuff is hilarious!