MINNESOTA VIKINGS: (12-4 2009)
Brett Farve, Brett Farve, Brett Farve. The Vikings go the way Farve goes and the season forecast will be tough for Minnesota to win big. Starting the season off against the defending champion Saints, and then against the Miami Dolphins in week 2. A break against the revamped Detroit Lions should be a win, but after a Week 4 bye week the Vikings go on a tough eight week stretch. Farve will take his boys to the Jets, Packers, Patriots, Bears, and Redskins. And they will also host Dallas, Arizona, and Green Bay. Mix the Giants and the Eagles in the final four weeks of the season, and the Vikings have an extremely challenging schedule. With Farve getting his legs under him, Adrian Peterson running left and right, and Jared Allen anchoring the defense the Vikings have a tough road ahead of them. How the Vikings are able to handle the games without, recently surgically repaired, wide receiver Sydney Rice will play a pivot role as well as to how this season will go for the Vikings. As good as this team is on paper, they will have to be even better on the field to be a contender when the end of the season approaches. A few losses in a row could spark the inevitable controversy that exists between Farve and head coach Brad Childress. The "rift" that Farve and Childress share is apparent, but wins will keep it quiet and losses will only make it more visible for the fans and media to see. Can Farve's old legs bring it for one more season? We all know it is extremely possible. But this team will have to play sixty minutes as hard as they can for all sixteen games of the season.
DETROIT LIONS: (2-14 2009)
Ndamukong Suh was a huge draft pick for the Lions and his high-motor intensity on the field will clearly make a much needed difference for what looks to be a rejuvenated Detroit Lions football team. Suh, veteran cornerback Dre Bly, and newly acquired right end Kyle Vanden Bosch will bring new life to the Lions defense. On the offensive side of the ball, Matthew Stafford seems poised to have a very solid sophmore season. With Calvin Johnson split to the right, Stafford has a Pro Bowl option to throw to, but with Kevin Smith running the ball hard and rookie running back Jahvid Best providing a home-run-hitter effect anytime he touches the ball, this offense is getting closer to becoming stable and consistent. Stafford has what it takes to be a solid NFL quarterback. Calvin Johnson is an absolute beast, and if the Lions keep themselves in games in the fourth quarter, there will be new hope in the locker room and in the stadium seating. The future is bright for the Lions.
CHICAGO BEARS: (7-9 2009)
The Bears acquired defensive end Julius Peppers and return line backer and captain Brian Urlacher to rejuvenate what used to be a stout and ferocious defense. But, nothing was done to help quarterback Jay Cutler in his second year with the team. Cutler, who had a dreadful 2009 season, needed a true option to throw to at the receiver position. Instead, Cutler will still look to Hester, Knox, Aromashodu, and tight end Greg Olson. Cutler needs help, Matt Forte took a step back last season and needs to get back to form from 2008 in order to keep this team from becoming one dimensional and being able to stay in games deep into the fourth quarter. The Bears are in a tough situation this season, head coach Lovie Smith will be on the hot seat if they are not winning, and Jay Cutler will be high criticized if he has a repeat season. A brutal final four weeks (NEW, @MINN, JETS, @GB), will put this Chicago Bears team to a real test.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: (11-5 2009)
The Packers are coming off a terrific season where they made the playoff's, finished 3rd in the NFC in least amount of points aloud, and Aaron Rodgers had an absolutely stellar season behind center. Aaron Rodgers has emerged from the middle of the pack of quarterbacks in the NFL, to top of the class and a big season this year with a few playoff wins will put Rodgers in the elite class with Brady, Manning, and Brees. He is that good. With all of the weapons that Rodgers has on offense, an offensive line that got better towards the end of the season last year, it will be the transition that the defense continues to take to the 3-4 defense that will make or break the Green Bay Packers season. Led by all-pro corner back Charles Woodson, the Packers defense must fine tune themselves so that their pass rush gets to the opposing quarterback and the secondary breaks up plays. The defense did lose veteran defensive end Aaron Kampman to free agency, but the team is hoping that second round DT Mike Neal will bolster the line and give it more depth. Overall, this Packers defense is very formidable and with a schedule that includes games against the AFC East and the NFC East, they will be tested early and often.