2012 NFC North Preview


by Andrew Coughlin

The North division in the NFC will be very competitive this season.  In fact, it should be one of the tougher divisions in the entire NFL, along with the NFC East and AFC North.

Much transpired in the NFC North in 2011.  The Green Bay Packers went a franchise best 15-1 during the regular season, only to get ousted in their first playoff game against the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Their defense set an NFL record for most passing yards allowed in a season.  The Packers grabbed six defensive players in the 2012 draft to try and remedy last years failures, especially in regard to their anemic pass rush capability.  Many "experts" are picking Green Bay as NFC representatives in this years' Super Bowl.

The Detroit Lions made a leap of sorts, going 10-6 and surprising many by making the playoffs for the first time in years.  Mathew Stafford was the fourth QB in the history of the NFL to throw over 5,000 yards in a season, Calvin Johnson is in a class of his own at WR and their young defense is tenacious and keeps improving with every year.  Their running game will be a question mark this year.  The Lions gave up a modest 36 sacks last season.  Will their offensive line be improved and keep Stafford upright and on the field?

Chicago is coming off a disappointing season.  They finished 8-8, couldn't overcome key injuries and missed out on the playoffs.  Say what you will about QB Jay Cutler, the Bears need him to be successful.  They added Brandon Marshall to a receiving corps that hasn't had a big time receiver for decades and they paid their most dangerous weapon on offense, RB Matt Forte.  The people waiting for their defense to get old will have to keep waiting.  The Bears keep marching out championship defenses year after year.  Don't expect any different on that side of the ball this season.

Finally, Minnesota finished 3-13, good for third worst record in the NFL.  They lost their best player, Adrian Peterson, to a ligament tear and just couldn't get it going with an offense led by an inexperienced, rookie QB.  I can't see much of an improvement in 2012.  An aging defense and a question mark at every skill position on offense, with the exception of WR Percy Harvin, will make this team an easy target for the other three teams, who are viable playoff contenders.

This division could conceivably send three teams to the playoffs this season and it wouldn't be a surprise. 

This year the NFC North drew matchups against the lowly NFC West and AFC South, respectively.  This should help the Packers, Bears and Lions pad the win column.  (I say 'should', because this is the NFL and any team can win on any given Sunday.)

Everyday this week I will preview each team in the NFC North; starting with the team that will finish last and ending with the division winner.

Send emails to acoughlin@cbs58.com.



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