1. Green Bay Packers
Finally, a running game worthy of playing with Aaron Rodgers.
2. Chicago Bears
It will be tough, but the Bears are playoff worthy with the improvements on defense.
3. Detroit Lions
A new coaching staff should get this talented team back on track.
4. Minnesota Vikings
This is probably the most desperate team in need for a stable quarterback in the NFL.
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy
Key Position: Defense – Green Bay probably would have had a better record had Aaron Rodgers not gone down with an injury in the middle of the season. That goes to show you just how bad the Packers defense was last season in the seven games that Rodgers missed winning only two games and having one tie. There wasn’t much risk bringing in Julius Peppers who will bring another edge rusher opposite Clay Matthews while helping the secondary. Peppers is also an underrated run defender who will help the linebackers find the seam.
Key Acquisitions: DT Letroy Guion (Minnesota Vikings), DE/LB Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears)
Key Rookies: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, WR Davante Adams
Head Coach: Marc Trestman
Key Position: Defensive Line – There wasn’t any life here last season as they allowed the most yards rushing per game in the league. Adding Allen, Houston and Young doesn’t mean they’ll fix the problem, but adding those three to the rotation will help the holdovers in Stephen Paea and Jeremiah Ratliff. Rookie defensive tackles Ferguson and Sutton should help as well. The Bears secondary can continue wreaking havoc if they don’t have to be put out of position stopping the run.
Key Acquisitions: DE Jared Allen (Minnesota Vikings), C Brian de la Puente (New Orleans Saints), WR Santonio Holmes (New York Jets), DE Lamarr Houston (Oakland Raiders), S Ryan Mundy (New York Giants), DE Willie Young (Detroit Lions)
Key Rookies: CB Kyle Fuller, DT Ego Ferguson, DT Will Sutton, RB Ka’Deem Carey
Head Coach: Jim Caldwell (Baltimore Ravens)
Key Position: Quarterback – There really isn’t anymore excuses to be made for this team. New head coach Jim Caldwell is seen as a quarterback guru in some circles and he should be able to curtail franchise QB Matthew Stafford. He has a lot of reliable targets to throw to and yet he still makes mistakes at the worst possible times. With a receiver like Golden Tate it sets up the perfect safety net on third down instead of looking for Megatron. Rookie Eric Ebron should help in that regard as well and a steady running game with Bush and Bell makes the Lions a prime candidate for a rebound season.
Key Acquisitions: FB Jed Collins (New Orleans Saints), S James Ihedigbo (Baltimore Ravens), WR Golden Tate (Seattle Seahawks)
Key Rookies: TE Eric Ebron, LB Kyle Van Noy
Head Coach: Mike Zimmer (Cincinnati Bengals)
Key Position: Quarterback – With a new head coach in place it pretty much means that the Vikings will part ways with Christian Ponder fairly soon. That was all but assured with the drafting of Teddy Bridgewater, but it doesn’t mean that he will start right away. Veteran Matt Cassel will be given an opportunity to keep the spot warm for Bridgewater. Norv Turner being the new offensive coordinator will do wonders for this team and RB Adrian Peterson, but more importantly at the quarterback position.
Key Acquisitions: DT Linval Joseph (New York Giants), CB Captain Munnerlyn (Carolina Panthers)
Key Rookies: LB Anthony Barr, QB Teddy Bridgewater, DE Scott Crichton, RB Jerick McKinnon