Green Bay Packers
The team starts with Aaron Rodgers, but a lackluster running game and an injury riddled defense hasn’t allowed Green Bay to finish its season in February.
GM Ted Thompson had another stellar draft. Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin give the Packers offense two running backs capable of playing all three downs.
Undersized and underrated lineman Datone Jones comes over from UCLA to add depth to the defensive line. Josh Boyd can play both the nose and five-technique positions.
The health of its offensive line is a problem. Derrick Sherrod is still hampered by a leg injury. Bryan Bulaga’s been injury prone since he entered the league, and finds himself on injured reserve once again. Marshall Newsome is a poor replacement, and Don Barclay hasn't proven that he can contribute as a pass protector.
I don't doubt Rodgers can overcome his leaky offensive line to have a big season. He's done it before. I doubt whether or not the offensive line can keep him upright and let A-Rod be A-Rod.
Best Offensive Player: Aaron Rodgers
Best Defensive Player: Clay Matthews
Projected 2013 Record: 11-5
The Vikings have a question mark… and it’s at the quarterback position. In Week 17 versus the rival Packers, he took a big leap forward getting the Vikings into the playoffs. If Ponder can build on that success then this team can do big things.
Adrian Peterson is arguably the best player in football. Minnesota possesses a top-level defense that can get even better thanks to youngsters Harrison Smith, Chris Cook and Sharrif Floyd. Smith can protect that back end and also come up and deliver stops in the box. Cook is a huge corner who can cover some of the NFL's better WRs 1-on-1. Floyd has the strength and quickness to defend the run and give the Vikings a pass rush from the inside. Minnesota also has one of the most underrated offensive lines in the league.
If Ponder plays well, then this team can reach their first Super Bowl since the 1977. If he doesn't, then Rick Spielman will be searching for a new quarterback in the stocked 2014 NFL Draft.
Best Offensive Player: Adrian Peterson
Best Defensive Player: Jared Allen
Projected 2013 Record: 10-6
Chicago's offense held them back last season, but their offense should improve this season. Receiver Alshon Jeffery is in the best shape of his life, and will look to take some much need pressure off of All-Pro receiver Brandon Marshall.
The offensive line will also be much improved. Kyle Long adds his tremendous athleticism. Jermon Bushrod will finally give Jay Cutler a capable left tackle. Eben Britton, who can play tackle and guard will provide the offensive line with quality depth.
From a leadership standpoint, pro-bowler Lance Briggs will be the guy to attempt to fill Urlacher's shoes. Rookie Jon Bostic gives the Bears a nice two-down run-stopping linebacker. D.J. Williams, when he's on the field and has his mind right, is one of the best cover-linebackers in the league.
Marc Trestman is the new man in charge. An NFC title game appearance will be the ceiling for Da Bears.
Best Offensive Player: Brandon Marshall
Best Defensive Player: Lance Briggs
Projected 2013 Record: 9-7
This defense is a year or two away from being a really good one. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah is a great athlete, but more importantly, he's a great talent. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley to give the Lions one of the best defensive lines around. Darius Slay has the speed and the hips to become one of the games better defensive backs. Glover Quin comes over from the Texans and gives Louis Delmas a partner in the back end of defense.
Matt Stafford is not an elite quarterback. In year four, he still has major mechanical issues. The offensive line has problems as well, and outside of Megatron, the Lions are weak at receiver. Reggie Bush may finish second to Megatron in receptions.
This team's deficiencies, coupled with three loaded rosters in the NFC North, means this could be Jim Schwartz's last season in Detroit.
Best Offensive Player: Calvin Johnson
Best Defensive Player: Ndamukong Suh
Projected 2013 Record: 9-7