Jay Cutler earned a massive new contract in the off-season and will need to prove he is worth that money. With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey he has the best one-two punch at receiver in the NFL, as well as the excellent Matt Forté, though his offensive line is a bit unbalanced. The additions of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston make for a mean defensive line, but the rest of the defence is a concern, especially at linebacker and safety. Cutler’s health is always a red flag, but if he can stay on the field the Bears should reach the playoffs.
Matthew Stafford cannot fail. The Detroit quarterback has arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL with No 1 target Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson now lining up alongside Golden Tate and first round draft pick Eric Ebron. At running back Joique Bell has beaten Reggie Bush to the starting spot, a move that will allow Bush to become the big playmaker he is capable of being when he doesn’t have to carry the load. Stafford could easily break the 5,000-yard passing barrier, but has to cut down on his interceptions. The biggest problem, as it has been for years, is the Lions’ poor defence. The secondary is still there for the taking while the defensive line, previously their great strength, has underwhelmed in pre-season with Nick Fairley suffering weight issues. This year it could go either way.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Pay offence will follow in Peyton Manning’s footsteps and adopt a lightning-quick style of play to leave defences in their wake. It has so far worked in pre-season with Green Bay dominating, while Eddie Lacy is developing into one of the NFL’s very best running backs. On the defensive end the secondary is still a concern but the pass rush has looked much better; the Packers should be one of the league’s strongest teams but face a daunting schedule that includes the Seahawks, Saints and Patriots.
The offence is built around running back Adrian Peterson but in rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater the star may finally have some help at the quarterback position – however the Vikings are set to start with veteran Matt Cassel after some up and down play from the rookie in pre-season. Cordarrelle Patterson is also a star in the making but the receiving corps looks a bit light. Defensively, it was a mistake to allow Jared Allen leave for Chicago and the secondary remains a bit of a weak spot. They’re in a tough division but could be a dark horse.