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Key questions for NFC North teams in preseason

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Continuing our trip around the divisions let's take a look at what are some of the key issues that need to be solved in the NFC North.

Chicago Bears Defensive Line

If you can win the battle of the trenches upfront then you will be halfway to winning games of football. Last season the Chicago Bears defensive line unit was the worst in the NFL giving up a league high 5.3 yards per carry to opposing ball carriers and a league low 31 sacks.

To change this the Bears invested heavily in the line in the offseason. Veterans Jared Allen, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston were brought in as free agents. Whilst in the draft the Bears took defensive tackle Ego Ferguson in the second round and defensive tackle Will Sutton in the third round.

The Bears have almost completely remodelled the defensive line. Will it work though?

Integrating Golden Tate and Eric Ebron into Lions the passing game

The Lions are blessed to have Calvin Johnson, the best wide receiver in the NFL, playing for them. Without a doubt Johnson is going to be the Lions number one receiver in 2014.

Not satisfied with this though, the Lions added Golden Tate in free agency and pass catching tight end Eric Ebron in the first round of the draft. This pair should be a significant upgrade on Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew.

Theoretically, the Lions passing attack should be explosive this season. Teams can double team Megatron but, this should leave either Ebron or Tate free to punish them. Of course, in reality things might not be quite so simple but the Lions offense should still be one to watch.

Replacing Finley

At this point it looks increasingly likely that Jermichael Finley's NFL career is over. As a pass catching tight end Finley was one of the best in the business and the Packers will need to find his replacement pronto.

Neither Andrew Quarless, Brian Bostick or Ryan Taylor were too impressive last season so it seems plausible that there could be a starting spot for rookies Colt Lyerla and Richard Rodgers. The tight end battle in training camp should be worth keeping an eye on.

Can Aaron Rodgers stay fit?

Aaron Rodgers is for my money the best QB playing in the NFL. Look at his pre-injury performances last season. Despite the loss of Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Findley, Rodgers was still a passing machine. His performance against the Vikings in week seven was a masterclass.

Even without his big offensive weapons a fit Rodgers would likely have guided his team to a better record then 8-7-1. The Packers would have avoided the wildcard round in the
playoffs and the postseason could have been very different.

If Aaron Rodgers can stay fit for the whole of the 2014 season then the Packers are a team with Championship ambitions. If Rodgers endures another season like last year then the Packers will be merely a team aiming for the playoffs.

Can Peterson catch more passes?

At 29 years of age running back Adrian Peterson is something of a dinosaur in NFL terms; the last of the old school running backs. It is pretty much a guarantee that Peterson will rush for 1000+ yards.

If you look at Peterson's nearest competitors (LeSean McCoy and Jamal Charles) you will notice that they do one thing that Peterson doesn't really do. They catch the ball. Last season Charles led his team in rushing and receiving yards. McCoy rushed for 1,607 yards as well as 539 receiving yards.

Can Peterson do something similar? In Norv Turner's new offense can Peterson double his catching receptions up to around 60 and his total receiving yards up to around the 500 yard mark? Such a development would radically alter and improve the Vikings offense.

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Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions
Chicago Bears

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