Can any team catch the Packers in the NFC North?

1. Green Bay Packers

The Packers have been the class of the NFC North since 2010, the last time they did not win the division. Last season, the Packers lost an absolute heartbreaker to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. However, this year, they have returned all of their key offensive players, Aaron Rodgers, Eddy Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams. As long as the group remains healthy, they should be one of the three best offenses in football. On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers lost corner back Tramon Williams, but return BJ Raji and drafted Jake Ryan and Damarious Randall. If the Packers want to win the Super Bowl, which is certainly a possibility, they must return to forcing turnovers and become a top flight defensive unit.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Last season, the Vikes showed significant improvement and their momentum should carry over to this season. The Vikings’ offense will be the biggest question mark for the team this season. Last season, they ranked toward the bottom of the league, but they should significantly progress due to the experience of Teddy Bridgewater, return of Adrian Peterson, and the addition of Mike Wallace. The Vikes will be built around their strength, which is their defense. The Vikings have talent all over the defense, like Xavier Rhodes, Harry Smith, Trae Waynes, Shariff Floyd, Anthony Barr, and Everson Griffin. The combination should lead the Vikings to fight for a playoff spot.

3. Detroit Lions

Last year, the Lions had one of their most successful seasons in years, but this season will decide if they are the same old Lions or a team that can harness their talent. On offense, they should improve with a healthy Megatron. In addition, the running game should significantly enhance the offense because Laken Tomlinson will better the line and Ameer Abdullah has home run talent. On defense, the Lions have to answer many questions without Suh or Fairley in the middle of the D-Line. If the Lions are going to pick up where they left off, they need improvement from Haloti Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah.

4. Chicago Bears

If the Chicago Bears cannot shock analysts, they may be fighting with other teams for one of the worst records in the league. On offense, they have the possibility to be dynamic, but it will all hinged on the play of Jay Cutler. If Cutler plays like last season, the Bears’ offense will be extremely frustrating and worse than last season, especially without Brandon Marshall and possibly Kevin White out for the season. On defense, the Bears are no longer the Monsters of the Midway. If the unit can even┬áplay at an average level, many will be surprised.

Will the AFC North have a new champion for the third straight season?

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers won the AFC North division last season and are a trendy pick to possibly reach the Super Bowl. The Steelers will be led by the best trio in the game, Ben Roethlisberger – Le’Veon Bell – Antonio Brown. Last season, they showed that it was impossible to defend the running and passing game and their dominance is sure to continue this season. The biggest question mark for Pittsburgh is their defense. The defense will be led by their front seven, especially their linebackers. The front seven has a lot of talent since 5 players are former first round picks and 1 is a second round pick. In the secondary, the Steelers will have to replace Troy Polumalu, but the addition of Brandon Boykin should help.

2. Baltimore Ravens

Last season, the Ravens barely squeaked into the playoffs as the number 6 seed and hope to improve this season after a good draft and offseason. The Ravens have solid talent on offense with Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, and rookie first round Brandon Perriman. On defense, the team will be led by their linebacking core, like the Steelers. The linebacking core has two first round picks, Terrell Suggs and CJ Mosley, and two second round picks, Daryl Smith and Courtney Upshaw. However, unlike the Steelers, the Ravens have a very good secondary with upcoming star Jimmy Smith and consistent veteran Lardarious Webb.

3. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have made four consecutive playoffs, but have yet to win a game in the playoffs. The Bengals have an extraordinarily amount of talent, but Andy Dalton is not a big game quarterback and neither is the entire team. The Bengals will likely win all of the games that they are suppose to win, but pull off no upsets or impressive finishes. On offense, the Bengals have playmakers like AJ Green, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and Tyler Eifert. Although unlikely, Andy Dalton certainty has the talent around him to take a step forward and become an above average quarterback. On defense, the Bengals have a complete unit with good players at each level of the defense.

4. Cleveland Browns

The Browns have not made the playoffs in years and their streak will continue this season. The Browns are in one of the best divisions in football and do not have the talent to compete. Besides the offensive line, the Browns have zero talent on offense, which will not help the quarterback, whoever it will be, Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown. On defense, the Browns have a lot of talent, especially in the secondary. In the secondary, they have four potential Pro Bowlers, Joe Haden, Donte Whitner, Tashaun Gipson, and Tramon Williams.

Will the Boys Repeat as Champions in the NFC East?

1. Dallas Cowboys

Toward the end of last season, Dallas established themselves as one of the best teams in football. Last season, the Cowboys ranked as one of the best offenses because their offensive line was a terror. Along the offensive line, the team boasts three first round picks and another player that possessed first round talent in this year’s draft, La’el Collins. Besides the offensive line, the team is blessed with a solid quarterback, Romo, one of the best wide receivers in the league, Bryant, and a steady tight end, Witten. The one deterrent for Dallas will be their defense. If the Boys can once again rank in the middle of the pack in defense, 15th, which is expected with the addition of Greg Hardy and Sean Lee, they should remain a Super Bowl contender.

New York Giants

The Giants have a lot of pressure this season to make the playoffs, but possess the talent to fulfill their goals. The Giants will at least have a chance in every game because they have a dynamic offense. Last season the Giants’ offense was good, but they should be able to take a step forward with a whole season from Odell Beckham Jr, Victor Cruz, and a slightly improved offensive line. If the O-Line can keep Eli upright, the G-Men can compete with the Boys for the best offense in the division. On defense, they have a lot questions, especially if JPP cannot rush the passer as effectively as last season.

Philadelphia Eagles

No team had more questionable moves this season than the Philadelphia Eagles and Chip Kelly. Their entire team will look different, but most importantly they will have a new quarterback, running back, and number one receiver. Unfortunately, the only position in which they may have improved is the running back position, DeMarco Murray instead of LeSean McCoy. Over the past few seasons, the Eagles have been able to rely on the offense to hide their faulty defense. Although the defense has been one of the five worst in the past two seasons, they have building blocks that can drastically improve their club, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, Eric Rowe, Malcolm Jenkins, and Byron Maxwell.

Washington Redskins

Over the past two seasons, the Redskins have been awful and extremely inconsistent because of faulty quarterback play. Whether it has been RG3, Kirk Cousins, or Colt McCoy, the quarterbacks have not been able to take control of the offense, which possesses quality weapons, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Alfred Morris. On defense, the Redskins have talent, but not enough to make up for an anemic offense. The pride of the defense will be their front seven, which consists of starters Stephen Paea, Terrence Knighton, Jason Hatcher, and Ryan Kerrigan.

The NJ Sports Guys