Football.com's Big, Bad NFL Preview Series: NFC North
By Corbin Smith
The NFC North served as the NFL's deepest division in 2012, as three teams finished with double-digit wins. Only two managed to make the postseason, however, as the Green Bay Packers won the division and the surprising Minnesota Vikings narrowly edged the Chicago Bears for the NFC's last wild card berth. Entering the season, experts viewed the Vikings as a potential favorite to land the top pick in April's draft, but Adrian Peterson pulled off a stunning comeback less than a year after tearing his ACL and carried the team to the playoffs. Experts also thought the Detroit Lions would take the next step after reaching the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, but the team wound up losing 12 games in 2012.
Aaron Rodgers continued his dominance for the Packers, and despite losing several key receivers to free agency and retirement, the organization used a strong draft to revamp a dormant running game and the team should still be the favorite to stay atop the division this season. Minnesota will have to deal with a much tougher schedule this year, which means Christian Ponder will have to play better than he did last season for the team to have the same success as it did a year ago. The Bears won 10 games last season, but they ended up firing head coach Lovie Smith and brought in a new general manager. Jay Cutler will be entering a contract year and could be playing for his future in Chicago this season, as anything less than a playoff berth would be considered a failure within the organization. As for Detroit, Jim Schwartz went from a rising head coach to being on the hot seat in just one season, as his young team failed to come close to meeting expectations last season. The talent remains in place for the Lions to return to the playoffs, but in a division with four playoff-caliber teams, it could be tough sledding once again in Motown.