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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Verdicts on Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota

Bears look a team on the rise

Chicago QB Mitchell Trubisky
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Chicago Bears

2017 5-11 Coach Matt Nagy
QB Mitchell Trubisky RB Jordan Howard
Major Ins DE Khalil Mack, WR Allen Robinson
Major Outs G Josh Sitton, LB Christian Jones
Top draft picks LB Roquan Smith (first round), C James Daniels (second round)

The Bears did not have a great season last year but it seems realistic that we will see some improvement from second-season quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

New head coach Matt Nagy worked wonders with Alex Smith at Kansas City and could repeat the trick. Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel provide excellent outlets and running back Jordan Howard has been a shining light in a couple of poor Chicago campaigns.

The late capture of Khalil Mack, one of the best defensive players in the league, from Oakland, is a big move and it could help to change Chicago's fortunes.

Detroit Lions

2017 9-7 Coach Matt Patricia
QB Matt Stafford RB LeGarrette Blount
Major Ins LB Devon Kennard, RB LeGarrette Blount
Major Outs TE Eric Ebron, LB Tahir Whitehead
Top draft picks C Frank Ragnow (1), RB Kerryon Johnson (2)

A winning campaign was not enough to save Jim Caldwell but former Patriots defensive co-ordinator Matt Patricia has inherited a decent team. 

Talented quarterback Matt Stafford will be key to their success, and now he is supported by running back LeGarrette Blount, who must improve what has been a dismal Lions rushing offence in recent years. The receiving options are good too.

The defensive line needs to be stronger and there have been plenty of changes in the linebackers in an attempt to match their decent secondary. It's a tough division but they can at least replicate last year's performance.

Green Bay Packers

2017 7-9 Coach Mike McCarthy
QB Aaron Rodgers RB Jamaal Williams
Major Ins TE Jimmy Graham, DT Muhammad Wilkerson
Major Outs WR Jordy Nelson, S Morgan Burnett
Top draft picks CB Jaire Alexander (1), CB Josh Jackson (2)

Aaron Rodgers has been awarded an eye-watering new contract and it is no wonder considering how much the Packers missed their quarterback after he broke his collarbone last season.

The loss of Jordy Nelson means Davante Adams will be the main receiver, but he performed well even when Rodgers' ropey replacement Brett Hundley played last term.

However, Green Bay have put everything in the Rodgers basket. There are a lot of young players who need to step up and it may prove to be too big a burden for one of the game's best QBs to shoulder.

Minnesota Vikings

2017 13-3 Coach Mike Zimmer
QB Kirk Cousins RB Dalvin Cook
Major Ins QB Kirk Cousins, DT Sheldon Richardson
Major Outs G Joe Berger, QB Case Keenum
Top draft picks CB Mike Hughes (1), OT Brian O'Neill (2)

The Vikings went close to playing in a home Super Bowl before being brushed aside by Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game.

They should be sharper offensively this year as Kirk Cousins is a quarterback upgrade on Case Keenum and running back Dalvin Cook looked great before getting injured in Week Four last season.

The defence was excellent in the regular season but struggled late on. 

Cousins has some strong receiving options and they look worthy divisional favourites again. However, there will be some big tests to negotiate and the ghosts of last year will have to be exorcised.

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The Vikings went close to playing in a home Super Bowl before being brushed aside by Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game
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