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The Bears lost their star running back Matt Forte to the New York Jets this past offseason, but will replace him with a fully capable running back in Jeremy Langford, who showed huge flashes of potential last season. Jay Cutler isn’t the greatest of quarterbacks, but if wide receiver Alshon Jeffery can stay healthy, that Cutler to Jeffery connection can easily become one the league’s most lethal, and can become Manning-to-Beckham-esque given Jeffery’s numbers in his limited playing time over the past couple of seasons due to injuries. The Bears also drafted defensive end Leonard Floyd to fill a hole that absolutely needed to be filled prior to this season on the defensive side of the ball. If Langford performs this season like he did last season, if Jeffery can stay healthy, and if the Bears’ defense can step up and make Floyd’s transition from the college level to the professional level a smooth one, this Bears team has a potential to click on all cylinders, which could take them to Super Bowl LI and lead them to a victory.
The Lions lost most probable future Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson due to retirement this past offseason, but this may be a blessing in disguise. In the 2014 season, when Johnson missed a few games, Golden Tate stepped right in and thrived in the primary wide receiver role in an offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford struggled for a few seasons after a career year in 2011, but in 2015, he looked like he was on the right track to becoming his old self again. With the focus off of one individual player (Johnson), Stafford may actually be able to do more with his passing game, especially since he has solid running backs in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick as well who can take away the focus of defenses with their ability to make big plays. The Lions have been in the postseason with Stafford at the helm before, and although they have a mediocre defense, this team is fully capable of making it to Houston to represent the NFC in next February’s Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers should have star wide receiver Jordy Nelson back this season after he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. With Nelson’s return comes the decrease in attention towards wide receiver Randall Cobb. When Nelson last played in the 2014 season, Cobb had a career season due to the attention that Nelson requires, allowing Cobb to catch more passes and produce much more than he ended up producing last season without Nelson there to take away lots of attention. With 2-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers throwing the football to those guys, they’ll be tough to stop, and with a healthier, more in-shape running back in Eddie Lacy, who has shown that he can do some serious damage in the both on the ground and through the air, pressure will be taken off of Rodgers and his receivers, as defenses will once again have to focus on Lacy. The Packers do not have an elite defense, but their defense is a little bit above average, especially with linebacker Clay Matthews in the mix. With the combination of their elite offense and their solid defense, the Packers are one of the teams most likely to win Super Bowl LI.
The Vikings are coming off of a season during which they exceeded expectations and made the most out of nearly every little opportunity. They have an extremely talented young defense, and although they didn’t dominate the scoreboard in many of their wins, they did well enough to win the majority of their games. However, they lost by 1 point in a heartbreaker last year in the Wild Card Round of the NFC Playoffs to the Seattle Seahawks, but due to their offensive upgrades this offseason, particularly the drafting of wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who will try to follow in the footsteps on former SEC wide receivers like Julio Jones, AJ Green, and Amari Cooper to become a superstar, that kind of poor offensive performance that ultimately cost the Vikings the ability to continue on in the postseason should not happen again. Treadwell, along with 2nd year wide receiver Stefon Diggs, should really help quarterback Teddy Bridgewater step up and become a much braver and better quarterback, and the fact that the Vikings have one of the greatest running backs of all time in Adrian Peterson at their disposal should really help speed up this process, as it will take a lot of pressure off of Bridgewater and his receivers. The Vikings are one of the more well-rounded teams in this league, and they seem to be only getting better, which is why they can make a run at bringing home the franchise’s first ever Lombardi Trophy this season.
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