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Chicago Bears – Da Bears (not to be confused with Duh Bills).  Super Bowl runners-up a year ago, the monsters of the midway look to be among the NFC top tier again in ’07.  The one discouragement for Bears fans is that the nightmare that plagued them last season remains – the inconsistent play of QB Rex Grossman.  I screamed all year on my blog that the answer was standing on the sideline wearing #14, but Coach Lovie Smith insisted that Brian Griese was the back-up QB and would only see the field if Rex was injured.  Well, the Bears with Rex at the helm won 13 games and went to the Super Bowl.  So there.  Look for Rex Grossman to be on a shorter leash this season, with both the coaching staff and the fans.  If his problems persist, his starting role won’t.  The offense will miss the departed Thomas Jones, but figure that Cedric Benson will produce.  Seeing Devin Hester take snaps with the offense has to strike fear in opponents who tried so hard to steer punts and kicks away from him.  Once again, it is the Bears defense that will carry this team.  And it will likely carry them to the NFC North title, and beyond… deja-vu.

Green Bay Packers – Let’s get it out of the way right now, shall we.  No.  This will not be Brett Favre’s last season.  Are you kidding me?  The Packers ripped off four in a row to end last season and missed the playoffs by a tiebreaker whiff.  They’ve improved the old fashioned way – developing players as opposed to sinking a boatload of cash in a bloat-load of cache.  Their stable of running backs is a huge question mark after the departure of Ahman Green, but the Pack brain trust believe that between rookie Brandon Jackson and third year pro Vernand Morency, they can compete.  A pretty stout pass rush and a developing group of linebackers will lead an improved defense in ’07.   Weak-side LB A.J. Hawk will be a Pro-Bowler this season.  Look for the Pack to break the .500 mark, and take a swipe at a wild-card birth.  Oh, those tiebreakers.

Detroit Lions – QB Jon Kitna shocked his teammates this past week when he guaranteed a winning record and talked about a Lions playoff birth.  I believe in Jon Kitna.  Unfortunately, he plays for the Lions.  Head Coach Rod Marinelli will turn this team around, but it’s more like a three year plan (five if Matt Millen has anything to say about it).  Mike Martz is steadily improving the offense, and I think we will all be surprised at the progress when this team hits the field.  Adding in former Bronco thousand yard RB Tatum Bell will help until Kevin Jones is back to full speed.  And, aside from the Arizona Cardinals, the Lions may have the best starting WR tandem in the league.  Defense is Marinelli’s specialty, but his human resource coffers are a little thin.  It will be interesting to see LB Ernie Sims in his second year, and to see if some of the roster and depth chart shifting of the offseason pays off.  My guess: Kitna’s confidence is a year away.  Make that guarantee next season, and we’ll see.  This time out, shoot for 7 wins.

Minnesota Vikings – Brad Childress thought it a good idea to go into this season with untested Tavaris Jackson as the only QB on the roster who had a shot at starting.  Not good.  At the eleventh hour he pulled the trigger on bringing in career back-up (but impressive when called upon) Kelly Holcomb to hold a clipboard.  The Vikings defense was amazing against the run last season, and formidable against the pass, but remember that Mike Tomlin, last year’s Defensive Coordinator left for Pittsburgh.  Another disciple of the ‘Tampa 2’, Leslie Frazier, will have to keep up the momentum.  My guess, good enough for a fourth place finish in the NFC North, but competitive in almost every game. 

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