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NFL 2015: NFC North preview

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws before

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws before a preseason NFL game against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, in Green Bay, Wis. Credit: AP / Mike Roemer



10th season (94-49-1, .656)

LAST SEASON: 12-4, won division, lost to Seattle in NFC Championship Game.

OUTLOOK: The Seahawks aren't the only team trying to overcome a 2014 playoff nightmare loss. Green Bay had what looked to be a nearly insurmountable fourth-quarter lead over the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game, but a colossal meltdown prevented a trip to the Super Bowl. Bad defense and bad special teams contributed to the loss, but the Packers believe they'll straighten things out in both areas heading into this season. Bookend pass rushers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are ready to go. And, of course, any time you have QB Aaron Rodgers, you have a chance. The loss of Pro Bowl WR Jordy Nelson to a preseason knee injury is huge.



Second season (7-9-0, .438)

LAST SEASON: 7-9, third in division

OUTLOOK: Minnesota took some important steps forward last year, even with RB Adrian Peterson missing nearly the entire season. Peterson returns to a team that has matured under second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater, who showed steady improvement. Bridgewater gets a major new offensive weapon in WR Mike Wallace, who was traded from the Dolphins. Wallace needs to be less of a me-first player to make it work, though. Zimmer's defense showed a good grasp of his system toward the end of last year.



Second season (11-5-0, .688)

LAST SEASON: 11-5, second in division, lost to Dallas in wild-card game

OUTLOOK: Terrific first year for Caldwell, who brought some much-needed discipline to the Lions and enjoyed a playoff berth. QB Matthew Stafford has a big-time arm and has plenty of targets with WRs Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, but Caldwell is adamant about establishing a powerful running game. Big transition on defense without Ndamukong Suh, but Haloti Ngata offers veteran leadership, and the Lions expect a breakout season from third-year pass rusher Ziggy Ansah.



First season

LAST SEASON: 5-11, fourth in division

OUTLOOK: The Bears will give it another -- and perhaps a final -- try with QB Jay Cutler after giving Marc Trestman the heave-ho and bringing aboard the no-nonsense Fox. He is a defensive specialist, but his straightforward approach gives Cutler his best chance to succeed in Chicago. Cutler has a splendid arm, but his frequent run-ins with coaches and teammates can take its toll on a team. The Bears will rely on WR Alshon Jeffery and reliable RB Matt Forte on offense. Defense is another story, where a team that spent years in the 4-3 now goes to Fox's 3-4 alignment. Good luck.

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