The NFC North could be the most competitive division in the NFL in 2012.
Green Bay leads the way after completing an almost perfect season last year, but Detroit and Chicago are also expected to be good. According to Bovada.lv, three of the 14 most likely teams to win the Super Bowl play in the NFC North.
With three potential title contenders, the division could finish in a number of different ways.
Here is a preview and prediction for the NFC North for the 2012 NFL Season.
Green Bay Packers
Despite finishing last season with the best record, the Packers have the second-easiest schedule in the NFL. They face the AFC South, which might be the weakest division in the league. After hosting the 49ers in Week 1, Green Bay only plays two playoff teams in the next eight games.
Coming off their bye in Week 10, the Packers have their toughest stretch of the year. They'll face the Lions twice, the Bears once and the defending champion Giants in a five-week span.
Aaron Rodgers was the best quarterback in the league last year, throwing for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns. He has a great receiving corps, led by Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. Green Bay's defense can be susceptible against the pass, but they make up for it by creating turnovers.
It's too much to ask Green Bay to lose just one game, but they still have the best team in the NFC.
2011 Record: 15-1
Predicted 2012 Record: 13-3
The Lions are coming off their best season in two decades. They have to play the Packers twice, but have a fairly soft schedule otherwise.
Detroit will look to do damage in the early part of its schedule. Until they play the Packers in Week 11, the 49ers will be the only team they face that made the postseason a year ago.
The Lions made the leap into a playoff team in 2011 with a very young roster. If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, he'll likely improve on season that saw him throw for over 5,000 yards. Detroit's biggest weakness was its running game, but that should be improved with a healthy Mikel Leshoure.
If they can avoid costly injuries, the Lions can be even better this year, and possible give the Packers a run for their money
2011 Record: 10-6
2012 Predicted Record: 11-5
Chicago has been many experts' sleeper pick to make a Super Bowl run. They were 7-3 in 2011, until they suffered injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. Now, the Bears look to make up for what may have been a lost opportunity.
The Bears have the 20th most difficult schedule in the NFL. They play both the Cowboys and Panthers, both of whom missed the playoffs last year, but are expected to be improved.
It's hard to see Chicago not improving from a season ago. If Cutler and Forte can stay healthy, they should be in the hunt for the playoffs. They should also have one of the best defenses in the league.
The biggest issue is the Lions and the Packers. While the Bears will remain competitive in their division, Detroit and Green Bay have a lot more talent on the offensive side of the ball.
2011 Record: 8-8
2012 Predicted Record: 9-7
The Vikings were one of the worst teams in the NFL last season, but have one of the more difficult schedules in 2012.
Minnesota has a chance to get off a quick start. They play Jacksonville and Indianapolis in their first two games, who combined to go 7-25 in 2011. The Vikings will be tested in their final seven games, when they play NFC North opponents five times.
A lot falls on second-year quarterback Christian Ponder's shoulders. If he can improve on his touchdown to interception ratio, the Vikings can improve. Still, they have an extremely weak secondary, and Rodgers, Cutler and Stafford could have a field day in their six games against Minnesota.
2011 Record: 3-13
2012 Predicted Record: 4-12