NFL Offseason Preview: NFC North & NFC South

This week, I will to fill you in on the NFC North and NFC South, and possibly what to expect from each of the teams this upcoming season along with which teams are likely to free fall to the bottom of their division standings and who will rise to the top.

The Green Bay Packers were last year’s Super Bowl champions despite not winning the NFC North but finding their way into the playoffs as a wild card team.

The Packers, who limped into the playoffs, faced many injuries throughout the season, many of which caused players to miss games or most of the season all together.

Packers starting QB Aaron Rodgers missed some time during the regular season due to receiving multiple concussions throughout the season.

After not making many huge moves during the off season, the Packers still seem to be a top contender to make another run at the Superbowl.

Many of their injured players from last season are back healthy and ready to make an impact on their team again.

The Chicago Bears won the NFC North division but found themselves eliminated in the NFC championship game.

The Bears had their season end one game short of the Superbowl, thanks to their rival the Packers.

Many Bears fans were not happy for the first week of the off-season as many of the big stars available in free agency were not signed to their favorite team.

The Bears did make a few additions to the roster which may help the team this season.

The team signed both Running Back Marion Barber and WR Roy Williams.

Both Williams and Barber were teammates last season on the Dallas Cowboys until they were both cut.

Both players were cut by the Cowboys to clear up some cap space for the team.

The Bears also shocked their fans as they released Center Olin Kreutz.

They also traded away their star Tight End Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a 2012 third round draft pick.

Bears QB Jay Cutler is also looking to start the season on a positive note after being scrutinized by many for giving up on his team near the end of the season.

The Minnesota Vikings also made some headlines of their own during the off-season, as they made a trade with the Washington Redskins to acquire QB Donovan McNabb.

The Vikings traded a 2012 sixth-round draft pick and a conditional sixth-round pick for the 2013 draft for the Quarterback.

The Vikings are likely to start McNabb despite drafting rookie Christian Ponder from Florida State in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

With talent like Vikings’ star Running Back Adrian Peterson, it will be the best running game, McNabb has had in behind him in his entire career so far.

The Vikings also lost some key players due to free agency that had an impact over the last few years with the Vikings.

The Vikings will not have WR Sidney Rice, backup QB Tarvaris Jackson, and LT Bryant McKinnie.

Rice was an impact WR for the Vikings with a break out season in 2009 but was not the same after missing many games last season due to injury.

Jackson was the starting QB for the Vikings in 2008 before the team signed veteran Brett Farve to take his place in 2009.

Both Jackson and Rice will play together again as teammates on the Seattle Seahawks this season.

McKinnie was a tackle for the Vikings since 2002 when he was drafted as a rookie.

McKinnie was released due to high cholesterol and for coming into training camp overweight.

The Detroit Lions are still rebuilding but are on the right track after drafting Nick Fairley in the first round of the 2011 draft.

Fairley makes a great addition to the Defensive Line that already has a dominate player in Ndamukong Suh, who was only a rookie himself last season.

Sadly for the Lions, Fairley underwent foot surgery on Wednesday after an injury.

Fairley is likely to miss most of the Lions’ preseason games and camp, but may be ready to go as the regular season begins.

The Lions had one of their best seasons compared to past years but are waiting for former first round Quarterback Matthew Stafford to remain healthy for a full season to take the next step after being plagued with injuries some far in his career.

Lions also look to WR Calvin Johnson to help lead the offense again this season in the right direction and match the progress that the defense is likely to begin producing.

I think the Packers are likely to stay consistent this season and continue their winning way and take the top spot in the NFC North.

The NFC South is also filled with alot of young talent on some of its teams.

The Atlanta Falcons claimed the top spot in the NFC South last season with a 13-3 record.

Some of the key players from the Falcons last season were on the offense side of the ball, including the likes of QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, and WR Roddy White.

White had a huge season as he led the league in receptions in 2010 with 115 receptions.

White also was 2nd in the league overall in receiving yards with 1,389 yards.

Despite the Falcons having one of the best receivers last season they moved up in the 2011 draft to pick WR Julio Jones, who was one of the top two receivers in the draft.

Its came at a huge price as the Falcons had to send five draft picks to the Cleveland Browns.

Three of those draft picks were used in the 2011 draft by the Browns and the other two will be used during the 2012 draft.

Julio Jones helps improve the Falcon’s offense and take some of the double team off of White, who will line up on the opposite side of the field from him.

The New Orleans Saints finished second in the NFC South and will be looking to give the Falcons another tough run for the top spot this year.

The Saints had two first round picks, which they used to draft DE Cameron Jordan and RB Mark Ingram.

The team also made some noise during the offense trading away RB Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins.

The trade should not have come off as a surprise after the team drafted Ingram.

The Saints also found a replacement with a similar skill set as Bush, when they signed former San Diego Chargers RB Darren Sproles.

The team will continue its running back by committee offense with Ingram, Sproles, and Pierre Thomas all getting chances to run the ball.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished third in the NFC South but proved to be a team with upside coming into this season after finishing last season with a decent record of 10-6.

The Bucs are a team filled with young but talented players, who are only going to get better.

Leading the charge for the Bucs is QB Josh Freeman, who threw for 25 touchdowns and 3,451 yards, in only his second year in the league.

Freeman had the help of Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount to thank for some of his season success.

Williams had a breakout season in only his rookie year, leading the team in both receiving yards and touchdowns.

Blount also had a break out rookie year as he led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns.

Blount was picked up as an undrafted rookie and made a name for himself in the NFL after the Bucs signed him and gave him a chance to shine.

The Bucs also addressed some needs to improve the Defensive Line when they used their first two draft picks on DE Adrian Clayborn in the first round and on DE Daquan Bowers in the second round.

The Carolina Panthers not only finished with the worst record in the NFC South but also with the worst record in the NFL.

After claiming the worst record in the NFL last season, they were given the number one overall pick in the 2011 draft, which they used to draft QB Cam Newton from Auburn.

Newton won the Heisman Trophy, and help led the Auburn Tigers to a BCS National Title in his senior year in college.

Newton plans to bring the winning edge, the Panthers have been looking for this upcoming season as he is likely to get the starting job at Quarterback.

The Panthers also hired Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera as their new head coach after the Panthers decided not to renew the contract former coach John Fox.

Rivera coached the Chargers to be the number one defense in the league last season, and one of the top defenses over the past few seasons.

Rivera will have a huge impact on what happens with the defense but it will be interesting to see what he can do for the offense.

The Panthers decided to resign many of its players that were set to be free agents by signing them to huge contracts.

Panthers re-signed players like DE Charles Johnson, LB Jon Beason, and RB DeAngelo Williams.

Charles Johnson was a huge part of the Panthers defense by getting 11 sacks last season.

Beason is one of the Panthers defensive and team captains, and was 2nd on the team in total tackles with 121 tackles.

Williams will continue to share the ball in the backfield of the offense with fellow running back Jonathan Stewart.

The Panthers also made a trade to bring in TE Greg Olsen from the Chicago Bears.

Olsen joining the team will greatly help the offense and the progress of QB Cam Newton.

I think the Falcons are the team to beat this year in the NFC South but the Saints and Bucs will be looking for a chance to jump ahead of the Falcons, if possible and claim the top spot in division for themselves.

Pilates Now A Part Of Redskins Offseason Workouts

Washington Redskins conditioning coach Ray Wright has made pilates training mandatory for the team during offseason workouts. Once a week the team will participate in pilates classes which are designed to increase flexibility and strengthen core muscle groups in an effort to help reduce injuries.

 (pictured: Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong (AP photo) via The Redskins Blog | Pilates Now A Part Of Offseason Workouts)