2007 record in parentheses:

GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-3, 14-4 including postseason)

Strengths: Underrated, veteran defense and dynamic receivers.

Weaknesses: Injuries and uncertainty in interior offensive and defensive lines.

Players to watch: QB Aaron Rodgers. Brett Favre has been traded to Jets, but only Rodgers' play can quiet inevitable comparisons.

Biggest change: Packers parted ways with one of their most popular and productive players, knowing Favre could have another strong season. They're also waving goodbye to his exhausting diva act and tendency to make big mistakes.

Schedule key: Sept. 8 vs. Minnesota. Rodgers' first real start comes on national TV against division rival that Packers suspect tried to tamper with Favre. If league won't punish Vikings, Packers certainly want to.


Strengths: On ground, both sides of the ball. Adrian Peterson gives Vikings game-changing running attack. On defense, Pro Bowl tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams anchor stout front seven.

Weaknesses: In air, both sides of the ball. Passing game benefits from new receiver Bernard Berrian, but quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is still unproven. Neck injury to safety Madieu Williams was bad start for mediocre secondary.

Players to watch: Berrian, Jackson, rookie safety Tyrell Johnson.

Biggest change: Defensive end Jared Allen, NFL's reigning sacks leader, was brought in for big money to upgrade pass rush.

Schedule key: Three of first five are on road, including opener at rival Green Bay. Six days later, Indianapolis visits Metrodome.


Strengths: Bears will rely on their defense. Question is: Can it stay healthy? If so, group led by LB Brian Urlacher, DT Tommie Harris and LB Lance Briggs could rank among league's best, as it did in 2005 and 2006.

Weaknesses: Quarterback. Unproven Kyle Orton beat out inconsistent Rex Grossman in preseason even though neither particularly shined.

Players to watch: Urlacher, bothered by an arthritic back last season, he underwent minor neck surgery when it was over. Orton, who started 15 games as rookie in 2005 while Grossman was hurt. Back then, Bears simplified offense for him.

Biggest change: RB Cedric Benson is gone after two alcohol-related arrests in a month, replaced by second-round draft pick Matt Forte of Tulane and Kevin Jones, coming off serious knee injury while with Detroit.

Schedule key: Bears will be tested right from opener at Indianapolis on Sept. 7, followed by trip to Carolina.


Strengths: WRs Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson, half of the first-round receivers drafted by Matt Millen, seem to stack up with any receiving duo. DBs Leigh Bodden, Dwight Smith, Brian Kelly and Kalvin Pearson — all newcomers — add experience and depth to unit that needed it.

Weaknesses: Lions want to run after parting ways with pass-happy coordinator Mike Martz, but offensive line and backfield appears shaky. First-round pick OT Gosder Cherilus might not crack starting lineup, and third-round selection Kevin Smith's upright running style might not work as it did when he ran for 2,567 yards — 62 short of Barry Sanders' NCAA record — at Central Florida.

Players to watch: Williams, Johnson, DE Dewayne White, LB Ernie Sims, Bodden.

Biggest change: New offensive coordinator Jim Colletto, replacing Martz.

Schedule key: A strong start — at Atlanta, vs. Green Bay, at San Francisco and vs. Chicago — might set up Lions to be respectable, especially if they learned from last year's second-half flop.