NFC North: NFL scenarios 2012

AFC Scenarios: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Chicago Bears in 2012.

Dream scenario (13-3): Tailback Matt Forte reports to training camp happy and healthy, either with a new contract or an acceptance of the franchise tag. His good will soothes the locker room and allows players to focus on football. Quarterback Jay Cutler leads the second coming of the 2008 Denver Broncos offense, connecting with receiver Brandon Marshall for 100-plus receptions, and the Bears finally find a Devin Hester "Package" that works. The aging defense remains sharp, rookie Shea McClellin provides an important balance to the pass rush and the Bears prove to be an NFC powerhouse.

Nightmare scenario: (7-9): Forte holds out from training camp, starting the summer off on a bad vibe. An offense that looks good on paper struggles to get organized under first-year coordinator Mike Tice. The Hester Package limits his effectiveness as a returner. McClellin isn't ready to be a three-down player. The defense gets old more quickly than expected, exposing the Bears' lack of young impact players.
AFC Scenarios: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Detroit Lions in 2012.

Dream scenario (12-4): The team moves past its string of silly/immature problems, tightening up not only its off-field behavior but also its discipline on the field during games. Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best give the Lions a power/speed dimension in the backfield they lacked for most of last season. Rookie receiver Ryan Broyles' knee heals quickly enough to provide a legitimate fourth option among receivers and further spread out opposing defenses. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley realizes his playmaking potential and teams up with Ndamukong Suh to provide consistent and dominant interior play. Fairley, Suh, Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch protect an undermanned secondary, and the Lions make big defensive plays against opponents that feel pressure to keep up with Detroit's offense.

Nightmare scenario (7-9): Best and Leshoure don't provide the balance the Lions hope for, either because of injuries or skill deterioration. Broyles takes longer than expected to return, Titus Young has a sophomore slump, and opponents flock to receiver Calvin Johnson. Left tackle Jeff Backus can't hold up for another season. Despite the formidable defensive line, the Lions can't cover for their secondary and give up too many big plays.
AFC Scenarios: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Green Bay Packers in 2012.

Dream scenario (16-0): The Packers' passing offense picks up where it left off in a record-breaking 2011 season. The scheme is enhanced by a new approach to the running game, center Jeff Saturday takes over a leadership role from the departed Scott Wells, and Marshall Newhouse proves to be a franchise left tackle. The defense rebounds from last season's slump thanks to the infusion of draft picks Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels. The Packers find a suitable long-term replacement for safety Nick Collins and, a season after falling five points short of a perfect season, the Packers pull it off in 2012.

Nightmare scenario (8-8): The Packers' running game falters when presumed starter James Starks can't stay on the field. Opponents find new ways to approach the Packers' passing game, and the defense isn't any better because their rookies aren't ready to play yet. Veteran Charles Woodson is forced to move to safety, and the Packers don't have a suitable replacement for him at cornerback. Despite these problems, it's hard to imagine the Packers finishing below .500.
Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012.

Dream scenario (9-7): Quarterback Christian Ponder makes a big leap in his second season, spurred in part by confidence in his new offensive line. Ponder makes good use of his two pass-catching tight ends, Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson, and either Jerome Simpson or Greg Childs provides a legitimate downfield threat. Tailback Adrian Peterson (knee) is back to full strength early in the season, if not in Week 1. The Vikings get a big return on overhauling the middle of their defense and aren't hindered by starting one rookie safety (Harrison Smith) and perhaps two (with Robert Blanton). In a tough division, they're thrilled to finish with a winning record.

Nightmare scenario (3-13): The Vikings show no improvement from 2011, giving them a three-year record of 12-36. Ponder's inconsistency raises questions about his future with the franchise. Peterson returns but isn't a dominant runner any longer. The defense implodes because of its inexperience and lack of playmakers in the back end. It's clear the franchise has another year or more to go before matching the rest of the division.

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