2014 football preview: NFC North


Published Aug 27, 2014 at 11:22AM / Updated Aug 27, 2014 at 02:39PM

Peppers picks Pack

Green Bay made a rare splash in free agency by signing eight-time Pro Bowl pick Julius Peppers, who played the last four years with Chicago. Peppers, whose 119 career sacks are the third most among active players, is making the transition from the traditional 4-3 defensive end to the 3-4 scheme at age 34. He could, though, provide a valuable boost to a defense that sagged down the stretch last year.

Defense spending

One spot ahead of Peppers on the active player sacks list is Jared Allen, who also switched NFC North rivals by leaving the Vikings for the Bears. Like Peppers, Allen at 32 is past his prime at a speed-based position. But the five-time Pro Bowl pick, too, will be eager to prove he’s not done as a dominant pass rusher. The Bears were tied for last in the league in sacks last year and gave up the second-most points, fewer than only the Vikings.

Roar restoration

Jim Schwartz was replaced by Jim Caldwell as coach of the Lions. Detroit went 10-6 and made the playoffs in 2011, then slumped to 4-12 in 2012 and squandered a 6-3 start with control of the division, only to finish 7-9 in 2013. Addressing any particular weaknesses on the roster was not as important over the winter and spring as rebuilding confidence and optimism within a group that still boasts plenty of star-caliber players.

“I believe we’re on the threshold of some great things,” Caldwell said. “I think the organization is ready, the city of Detroit is ready, our fan base is ready, and I think our players are ready as well.”

Bridge to Bridgewater

Minnesota has a new coach in Mike Zimmer and a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, though the first-round draft pick from Louisville has been behind veteran Matt Cassel on the depth chart since he arrived. Cassel played well enough last season after Christian Ponder lost the job to give the Vikings confidence in him until Bridgewater is ready to take over — whether that’s this September, next September or somewhere in between.

— The Associated Press

Chicago Bears

Sept. 7 Buffalo, 10 a.m.

Sept. 14 at San Francisco, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 22 at N.Y. Jets, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 Green Bay, 10 a.m.

Oct. 5 at Carolina, 10 a.m.

Oct. 12 at Atlanta, 10 a.m.

Oct. 19 Miami, 10 a.m.

Oct. 26 at New England, 10 a.m.

Nov. 2 BYE

Nov. 9 at Green Bay, 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 16 Minnesota, 10 a.m.

Nov. 23 Tampa Bay, 10 a.m.

Nov. 27 at Detroit, 12:30 p.m.

Dec. 4 Dallas, 5:25 p.m.

Dec. 15 New Orleans, 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 21 Detroit, 10 a.m.

Dec. 28 at Minnesota, 10 a.m.

Detroit Lions

Sept. 8 N.Y. Giants, 4:10 p.m.

Sept. 14 at Carolina, 10 a.m.

Sept. 21 Green Bay, 10 a.m.

Sept. 28 at N.Y. Jets, 10 a.m.

Oct. 5 Buffalo, 10 a.m.

Oct. 12 at Minnesota, 10 a.m.

Oct. 19 New Orleans, 10 a.m.

Oct. 26 at Atlanta (London), 9:30 a.m.

Nov. 2 BYE

Nov. 9 Miami, 10 a.m.

Nov. 16 at Arizona, 1:25 p.m.

Nov. 23 at New England, 10 a.m.

Nov. 27 Chicago, 12:30 p.m.

Dec. 7 Tampa Bay, 10 a.m.

Dec. 14 Minnesota, 10 a.m.

Dec. 21 at Chicago, 10 a.m.

Dec. 28 at Green Bay, 10 a.m.

Green Bay Packers

Sept. 4 at Seattle, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 N.Y. Jets, 1:25 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Detroit, 10 a.m.

Sept. 28 at Chicago, 10 a.m.

Oct. 2 Minnesota, 5:25 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Miami, 10 a.m.

Oct. 19 Carolina, 10 a.m.

Oct. 26 at New Orleans, 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 2 BYE

Nov. 9 Chicago, 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 16 Philadelphia, 10 a.m.

Nov. 23 at Minnesota, 10 a.m.

Nov. 30 New England, 1:25 p.m.

Dec. 8 Atlanta, 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 14 at Buffalo, 10 a.m.

Dec. 21 at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m.

Dec. 28 Detroit, 10 a.m.

Minnesota Vikings

Sept. 7 at St. Louis, 10 a.m.

Sept. 14 New England, 10 a.m.

Sept. 21 at New Orleans, 10 a.m.

Sept. 28 Atlanta, 1:25 p.m.

Oct. 2 at Green Bay, 5:25 p.m.

Oct. 12 Detroit, 10 a.m.

Oct. 19 at Buffalo, 10 a.m.

Oct. 26 at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m.

Nov. 2 Washington, 10 a.m.

Nov. 9 BYE

Nov. 16 at Chicago, 10 a.m.

Nov. 23 Green Bay, 10 a.m.

Nov. 30 Carolina, 10 a.m.

Dec. 7 N.Y. Jets, 10 a.m.

Dec. 14 at Detroit, 10 a.m.

Dec. 21 at Miami, 10 a.m.

Dec. 28 Chicago, 10 a.m.