10 burning questions: NFC North

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10 burning questions: NFC North
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers stretches during NFL football minicamp Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) walks behind the offense during NFL football minicamp Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Lake Forest, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler reacts to a question during a news conference after NFL football minicamp Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Lake Forest, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws a pass during NFL football minicamp Thursday, June 19, 2014, in Lake Forest, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy looks on during NFL football minicamp Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) pitches the ball to running back Eddie Lacy (27) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer watches at an NFL organized team activity at the Vikings football practice facility in Eden Prairie, Minn., Thursday, May 29, 2014.(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
FILE - In a Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 file photo, Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier stands on the field before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Vikings fired Frazier on Monday morning, Dec. 30, 2013, one year after they made the playoffs and one day after they finished a 5-10-1 season. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery reaches for the ball during NFL football practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Tuesday, June 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery catches a pass during warm-ups before an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) is congratulated by wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) for his touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) and quarterback Josh McCown (12) celebrate after making a two-point conversion during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) celebrates his 5-yard touchdown run against the Green Bay Packers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
ALLEN PARK, MI - MAY 17: Detroit Lions first year head coach Jim Caldwell watches the action during Rookie Minicamp on May 17, 2014 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
ALLEN PARK, MI - MAY 17: Detroit Lions first year head coach Jim Caldwell watches the action during Rookie Minicamp on May 17, 2014 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) talks with reporters at the end of an NFL organized team activity at the Vikings football practice facility in Eden Prairie, Minn., Thursday, May 29, 2014.(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, left, is sacked by Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2013, file photo, Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers (90) watches from the bench during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. The Bears released eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Peppers on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Chicago Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston throws out the first pitch before a baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox in Chicago on Thursday, May 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston (99) against linebacker Eric Harper run drill during practice at NFL football minicamp in Alameda, Calif., Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston smiles while stretching during football training camp in Napa, Calif., Thursday, July 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02: Golden Tate #81 of the Seattle Seahawks gets tackled by Wesley Woodyard #52 of the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Seahawks won the game 43-8. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Eric Ebron of the North Carolina Tar Heels poses with a jersey after he was picked #10 overall by the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on May 8, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throws during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Detroit, Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) looks to pass during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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By SAM SPIEGELMAN
XN Sports

The NFC North has the potential to be the deepest division in all of football, and it has a strong chance to produce two playoff teams in 2014.

Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler each missed time last season due to various injuries, but the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears still finished first and second, respectively, in the standings. The Detroit Lions disappointed, again, and as a result Jim Schwartz was fired. The Minnesota Vikings also made a change, bringing Mike Zimmer in to replace Leslie Frazier.

Here are 10 burning questions for the NFC North in 2014:

1. Assuming Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler stay healthy, do the Packers or Bears have a better shot at winning the division?

I lean toward the side of the top-three quarterback, one that now has a well-rounded offense to work with. The Bears have a potential to have the league's top offense, too, but in terms of winning games I trust Rodgers a bit more.

2. Can Eddie Lacy build upon his rookie season?

A 1,200-yard, 11-touchdown rookie year is good no matter how many years you've been in the league, but I expect some decline in Year 2. For one, the Packers will have Rodgers back in the fold, so the pass volume could be back up. There have also been reports that the team wants to lessen Lacy's workload and get the other backs more involved.

3. Will Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall continue to dominate?

No question. These two twin towers are a worst nightmare for opposing secondaries, and the threat of Matt Forte, Marquess Wilson and Martellus Bennett makes it an even more difficult task. Jeffery and Marshall, in my opinion, are far and away the best receiver tandem in the NFL.

4. What will the Lions look like under Jim Caldwell?

Caldwell is a Tony Dungy disciple, and I think he got a tough break taking over the Colts after Peyton Manning went down with an injury. I think he'll be a great mentor for Matthew Stafford, helping him cut down on his interceptions and instead having him be more of a cerebral player. I also think he'll balance out the Lions offense, plus help transform the defense.

5. Is this the year Adrian Peterson declines?

It's hard to bet against Peterson, but he's entering the age 29 season and will have Matt Casselunder center to begin the season. He's only two years removed from a 2,000-yard season, but it's hard not to factor age and injury history into the equation.

6. How does Julius Peppers change the Green Bay defense?

Finally Clay Matthews has a pass-rusher opposite him to alleviate some pressure. Peppers forces pass protection to pay attention to him, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Matthews' production back on the rise.

7. How much better is the Bears' D after the offseason additions?

I think it's going to be either hit or miss. I like Lamarr Houston, and I believe first-rounder Kyle Fuller is going to be a good corner. I have less confidence in Jay Ratliff and Jared Allen, two older defensive linemen who are surely on the downside of their careers.

8. What impact will Golden Tate, Eric Ebron have?

Finally Calvin Johnson will have some other capable weapons to draw double-teams away from him. Tate is a strong No. 2 option, while Ebron should be used much like Jimmy Graham is with the Saints. There's also Reggie Bush coming out of the backfield to pay attention to.

9. When will Teddy Bridgewater take over at quarterback?

It's hard to see Cassel as a season-long starter, given his low ceiling and the fact he's been benched mid-season before. Letting Bridgewater sit and learn for a few games is smart, but he's the future of the organization and should get a chance at some point in 2014.

10. Does the NFC North have the best starting quarterbacks of any division?

You could make an argument for the NFC East and the NFC South, but I think for sure the trio of Rodgers, Stafford, and Cutler are the best in the NFL. Rodgers is a perennial MVP, while Cutler and Stafford are both candidates to lead top-10 offenses. They're among the best passers in all the league.


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