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An early look at the NFC North - Dan Pompeii - ESPN


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EXCLUSIVE ANALYSIS

by

Dan Pompeii

An early look at the NFC North

As long as Brett Favre is healthy, it's difficult to envision any team but the Packers winning this division. That not only says a lot about Favre but the other teams in the NFC North. The team with the most potential to challenge Green Bay is Chicago, despite its 4-12 record a year ago.

The predicted order of finish:

1. Packers (9-7). The Packers could find themselves in some shootouts, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when Favre is your quarterback.

2. Bears (9-7). Playing home games at renovated Soldier Field (last year, "home" games were in Champaign, Ill.) and avoiding key injuries should make the Bears a contender again, although the offense remains questionable.

3. Vikings (7-9). Look for improvement in Mike Tice's second season as coach. Daunte Culpepper should rebound in 2003, but the defensive personnel still is lacking.

4. Lions (4-12). The Lions appear to be headed in the right direction, but their young players are in the developmental stage and the personnel remains below average in some spots.

Senior writer Dan Pompei covers the NFL for Sporting News. Email him at pompei@sportingnews.com.

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