Publish date:

NFC + NORTH

Author:

CHICAGO BEARS 3--13

PRIMARY NEED: WIDE RECEIVER

CHICAGO HAS often endured Alshon Jeffery's missing time, due to either injuries or a PED suspension, so the front office may not be inclined to pay him the kind of money other teams offer in free agency. Given that uncertainty, plus the slow development of 2015 first-rounder Kevin White, there's likely a need at receiver—a serious need if the Bears are bothered by the deluge of dropped passes by Cameron Meredith and Josh Bellamy. When those two caught the ball, they showed the route-running acumen to be sturdy possession targets. That, however, is a description more fit for someone in a supporting role.

DETROIT LIONS 9--7

PRIMARY NEED: DEFENSIVE LINE

SCHEMATICALLY, the Lions' D was about as simple as it gets in 2016—their coverages were mostly undisguised zones, their fronts often static. It's fine to play this way, as long as you have destructive linemen. But the Lions have only one of those, D-end Ziggy Ansah, and his destructiveness led to just two sacks last season. Ansah's fellow ends, Devin Taylor and Armonty Bryant, are free agents; each is replaceable. On passing downs, Kerry Hyder is better suited for defensive tackle. Detroit doesn't have to look for an expensive edge player, however. They run a lot of stunts, with ends looping inside. Finding someone to pair with '16 second-round pick A'Shawn Robinson—and maybe supplant the declining Haloti Ngata—would be helpful.

GREEN BAY PACKERS 10--6

PRIMARY NEED: CORNERBACK

THE MOST amazing thing about last month's NFC title game: that the Packers even got that far, given their problems at corner. They survived Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant in the first two playoff rounds; Julio Jones eventually proved too much. With Sam Shields out for all but one game in 2016 (concussion), and with Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall often banged up, the undrafted LaDarius Gunter—plus considerable safety help—traveled with No. 1 receivers. Which speaks volumes. No disrespect to Gunter, but no player with such limited quickness has ever drawn consecutive matchups like Beckham, Bryant and Jones. Green Bay must ensure that such one-sided mismatches don't happen again.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS 8--8

PRIMARY NEED: OFFENSIVE TACKLE

MULTIPLE INJURIES at one position almost always bring big trouble—especially at a reactionary position like tackle. Much like how corners react to receivers, tackles react to edge rushers. And the tackles in Minnesota simply couldn't keep up in 2016. After Matt Kalil (right hip), Andre Smith (right elbow) and Jake Long (left Achilles) each went down before Thanksgiving, T.J. Clemmings (whose future is as a backup right tackle, at best) was forced to protect Sam Bradford's blind side. The Vikings had to overhaul their scheme just to hide him. With Kalil and Smith entering free agency (both may walk; Kalil was inconsistent and Smith is injury-prone), Minnesota must remake the position that killed this team.