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NFC North: Five things to know by Jay Skurski

1. Jordy Nelson’s torn ACL is reason No. 25 the preseason is too long. According to the Twitter feed @ACLrecoveryCLUB, that’s how many players have been lost for the season because of a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament – before the real games even start. Nelson, a second-team All-Pro in 2014, is the most prominent player on that list, one that also includes Bills defensive end Jarius Wynn and linebacker Ty Powell. Luckily for the Packers, they have the best player in football in quarterback Aaron Rodgers. That should be enough to lead them to a fifth consecutive division title.

2. The Packers were once again quiet in free agency. Their biggest move was the re-signing of receiver Randall Cobb. He becomes the No. 1 target with Nelson out. The bigger changes in Green Bay have to do with the coaching staff. Ron Zook replaces Shawn Slocum as special teams coordinator – a reactionary move to the Packers’ collapse in the NFC Championship Game against Seattle, when they failed to recover an onside kick during the Seahawks’ comeback. Coach Mike McCarthy has also given up play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Tom Clements.

3. The chic pick to challenge the Packers is the Vikings. Running back Adrian Peterson is back this season and the Vikings have a promising young quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. Can they block for them, though? The offensive line was shaky even before right tackle Phil Loadholt was lost for the season to an Achilles injury. The Vikings have a solid defense under coach Mike Zimmer, and could be even better on that side of the ball after the offseason additions of cornerbacks Terence Newman and Trae Waynes, their first-round pick.

4. The Chicago Bears were one of the biggest train wrecks in the NFL last season, so they cleaned house. A 5-11 record led to the firing of General Manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman. In their place are Ryan Pace and John Fox, respectively. Chicago traded receiver Brandon Marshall to the Jets this offseason, then replaced him in the first round of the draft with West Virginia’s Kevin White … who may miss the entire season because of a stress fracture in his left shin. Fox has what looks to be solid coordinators in place with Vic Fangio (defense) and Adam Gase (offense), but there is plenty of work to do in Chicago.

5. Replacing Ndamukong Suh will be the biggest challenge for the Lions. Haloti Ngata was brought over from Baltimore to help in that regard, but he sat out most of training camp with a hamstring injury. With Suh, the Lions allowed just 282 points last season – second fewest in the NFC. Expect that number to go up this year. The offense, though, still has QB Matthew Stafford throwing to star receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, and added rookie running back Ameer Abdullah. If Detroit can get back to the playoffs, the Lions will be looking for just their second postseason victory since 1958.

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