The Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North for four straight years, but they haven't always been dominant. The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears have consistently pushed the Packers for the division lead, though both have been unable to unseat Green Bay.
It's no secret that reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers is really good, and his near-perfect play automatically makes the Packers a favorite going forward. But the Lions and Bears have made some significant changes this offseason, and the Minnesota Vikings are something of a wild card. Still, all four teams have issues to address to determine whether they can make it interesting in the division.
Have the Lions done enough to shore up a depleted defensive line? Will Teddy Bridgewater pan out for the Vikings? Can the Bears rebound with a new coaching staff? Below, we've got all you need to know as we head into training camp.
Green Bay Packers
Start Date: July 30
Location: St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wis.
Player you'll be buzzing about: TE Richard Rodgers -- The Packers are still searching for a top-flight tight end and Rodgers looked very impressive in limited time as a rookie. He'll try to usurp Andrew Quarless.
What to watch: Who will step up on the defensive line? Datone Jones and Letroy Guion were both solid last season, but both are facing suspensions for the beginning of the season. Somebody will need to step up and earn a starting role in training camp. It seems like Mike Daniels and Josh Boyd could benefit the most from those suspensions. Will Casey Hayward be healthy at the cornerback position, or will the Packers look elsewhere opposite Sam Shields?
Most important position battle: Defensive end -- Even if Jones were not suspended for the first game, he'd still be competing for this starting spot, with Boyd and Guion in the battle.
For more on the Packers, check out Acme Packing Company.
Start Date: Aug. 3
Location: Lions training facility, Allen Park, Mich.
Player you'll be buzzing about: TE Eric Ebron -- Ebron didn't do much as a rookie, but he's as motivated as he's ever been to turn heads and show the Lions he's worth the first-round pick they spend on him.
What to watch: The Lions play in a tough division, and they always play pretty well while coming up short compared to the Packers and occasionally the Bears. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson typically provide for an explosive offense, but they need more of that. Keep an eye on the defensive line, which lost both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and added Haloti Ngata this offseason.
Most important position battle: Offensive line -- The Lions have had one of the worst lines in the league in recent years, and that's a big impediment for Stafford. They need to figure out who will start at multiple positions on the line.
For more on the Lions, check out Pride of Detroit.
Start Date: July 26
Location: Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minn.
Player you'll be buzzing about: DE Scott Crichton -- Crichton was a third-round pick in 2014 and has a high ceiling. He'll be the third man on the field behind Brian Robison and Everson Griffen.
What to watch: The development of second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the main storyline to watch. Bridgewater has been solid thus far, but he's still at that stage where he can go either way. He needs to take the next step this season. The Vikings have added some quality pieces on the defensive side as well, with Trae Waynes and Eric Kendricks.
Most important position battle: Guard -- The Vikings parted ways with Charlie Johnson, and gave Brandon Fusco a big contract extension last season. Unfortunately, Fusco sustained a pec injury and only played in three games. Now they need to establish who will be the starting guards who keep Bridgewater upright.
For more on the Vikings, check out Daily Norseman.
Start Date: July 30
Location: Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.
Player you'll be buzzing about: DL Lamarr Houston -- He's not exactly an unknown player, but Houston is coming off a major knee injury and also missed OTAs and the rest of the offseason program. But Houston looks ready for training camp.
What to watch: The Bears underwent some significant changes this offseason, going with a new but experienced head coach in John Fox and adding new players all over the roster. Most eyes will be on Jay Cutler, given his massive contract and the perceived buyer's remorse from the Bears. If he establishes a good rapport with rookie receiver Kevin White though, things will be looking up. Whether tight end Martellus Bennett shows up for training camp or not should also be interesting to track.
Most important position battle: Inside linebacker -- The Bears have Vic Fangio as their new defensive coordinator and he'll try to establish his top linebackers early in training camp. Shea McClellin, Christian Jones, Mason Foster, Jonathan Bostic and DeDe Lattimore are all in on the battle.
For more on the Bears, check out Windy City Gridiron.