Juiciest story line: Will GM Jerry Angelo's strategy of signing retreads like WR Roy Williams and DT Amobi Okoye backfire? Angelo is betting that these players, signed to one-year contracts, will be motivated to put themselves in position to cash in next offseason. If Williams rekindles the magic and returns to the form he displayed playing for Mike Martz in Detroit, Chicago's passing game could take off.
Player to watch: This is Jay Cutler's third season in Chicago, his second season in Martz's offense, and Bears fans want to see him live up to the expectations they had for him when he was acquired in 2009. How will he respond after being ripped for not playing through an MCL sprain in the NFC championship game?
Strongest position: The front seven as a whole is solid, but the linebackers are the firm backbone of the team. MLB Brian Urlacher and WLB Lance Briggs are Pro Bowlers, and Nick Roach is a decent player on the strong side.
Weakest position: The personnel has changed at four of the five starting spots, but the story remains the same — Chicago's offensive line is a potential disaster. The Bears are counting on two young players — OLT J'Marcus Webb and ORT Gabe Carimi — to serve as bookends, Roberto Garza is a better right guard, but he's playing center, and OGs Chris Williams and Lance Louis are far from dependable.
Juiciest story line: Detroit is regarded as a potential sleeper after finishing 2010 strongly, but it plays in a tough division and already has seen two key rookies get hurt: DT Nick Fairley (foot) and RB Mikel Leshoure (Achilles tendon). Leshoure is out for the season, and Fairley is out for at least the first part of the preseason. If the Lions are to make a playoff run, this early adversity cannot throw them off track.
Player to watch: QB Matthew Stafford has missed 19 of his first 32 NFL regular-season games because of injury. The No. 1 overall pick in 2009, Stafford is exceptionally gifted. Now, all eyes are on how he fares in regular-season play after missing most of last season with a right shoulder injury. He was sharp in his preseason debut, throwing two TD passes.
Strongest position: The Lions' defensive line is the strength of the club. DT Ndamukong Suh already deserves to be mentioned among the best at his position. DE Cliff Avril is a promising, young pass rusher. Fairley could be a force once he gets healthy, catches up and learns the pro game.
Weakest position: The Lions have significant concerns at offensive tackle. OLT Jeff Backus (pectoral) is out for the time being, although he is expected to be ready for the regular season. ORT Gosder Cherilus is coming off microfracture knee surgery. The depth behind the starters is somewhat questionable, too.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Juiciest story line: With TE Jermichael Finley back in the mix after being limited to five games last season because of his second major knee injury in the past two seasons, will there be enough catches to go around in the Packers' power-packed receiving corps? Making that question even juicier is the fact that both Finley and up-and-coming WR Jordy Nelson are in their contract years, with Finley supposedly setting his sights on Vernon Davis-type money ($23 million guaranteed).
Player to watch: It's starting to look like first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod could be counted on to follow in the footsteps of 2010 first-rounder Bryan Bulaga and become an immediate starter on the offensive line. Supposedly destined to become the heir apparent for the aging Chad Clifton at left tackle, Sherrod opened camp holding down the starting OLG spot vacated by Daryn Colledge, who signed with Arizona. Sherrod's early play at the position has been up and down, which could trigger a takeover by third-year pro T.J. Lang.
Strongest position: Green Bay's secondary is second to none. Defensive leader Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and up-and-coming Sam Shields provide an imposing triple threat at cornerback; Nick Collins is widely considered among the league's top safeties; and second-year pro Morgan Burnett has shot out of the training-camp gate with a flourish in his quest to recapture the starting SS job from worthy competitor Charlie Peprah.
Weakest position: The loss of Cullen Jenkins, who signed with the Eagles, weakens the defensive line. The Packers are toying with a revamped front to help compensate for Jenkins' departure that would shift Ryan Pickett from left end to nose tackle and B.J. Raji from nose tackle to Jenkins' DRE spot. In any event, projected starter Mike Neal must prove he can stay healthy after going down for the count with a shoulder injury last season, and Pickett and Howard Green must continue defying Father Time.
Juiciest story line: Other than the team perhaps moving to L.A.? Other than Brad Childress saying Randy Moss "vomited" on the locker room last season? We'll stick to on-the-field stuff. Donovan McNabb must take control of the offense and prove the team made the right call by trading for him. Christian Ponder has started slowly, so the McNabb move is looking smarter by the day, but the veteran has to put last season firmly behind him.
Player to watch: Erin Henderson, brother of starting MLB E.J. Henderson, is a near-lock to be the starting weak-side linebacker with Ben Leber gone. Sixth-rounder Ross Homan could push Henderson at some point, with Kenny Onatolu still dealing with a stress fracture in his left foot, but for now Henderson is the guy. He hasn't shown a diverse set of skills but is athletic.
Strongest position: It might be tight end eventually, but Visanthe Shiancoe has a hamstring injury and Kyle Rudolph hasn't seized the opportunity in his absence. Oddly, it might be linebacker, even with the WLB situation. E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway are two reliable playmakers who lead the defense.
Weakest position: The offensive line was a question mark even before OLT Bryant McKinnie was cut for being out of shape. Now, it's a major issue, especially with ex-Colt Charlie Johnson, McKinnie's successor, struggling so far. The only sure thing is OLG Steve Hutchinson, and he's coming off a thumb injury that ended his 2010 season after 11 games. Plus, Hutchinson is on the back end of his career, turning 34 on Nov. 1.