MINNESOTA VIKINGS (14-4)
OPEN CAMP: July 25 (rookies) http://www.titansauthorizedshops.com/authentic-rashaan-evans-jersey , July 28 (veterans), Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, Eagan, Minnesota
LAST YEAR: Despite losing starting QB Sam Bradford after season opener and rookie RB Dalvin Cook in fourth game, both to knee injuries, Vikings rode backup QB Case Keenum and league-leading defense to second-most wins in franchise history. Beat Saints on last-second 61-yard TD pass from Keenum to WR Stefon Diggs in play dubbed "Minneapolis Miracle," before being trounced by Eagles in NFC championship game to miss chance of becoming NFL's first Super Bowl host to play in game.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, QB Kirk Cousins, DT Sheldon Richardson, PK Daniel Carlson, CB/KR Mike Hughes, WR Kendall Wright, OG Tom Compton, QB Trevor Siemian, OT Brian O'Neill.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Keenum, Bradford, RB Jerick McKinnon, RG Joe Berger, WR Jarius Wright, DT Tom Johnson, DT Shamar Stephen, QB Teddy Bridgewater, OL Jeremiah Sirles.
CAMP NEEDS: Cousins must continue to build chemistry with Diggs, WR Adam Thielen, TE Kyle Rudolph and rest of receivers, but even more important is establishment of healthy line in front of him. RT Rashod Hill will be in spotlight after taking most of first-team reps in spring practices while Mike Remmers moved to RG Authentic Nyheim Hines Jersey , and C Pat Elflein has catching up to do with Cousins on cadence and calls; Elflein was out of team drills all offseason in recovery from shoulder, ankle injuries. Cook looks to step back in as starting tailback 10 months after ACL surgery. First-round draft pick Hughes will have opportunity to earn jobs as primary KR and nickel CB.
EXPECTATIONS: As high as ever, with fully guaranteed contract for Cousins and under-radar signing of Richardson to supplement one of league's most stacked rosters. With Diggs, DE Danielle Hunter and LB Anthony Barr on expiring contracts and handful of defense's stars nearing, at, or over 30, time is now for team's first title. Repeating last year's record won't be easy, with questions remaining on offensive line, where Berger's retirement created opening, and stiffer schedule that includes road trips to face Rams, Eagles, Patriots and Seahawks.
DETROIT LIONS (9-7)
OPEN CAMP: July 27, Allen Park, Michigan
LAST YEAR: Early and late-season slides knocked team out of playoff contention and cost coach Jim Caldwell job. QB Matthew Stafford led pass-dependent offense with 1,000-yard WRs Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. CB Darius Slay emerged as one of league's best in coverage.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Matt Patricia, RB LeGarrette Blount, RB Kerryon Johnson, TE Luke Willson, C Frank Ragnow, DT Sylvester Williams, LB Christian Jones, LB Devon Kennard.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Coach Jim Caldwell, TE Eric Ebron, DT Haloti Ngata, LB Tahir Whitehead.
CAMP NEEDS: Developing running game with two new backs and rookie center. Learning new defense with first-year head coach and new coordinator Paul Pasqualoni.
EXPECTATIONS: Making playoffs must be goal after firing coach coming off third winning season in four years. Third-year GM Bob Quinn wants team to become tougher, especially in short yardage and near goal line.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (7-9)
OPEN CAMP: July 26 Isaiah Wynn Jersey , Green Bay, Wisconsin
LAST YEAR: Finished under .500 and out of playoffs for first time since 2008. Offense struggled with QB Aaron Rodgers sidelined for seven games with broken collarbone. Defense plagued by porous secondary and lack of consistent pass rush. Injuries ravaged cornerback position again.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: GM Brian Gutekunst, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, QB DeShone Kizer, TE Jimmy Graham, TE Marcedes Lewis, CB Tramon Williams, rookie CBs Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, DL Muhammad Wilkerson.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: retired GM Ted Thompson, defensive coordinator Dom Capers, S Morgan Burnett, WR Jordy Nelson, G Jahri Evans, TE Richard Rodgers.
CAMP NEEDS: Find receiver to replace Nelson. Packers took three wideouts in middle rounds of draft, but returnees Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis could have early edge. With Rodgers sidelined, Nelson's production tailed off last year, and Packers let him go in offseason and brought in Graham to provide big target over middle. At their best, Rodgers and Nelson were one of top combos in league. Packers need to develop pass-rush depth behind Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, and hope that Alexander and Jackson can learn from Williams to help in coverage.
EXPECTATIONS: Packers are always threat as long as Rodgers is healthy. Last season served as painful lesson of what team needs to shore up defensive deficiencies that could be masked by their gifted quarterback. At worst, expect return to playoffs 鈥?assuming Rodgers is healthy 鈥?following offseason full of changes in Titletown.
CHICAGO BEARS (5-11)
OPEN CAMP: July 19, Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Illinois
LAST YEAR: Bears finished last in NFC North for fourth straight year, then fired coach John Fox after three losing seasons. GM Ryan Pace got contract extension through 2021 and hired Andy Reid protege Matt Nagy as head coach, hoping he gets most out of QB Mitchell Trubisky. Wide receivers were big weakness Youth John Kelly Jersey , with Cameron Meredith (left knee) out for season and Kevin White (shoulder) missing most of it. Chicago's leading receiver was Kendall Wright 鈥?now with Minnesota 鈥?with 59 receptions for 614 yards. Bears had formidable RB tandem with Jordan Howard (1,122 yards) and Tarik Cohen (370 yards rushing, 353 receiving), though Howard struggled to catch passes. Defense ranked 10th overall despite injuries to several key players, including LB Leonard Floyd.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, WR Allen Robinson, TE Trey Burton, WR Taylor Gabriel, K Cody Parkey, rookie LB Roquan Smith, rookie WR Anthony Miller, rookie G/C Jam 鈥?Deion Jones can’t wait to face the New Orleans Saints again in two weeks.The Falcons’ standout middle linebacker keeps putting up impressive numbers against his hometown team, and he made the play of the game in a 20-17 win Thursday night over the Saints.Jones was playing man coverage in the closing minutes on tight end Josh Hill when he leapt high in the end zone, intercepted Drew Brees’ pass with both hands and closed his eyes as he began falling backward for a big thud against the turf.“Once I realized I had it, I knew it was going to be a long way down,” Jones said with a smile. “I felt my feet in the air and I just wanted to hold onto it. I wanted to get up with the ball. I didn’t want to see myself fall. I really didn’t.”For Jones, it was just another great game against the Saints.Jones, who grew up in New Orleans and starred at LSU, has been on the other side of the fence since the Falcons drafted him in the second round last year. In three career games against the Saints 鈥?all victories 鈥?he has 20 solo tackles, 28 stops overall, five pass breakups and two picks.In his first game against New Orleans last year, he returned an interception 90 yards at the Superdome.His pick Thursday sealed a big win for the Falcons (8-5) and kept the Saints (9-4) from holding a tighter grip on the NFC South lead.“We just have to keep stacking ’em, coming out and playing with that fire,” Jones said. “No telling what might happen.”NO CHOKE TONIGHTSaints coach Sean Payton appeared to taunt Devonta Freeman with a choking gesture, holding his hand at his neck and yelling Kenny Lofton Jersey , “Choke!” after the Falcons running back was stopped for no gain at the New Orleans sideline early in the fourth quarter.Payton said after the game that he didn’t remember doing it. Freeman, who scored the game’s first touchdown earlier in the game , had no trouble recalling it.“I saw it,” Freeman said. “That man don’t know nothing about choking. He ain’t from where I’m from. He’s a good competitor so the competing probably came out, but you don’t let that bother you. He don’t know nothing about choking.”The Falcons know a little something about it. They blew a 28-3 lead to lose the Super Bowl last season.Payton’s apparent taunt didn’t slow them Thursday, though. They kept the drive going three more plays before quarterback Matt Ryan hooked up with Mohamed Sanu for an 8-yard touchdown.Payton has lost three straight to the Falcons for the first time since taking charge of the Saints in 2006.ROUGH NIGHTRyan looked nothing like last year’s MVP, throwing three interceptions in a span of nine plays and making some uncharacteristically bad decisions with the football.At least Ryan got the offense back to scoring touchdowns. They went without a TD in last week’s loss to Minnesota, marking the first time that didn’t happen since they lost 38-0 at Carolina in 2015. But the pass he underthrew to Julio Jones in the end zone early in the third quarter was one he’d like to forget .The only thing good about it was New Orleans had to punt five plays later.“On the third one in the end zone, you want to give Julio opportunities, and I didn’t throw the ball nearly high enough where it needed to be,” Ryan said.Ryan wasn’t alone. Brees was disappointed in himself for the game-ending pick.“Yeah, I shouldn’t have thrown it,” Brees said. “They made a nice play. It wasn’t worth the risk right there, especially when you know that you have points. It’s not like you have to have a touchdown to tie. We could have kicked the field goal since we had points. I’m just disappointed in the result there. I should not have taken that chance.”WALKING WOUNDEDThe Saints have a long list of injuries and will need the next eight days to heal up.They had five players leave the game and not return. The biggest loss was dual-threat running back Alvin Kamara, who was lost to a concussion in the first quarter. The offense also lost left guard Senio Kelemete, who was filling in for starter Andrus Peat, to a concussion.Three starters on defense 鈥?linebacker A.J. Klein (groin), right end Trey Hendrickson (ankle) and strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (groin) 鈥?left the game in severe pain.On the last drive, running back Mark Ingram, receiver Michael Thomas and receiver Ted Ginn Jr. each absorbed hard hits . Ingram and Thomas came back in.HE’S BACKFalcons cornerback Desmond Trufant missed last week’s game with a concussion, but he made an immediate impact on the opening drive, batting down what would’ve been a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas in the end zone..