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NORTH DIVISION

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September 02, 2002|BY NEWSDAY IN PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH BY DIVISION

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Coach: Mike Sherman, third season.

Last season's record: 12-4, second in NFC Central. Lost to Rams in second-round playoff game.

Who's in: WR Terry Glenn (trade, Patriots), DE Joe Johnson (Saints).

Who's out: WR Corey Bradford, S LeRoy Butler (retired), DT Santana Dotson, LB Bernardo Harris, RB Dorsey Levens, WR Bill Schroeder, DE John Thierry.

Outlook: Huge turnover at receiver, as Packers take a chance on mercurial Glenn, who flamed out in New England. The good news: Brett Favre can make any receiver look good. The addition of Johnson to defensive line is very promising; he's as solid as they come. The Packers need to make up for the loss of Butler, who retired because of a shoulder injury.

Parting shot: Sherman kept this team together in remarkable fashion last season. He wins the division this time around and hopes for home-field advantage throughout playoffs.

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CHICAGO BEARS

Coach: Dick Jauron, fourth season.

Last season's record: 13-3, first in NFC Central. Lost to Eagles in playoffs.

Who's in: LB Mike Caldwell (Eagles), QB Chris Chandler (Falcons), DT Jason Wiltz (Jets).

Who's out: RB James Allen, T Blake Brockermeyer, CB Walt Harris, QB Shane Matthews, S Tony Parrish, QB Danny Wuerffel.

Outlook: The addition of Chandler makes the quarterback situation tenuous. Jim Miller is the starter, but for how long? Bears were one of the biggest surprises last season, but won't have the element of surprise. The run defense was terrific last year (second overall), but pass defense was woeful (29th). Brian Urlacher has quickly become a star; Ray Lewis might be the only one better on defense.

Parting shot: It'll be hard to duplicate last season, especially with an almost quarterback controversy on their hands. At least their division isn't overpowering.

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MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Coach: Mike Tice, first season.

Last season's record: 5-11, fourth in NFC Central.

Who's in: WR Derrick Alexander (Chiefs), S Ronnie Bradford (Falcons), K Doug Brien (Buccaneers), DE Lorenzo Bromell (Dolphins), LB Henri Crockett (Falcons), DE Kenny Mixon (Dolphins), P Kyle Richardson (Ravens), DE Chuck Wiley (Falcons).

Who's out: Coach Dennis Green, K Gary Anderson, G Brad Badger, P Mitch Berger, WR Cris Carter, DE Stalin Colinet, S Robert Griffith, LB Ed McDaniel, WR Jake Reed, S Orlando Thomas, LB Kailee Wong.

Outlook: Tice wasted no time in remaking the roster, especially on defense, by bringing in a host of free agents. This team is still a threat offensively, although not like before, because Carter's retirement means there's no threat opposite Randy Moss. But Daunte Culpepper is an elite quarterback, and the team is high on second-season running back Michael Bennett.

Parting shot: This will be a better team than last season, and might even surprise a few people along the way. Playoffs? It's not impossible.

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DETROIT LIONS

Coach: Marty Mornhinweg, second season.

Last season's record: 2-14, fifth in NFC Central.

Who's in: LB Jeff Gooch (Buccaneers), WR Az-Zahir Hakim (Rams), QB Joey Harrington (first-round pick), S Corey Harris (Ravens), WR Bill Schroeder (Packers).

Who's out: QB Charlie Batch, LB Stephen Boyd, WR Herman Moore, WR Johnnie Morton, DE Tracy Scroggins, TE David Sloan, CB Bryant Westbrook.

Outlook: The Lions were lucky to avoid becoming the first team in NFL to go winless in a 16-game season. Quarterback is the key issue, as the Lions have two young ones in Harrington and Mike McMahon, The running game is mediocre, which makes it even tougher on the passer.

Parting shot: There are high school coaches better than Mornhinweg.

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