2016 NFC North Previews & Predictions

When news of Teddy Bridgewater’s injury surfaced on social media, you knew it was bad. To cancel practice and there were Vikings players visibly getting ill the question arose: Will Teddy Bridgewater ever suit up again for the Minnesota Vikings?? For once there was no video and our collective imaginations ran with what we pictured based upon eye witness accounts like a long begone era. How bad was this knee / leg injury??

Clay buries Cutler

Clay buries Cutler

Speaking of knee injuries, a one Jordy Nelson comes back to the Green Bay Packers to give Aaron Rodgers his full arsenal of receivers. However he hasn’t cut on that reconstructed knee in a meaningful NFL game in nearly 2 years. Will he have his full range of motion and agility?? Before his injury this was one of the best overall receivers in the NFL based on quickness in and out of his cuts. He can also get deep. Will he have the full confidence to run on that knee with the reckless abandon as before??

Statues of Vince Lombardi & Curly Lambeau

Statues of Vince Lombardi & Curly Lambeau

2016 NFC North Predictions

Green Bay Packers 12-4**

Minnesota Vikings  9-7

Detroit Lions 6-10

Chicago Bears 3-13

The regular season is just a dress rehearsal for Green Bay to exercise dominance over this division. Last year Aaron Rodgers needed miracle Hail Mary’s to pull off victories in Detroit than again against the Cardinals in the wildcard round. This was important in his evolution since he rarely brought the Packers back from behind in the past. Now they are never out of a ballgame. His 347 of 572 for 3,821 yards for 31 TDs was solid considering he was missing his #1 weapon all year. He learned to trust all of his receivers as evidenced with TE Richard Rodgers (58 rec. 510 yds 8 TDs) and Devante Adams (50 rec. 483 yds 1TD) having career years and these are the and 5th options with Jordy back.

The Packers should lean more on the short pass and their rushing by committee a little more. Last year he was sacked 46 times and Green Bay just released 3 time Pro Bowl G Josh Sitton. Rodgers has to get James Starks (601 yds 2 TDs) and Eddie Lacy (758 yds 3 TDs) running forward to keep defenses honest. By midseason Starks should emerge as the man with Lacy’s up and down weight and performance taking it’s toll on the staff. Eddie will start to break down with the accumulative hits as well without being able to avoid contact. Keep your eye on this going into the 2nd half of the season.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer watches his team during an NFL mini camp in Eden Prairie, Minn., Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

With :22 to go in last year’s NFC Wildcard Tilt with Seattle, the Vikings were readying themselves for a trip to Arizona. Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s squad had improved from 7-9 to 11-5 with an improving QB in Bridgewater and they were about to vanquish Seattle for the 1st playoff win of the Zimmer/Bridgewater era. Alas Blair Walsh misses a 27 yard kick sending the Vikings home for the season.

Fast forward through Bridgewater’s injury and you have a team teetering on 36 yr old Shaun Hill or journeyman Sam Bradford to quarterback this team back to the postseason. They’ll have to lean on improvement from last year’s 13th ranked defense and an aging but still effective Adrian Peterson ( 1,485 yds / 11 TDs). Pro Bowlers SS Harrison Smith, LB Anthony Barr, and DE Anderson Griffen need to duplicate last year’s success for this team to even think of making the playoffs.

The problem is having an unsettled QB situation when starting 2 of 3 on the road in Tennessee and defending NFC Champion Carolina. Sandwiched between these two games has Zimmer’s crew hosting the Green Bay Packers and an 0-3 start is very possible.

The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions are both totally rudderless ships. Both teams are incomplete and need to focus on discovering where they aregoing with current personnel. Matthew Stafford should lead the Lions to a few more wins this season than Cutler in Chicago.

Just not enough to offset this year’s Green Bay squad. Thanks for reading and please share the article.

 

 

 

 

 

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NFL Week 8: NFC North – New Beginnings

Will Jay Cutler’s toughness be questioned after coming back from a frightening sack on Monday night??

In a gritty performance on Monday night, the Bears upped their record to 5-1 beating the Detroit Lions 13-6. The game wasn’t an artistic one for the Bears by any means but a win is a win is a win. Bear fans were thrown for a huge scare when Ndamukong Suh slammed Jay Cutler to the turf in the second quarter. As trainers attended Cutler, everyone flashed back to the 2010 NFC Championship Game. In that one he left with what looked like a questionable injury and his toughness has been in dispute ever since. The Monday night crew showed replay after replay and it looked like he may have suffered a serious injury to his shoulder or collarbone.

The silence at Soldier Field was deafening until he popped up and ran to the sideline. The uneasiness of losing Cutler could derail what looks like a possible super season for the Bears. Anxiety turned to appreciation when he jogged onto the field a few minutes later. A quarterback once questioned for his toughness, was now receiving a standing ovation for exhibiting such. There was something gained during those anxious moments between the Bears fan-base and Jay. It will be interesting to watch as we move forward on how he will be perceived. We believe a new found respect for Cutler and the Bears offense will emerge from this. They won more than a game a few days ago.

Lets take a look at the standings…

North Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Chicago Bears Bears 5 1 0 .833 162 78 3-0 2-1 1-1 3-1 W4 4-1
Minnesota Vikings Vikings 5 2 0 .714 167 131 4-0 1-2 1-0 3-1 W1 4-1
Green Bay Packers Packers 4 3 0 .571 184 155 2-1 2-2 1-0 3-2 W2 3-2
Detroit Lions Lions 2 4 0 .333 133 150 1-1 1-3 0-2 2-3 L1 1-4

Charles Tillman has been a Pro Bowl caliber corner for years. On Monday Night he turned into Optimus Prime, holding Megatron to just 3 receptions for 34 yards.

Now according to NFL accounting, the Bears field the 6th best defense in pro football. Yet what jumps out at you is they have only given up 78 points this season. In the last four games they have held three of their opponents to 10 points or less. An argument can be made against them since they haven’t beat a team with a winning record. However if you’ve looked at their schedule, seven of their last eight have winning records and we will know where this team is going facing that gauntlet. When our CEO did his Pro Bowl voting, he could only find spots for four of these defenders on his ballot. Charles Tillman, Henry Melton, Tim Jennings, and Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year candidate Lance Briggs. Melton has reaped the reward of teams paying so much attention to Julius Peppers on the corner. His 18 tackles and team leading 4.5 sacks is best for NFC interior defensive linemen. As the season progresses and teams make Melton more of a focal point, it will free Peppers to make more of an impact.

They are playing team defense that hasn’t been seen since the 2008 Steelers or 2002 Buccaneers. Do you realize in 6 games, they have 21 sacks, 14 interceptions, 5 defensive touchdowns, forced 9 fumbles, recovered 7 of those to the tune of 21 turnovers?? Those are ’85 Bears numbers if you project them out to a full season.

As it appears the Packers have righted their ship, they lose a rudder with Charles Woodson going down with a broken collarbone. He is out indefinitely and this is a big loss. He is the reason they are able to juggle him around at safety, nickel corner on slot receivers, and can use a variety of blitzes with his man to man cover skills. Without him the Packers may change how they are calling plays from a defensive standpoint. Right now they are 14th in total defense and 17th against the pass while giving up 22 points per game. They will have to score to win.

Speaking of which, the Packers have sprung to life on offense averaging 33 points per game in their last three. All of them against defenses that rank in the top half of the league. After a slow start Aaron Rodgers has thrown 16 touchdowns in the last 4 games. That is a torrid pace and here comes the 24th ranked defense of Jacksonville to help pad his Pro Bowl stats. Yet in back to back games the Packers have been unable to run for 100 yards and this will eventually come back and haunt the offense at some point. This deficiency may not come back to bite them this week, but the week after against the 4th ranked Cardinal defense it may. Still a season on the brink in Green Bay.

Adrian Peterson is the heart and soul of the Vikings offense once again.

Is there a more below the radar 5-2 team than the Minnesota Vikings?? Whenever we hear the so called experts talking about the best team in the NFL no one mentions them. Everyone anoints the Niners the team to beat but these Vikings hammered them in week 3, 23-14. Not only does this team have a 2-1 record against teams with winning records, they are an RG III 76 yard touchdown run and an Adam Vinatieri field goal from being undefeated. Percy Harvin has been one of the league’s best players and received a Pro Bowl vote from our CEO. He has 53 receptions for 577 yards and teams never know where he’s going to line up.

As the season goes on, Adrian Peterson looks like he’s getting stronger with each game. With 652 yards on 136 carries (4.8 yd avg) and 3 touchdowns, already worthy of a Pro Bowl vote, we’re waiting for that breakout game during the second half of this season. It’s coming. Think back to Jamal Lewis who once played for the Baltimore Ravens. He tore up his knee in 2001, and after a slow 2002, burst out with a 2,066 yard season which was the second highest in NFL history. We see the same thing coming in Peterson and with his speedy recovery we expect him to be a tornado come playoff time. It’s not far fetched when you remember this guy holds the NFL rushing record of 296 in one game.

Then you take a look at the defensive side of the ball and you’ll see it’s a complete systemic effort. Pressure from the front four starts with Jared Allen (pro bowl vote) with 6 sacks, along with Brian Robison’s 4, only then do you realize they have more sacks than the Bears at 22. Is there anyone Chad Greenway (pro bowl vote) hasn’t tackled?? He has 75 and we’re not at the half-way point of the season! He is on pace to be over 160 for the season and deserves to be recognized for his steady play. With 55 tackles, 1 sack and 2 interceptions Antoine Winfield is having a great year, but can he keep it up at 35 years of age. As a group they don’t force a lot of turnovers yet are ranked a respectable 11th.

So we at Taylor Blitz Times understand what we see: A serious contender for the NFC North title and serious NFC representative for the Super Bowl if they can get through weeks 12-17, when the division faces one another. First off, they have tie break advantages over San Francisco and Arizona if they are both division champions or wild card participants. They play Seattle in two weeks where they could possibly have them under their thumb also. By the way, the Vikings are 4-0 at home and only have one loss in the conference. It’s all these tie breakers that will propel the Vikings forward and should come back to haunt Green Bay. As The Chancellor of Football has said many times “At some point you have to believe what your eyes are seeing.” Wake up!! That holds true when you think of this team and a new way to look at them as a contender.

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By the way, many thanks to The Artie Clear Show where The Chancellor was on talking football with Artie yesterday. The show is a friend to the Taylor Blitz Times in more ways than one. Check out all the former pro players, from all sports that he has on. Tellin’ it like it is except when he’s debating The Chancellor, give the show a listen. Especially with the baseball postseason going. He’s on it… http://www.theartieclearshow.com/

 

NFL Week 4: NFC North – Lessons of The NFL

Josh Robinson celebrating after his interception of Alex Smith in the 4th quarter of a 24-13 win.

One of the hardest things an NFL Head Coach has to do is get his team to take a supposed lessor team seriously. Especially when they get a target on their back. Well the Minnesota Vikings stepped up and showed they weren’t going to be pushed around by the San Francisco 49ers. They led the entire game and Chistian Ponder is growing up as a quarterback. So far on the young season he has thrown for 4 touchdowns without a single interception. How competitive has Minnesota been?? Do you realize the Vikings are an Adam Vinatieri overtime field goal away from a 3-0 start??

By the way, where is this explosive Packers offense?? Do you realize after 3 weeks Green Bay has yet to crack 24 points in a game and are ranked 25th in offense?? After throwing for 45 touchdowns a season before, Rodgers only has 3 this season. They are having an issue rushing the football. Twice this season they have failed to rush for more than 100 yards as Cedric Benson and the offensive line haven’t meshed. Nevermind the blown call in last night’s loss to Seattle, the fact is the Packers overlooked Seattle and woke up in a battle. Teams are really playing their receivers physically this season which throws off timing. People tend to forget that in 2010 Aaron Rodgers was 1 concussion away from sitting out the rest of the season. Last night with his being sacked 8 times in the first half they may get him knocked out. They have to right the ship quickly. Now they are behind Seattle (2-1) San Francisco (2-1)  when it comes down to wildcard and division tie breakers. Just remember the old axiom what happens one season doesn’t necessarily happen the next..

Speaking of which…

North Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Minnesota Vikings Vikings 2 1 0 .667 70 59 2-0 0-1 0-0 1-0 W1 2-1
Chicago Bears Bears 2 1 0 .667 74 50 2-0 0-1 0-1 1-1 W1 2-1
Green Bay Packers Packers 1 2 0 .333 57 54 1-1 0-1 1-0 1-2 L1 1-2
Detroit Lions Lions 1 2 0 .333 87 94 1-0 0-2 0-0 1-1 L2 1-2

Will the Detroit Lions begin to play defense?? First, DE Cliff Avril sits out all summer and doesn’t want to sign his franchise player contract. Here we are with 7 tackles and 1 sack after three games?? He has to get on track and where is Nick Fairley?? Right now this team isn’t tackling and the defense just gave up 44 points to a team that could not score more than 13 in the previous 2 weeks. That’s embarrassing. The offense finally got RB Mikel Leshoure going (26 car. 100 yards 1TD) the special teams and defense let the team down. The Lions can look forward to having a more balanced offense and keep pressure off Matthew Stafford now. However they may need to make a trade before the week 6 deadline to fortify the defense. After 3 weeks they have only forced 1 turnover and have no interceptions.

Michael Bush was a good insurance policy pickup this offseason. It may pay off this Monday Night when they face Dallas.

Remember when the sky was falling just a week ago when Cutler and the Bears lost in Lambeau?? They are tied for the division lead after beating the Rams 23-6. Jay Cutler has thrown 6 interceptions this early season and is a work in progress. He has to improve on his 52.7% completion rate as he and Brandon Marshall work to find a rhythm.

It looks like the Chicago Bears will be without the services of RB Matt Forte on Monday Night when they face the Dallas Cowboys. Don’t be surprised if the Bears simplify their game plan and feed them Michael Bush 25-30 times. He actually leads the team with 151 yards and 3TDs anyway. This may be the best time for them to run the ball with his straight ahead running style. Allow that defense to rest.

Did we just say something about running the football?? Well Head Coach Leslie Frazier clearly got the memo. In their game with the 49ers, Minnesota ran the football 41 times with Toby Gerhart and Adrian Peterson. There is a culture war going on in the NFL between hard running teams like Minnesota and all these teams lining up in 4 receiver sets and empty backfields. The teams that are playing 7 man sled running, blocking, and tackling football are winning right now. The Packers have lost two to these types of teams already. If you look at the Packers situation in a nutshell, teams have figured out their offense and tendencies and what we have seen over 3 weeks is no fluke. They had better get it together on the ground or they could be watching this year’s playoffs. Both rushing the football and stopping the run. Didn’t Vince Lombardi once say that?? Lessons of the NFL

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NFL Week 12 Thanksgiving Edition: Renewed Acquaintances

Megatron emerges for battle

Just when you’ll start welcoming and hugging family members as the aroma of another Thanksgiving gathering warms you and yours, a football game will kick off in Detroit. This was one of the games the young Detroit Lions had circled from the beginning of the season. Who knew the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers would come in undefeated at 10-0?? With a win the Lions will send another message to the NFL that they are for real and will be a force that could make the NFC Championship Game. A loss will relegate them to maybe only going as far as the wildcard round. The 37-13 loss to the Bears coupled with one here would be a confidence zapper for a relatively young team. A win by the Packers and they are one step closer to immortality where they’re trying to finish the 2011 season undefeated. If they were to do this and repeat as Super Bowl champs, they would have a legitimate shot at being the greatest team in NFL history.

What has been lost amidst the hyseria of this game is what happened the last time these two teams played and what significance it held. A fired up Lions defense chased down (4 sacks) and knocked out Aaron Rodgers with a concussion while winning 7-3.  At the time of Rodgers flash knockout, he was 7 of 11 for 46 yards and an interception. He was having serious trouble locating receivers amidst silver helmets coming at him. Matt Flynn had to finish the game and fared no better. His stat-line was what you’d expect for a cold player coming off the bench going for 15 of 26 for 177 yards and another interception. The Lions were stymied by the NFL’s #2 ranked defense and hounded Drew Stanton to a sub par performance. The stat-line of 10 of 22 passes for 117 yards wasnt’ glowing yet he did throw a touchdown to TE Will Heller which provided the difference.

This was the last game the Packers lost with Aaron Rodgers as a starter. We know how he came back hot two weeks later and led the Packers to their 13th title. Yet there was a 3-10 football team that proved to themselves they could play with the best of their division and went on to win their final 3 games finishing with a 4 game winning streak. It was Detroit’s winning the next game 23-20 that kept a 10 win Tampa team out of last year’s playoffs. This was where the Detroit Lions as we now know them were born. Their confidence took off as they watched their division brother wreak havoc in last year’s playoffs, knowing they handled Green Bay better than everyone else that tried. Throw in the riches of the draft and the health and availability of Matthew Stafford and this team is NOT afraid of Green Bay.

NFC NORTH W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Green Bay 10 0 0 1.000 5-0-0 5-0-0 3-0-0 8-0-0 355 212 +143 Won 10
Detroit 7 3 0 .700 3-2-0 4-1-0 2-1-0 5-3-0 301 219 +82 Won 1
Chicago 7 3 0 .700 5-1-0 2-2-0 2-2-0 6-3-0 268 207 +61 Won 5
Minnesota 2 8 0 .200 1-4-0 1-4-0 0-4-0 2-5-0 200 271 -71 Lost 2

Rodgers about to fire a pass in last year's Super Bowl

However this won’t be an easy game for Detroit either. The Packers are on pace to score the second highest  point total in NFL history with 568. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t slowed down for anyone. Look at these stats!! Rodgers is 238 of 329 for a whopping 72.3 completion rate while throwing for 31 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. Yikes!! He’s on pace to throw for 49.6 touchdowns, or in layman’s terms, tie Tom Brady’s all time record of 50. Each team is a pass first, run to keep them honest type offenses. The Packers rank  21st, while the Lions rank 22nd in rushing. For all of Rodgers prowess, Stafford’s growth this year has been immense. In his 10 games, he’s completed 61.3% of his passes for 25TDs and 10 interceptions. He’s on pace to throw for 40 touchdowns in his first full season! You have to be kidding me?!? Well we did say in our Pre Season Spectacular that his growth on the field was what the Lions needed from him this year. https://taylorblitztimes.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/2011-detroit-lions-preview/

Then we have former NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Charles Woodson going against Calvin “Megatron”Johnson. First we have Woodson, who has been everywhere this year with 45 tackles, 5 interceptions with 1 returned for a touchdown, 2 sacks and a fumble forced. Woodson’s Opimus Prime had better be ready for Megatron comes in with 59 receptions for 974 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Lions have spread the ball around more as of late but with the bright lights showing, Johnson is going to want the ball. This will be a tremendous battle. What could prove to be the shift in this Thanksgiving Day tilt is the fact that the Packers field the 30th ranked defense in all of pro football to Detroit’s being ranked 9th. Its imperative the Lions pass rush generates hits and sacks on Rodgers to knock him off his rhythm, they can’t afford to watch him stand in the pocket like the picture on the left. Of the Lions 27 sacks this season, 17.5 have come from the defensive line.

Prediction: The Detroit Lions will win this game. Emotion, crowd noise, and having more to prove will be the difference. The Packers are in the driver seat for the conference and the division and a loss won’t affect them. If there are no crazy bounces of the football we think the Lions in a fairly high scoring affair.  This game could be an all time classic!! Happy Thanksgiving

 

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Week 7 NFC North: Sobering Developments

Every NFL season has it’s ups and downs. One month you’re a world beater and headed to the Super Bowl, once those other pesky ten games get out of the way. A month later you’re a team in search of a few answers on how to right the ship. Or in the case of the Chicago Bears, the mantra is to prove last year’s run to the NFC Championship wasn’t a fluke and they were / are worthy of primetime coverage. Last Sunday the Bears crossed the pond and held off an up and coming Tampa Bay team 24-18, for their 3rd win in 4 weeks.

Look no further than RB Matt Forte for their resurgence. Do you realize that in four weeks he’s run for 553 and 2 TDs and catapulted himself into one of the NFL’s rushing leaders with 672 yards?? He ranks third in rushing and with the Bears schedule becoming easier after this week’s bye, he could run the Bears right back into the playoff chase.http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/chi/2011.htm  Has there been a running back this year who has played better than Forte?? we don’t think so. He also leads the team in receptions (39) and receiving yards (419) and if he keeps going may be up for NFL MVP consideration as well.

What is shocking is the Bears defense being ranked 24th in all of pro football. This week saw the Bears wave goodbye to S Chris Harris who started against the Bucs over at Wembley. Against the run they are a respectable 13th yet their pass defense has been awful of late ranking 27th. What is puzzling is the fact that the Bears are rushing the passer well. Led by Julius Peppers (4 sacks) there are at least four Bears with 3 sacks or more in just seven games. Lance Briggs was just named NFC Defensive Player of the Week and has 55 tackles. Urlacher is right behind him with 39 tackles and 3 interceptions. With all this pressure and solid linebacker play, what is going on in the secondary?? The play at nickleback and safety needs to be shored up. They have a bye week and then they face Philadelphia and the Michael Vick Experience. With so much attention on the World Champion Packers and the resurgent Lions, most experts don’t see this Bear team who quietly sits within striking distance of the division leaders.

 

NFC NORTH W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Green Bay 7 0 0 1.000 3-0-0 4-0-0 2-0-0 6-0-0 230 141 +89 Won 7
Detroit 5 2 0 .714 2-2-0 3-0-0 2-0-0 4-2-0 194 137 +57 Lost 2
Chicago 4 3 0 .571 3-1-0 1-2-0 1-2-0 4-3-0 170 150 +20 Won 2
Minnesota 1 6 0 .143 1-3-0 0-3-0 0-3-0 1-4-0 148 178 -30 Lost 2

A little wind has been swept from the sails of the Detroit Lions amidst back to back losses to San Francisco and Atlanta until you realize 6 of the 7 teams they have played are .500 and above. The Falcons have won their division 2 of the last 3 years and fighting to keep pace with the Saints and Bucs (whom the Lions beat already). Their other loss came was against the NFC West leading San Francisco 49ers. Each can be attributed to facing Pro Bowl caliber running backs in Frank Gore (141 yds /1TD) two weeks ago and Michael Turner (122 yds) who ran effectively against them. In fact the Lions are 28th against the run and has only held 1 team under 100 yards rushing this season. http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?archive=false&conference=null&role=OPP&offensiveStatisticCategory=null&defensiveStatisticCategory=RUSHING&season=2011&seasonType=REG&tabSeq=2&qualified=true&Submit=Go

While the Lions have been a scoring machine the first 5 games they have been somewhat slowed in the last two. The missing punch out of the backfield in Mikel Leshoure, on injured reserve, is slowing this team down. Jahvid Best is filling the void as best he can but is a limited runner on 3rd and short. However the maturation of soon to be Pro Bowl quarterback Matthew Stafford (1,912 yards /16TDs & 4 int.) is right on schedule.https://taylorblitztimes.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/2011-detroit-lions-preview/ Calvin “Megatron” Johnson’s touchdowns have slowed a bit (8 in 4 games v. 2 in last 3 games) yet he topped 100 yards receiving in each defeat. They just have to get past Denver and recharge their batteries in the following bye week.  To us, these games seemed to be growing pains for a young team yet they should be concerned about their run defense. Especially in a rematch with the Bears with Matt Forte’s recent rushing performance.

Sailing along are the World Champion Packers whose offense is one of the best in all of football. Aaron Rodgers is moving well in the pocket and distributing the football without taking sacks or hits like he did last season. Concerns about his concussion situation seems a thing of the past. The Packers are passing at will on opponents who can’t generate enough heat to get to Rodgers. How affective are the champs with the ball? Well their offense is ranked #3 overall with Rodgers unbelievable statistics. Rodgers has completed 71.5% of his passes for 2,372 yards, 20TDs to only 3 interceptions. Yikes!! It’s as though he’s playing Madden Football on rookie. Do you realize he’s on pace to throw for 5,421 yards with 45 TDs. That would destroy Dan Marino’s single season yardage mark if maintained and just off pace to break Brady’s all time touchdown record. Lethal.

Lets ask a question: What happened to this defense?? Green Bay has been giving up candy on defense this year to the tune of 391 yards  per game. Where last year the team was galvanized and held together by the leagues’s #2 ranked defense, this year’s edition is ranked 27th. Without a significant injury to the starting 11, you’d have to say it’s a terrible performance. In 7 games they have only held one team to 10 or less. They even gave up 27 points to an inept rival Viking team last week.

Eventually offensive juggernauts fall to a superior defense in postseason play. The Packers are walking a tightrope. They want to finish like last year’s team with a Super Bowl victory yet are playing defense like their 2009 edition that was knocked out in the wildcard round. It would be best for this team to get to some Oklahoma drills this off week. Their title defense will come down to their defense in the end and they definitely have to play better.

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Week 4 NFC North: Titans Ready to Collide

Detroit's defense harrased and hounded Tony Romo throughout the second half.

If someone were to have asked you at the beginning of the NFL season: Who would be the last two undefeated teams?? There is no way anyone would have guessed they would be the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. Well the champion Packers yes but the Lions are roaring into the NFL’s collective conscience in a way not seen since the ’99 Rams. After over a decade of losing the Lions are on a tear. That’s right, 8 straight games when you include the last 4 to end the season and the first 4 of this campaign. However last Sunday’s win in Dallas might have been the most telling win out of all of them for the way they pulled it off.

We have talked at length about the psychological building blocks that make up a championship team. Understand this is a franchise a little over a year removed from losing the most consecutive road games in NFL history with 24. Now in back to back weeks the Lions roared from 20 points down to beat the Vikings 23-20 in Minnesota. Then with all NFL eyes upon them down in JerryWorld, they stormed from behind to win 34-30 after being down 27-3. What makes it one of those psychological building blocks we talk about?? The fact that they never believed they were out of the ball game and played with great heart. Detroit had to find a way to win with their defense and special teams forcing errors. Most great comebacks happen because a quarterback and his offense got hot. That wasn’t the case down in Dallas last Sunday.

Matthew Stafford struggled for much of the game yet came to life when he was needed to complete the comeback started by the defense. He threw for two fourth quarter touchdowns to Calvin “Megaton” Johnson, who now has 11TD throws on the year. Johnson has continued his torrid streak becoming the first in NFL history to start the season with 2 TDs in each of the first four games. Hell he’s on a pace to grab 32TDs. All of this while the Lions became the first team in NFL history to overcome 20 point deficits to win games. All of this on the road after setting the record for most consecutive road losses?? Yes, a complete confidence is growing within this Lions team that may become hard to extinguish, however the World Champion Packers are looming just over the horizon. Before we get there lets look at the standings.

NFC NORTH W L T PCT HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK
Detroit 4 0 0 1.000 1-0-0 3-0-0 1-0-0 3-0-0 135 76 +59 Won 4
Green Bay 4 0 0 1.000 2-0-0 2-0-0 1-0-0 3-0-0 148 97 +51 Won 4
Chicago 2 2 0 .500 2-1-0 0-1-0 0-1-0 2-2-0 94 98 -4 Won 1
Minnesota 0 4 0 .000 0-2-0 0-2-0 0-1-0 0-2-0 77 96 -19 Lost 4

The WR/CB matchup of Green Bay's Charles Woodson and Detroit's "Megatron" Johnson should be worth the price of admission

Which brings us to the streaking World Champions, who are also 4-0. Aaron Rodgers has just made defenses look foolish with his torrid start to the season. His quarterback rating of 124.6 includes 12 TDs to just 2 interceptions and he has 1,325 yards passing. http://www.nfl.com/player/aaronrodgers/2506363/profile Yikes! After last year’s postseason run it’s a miracle he’s not getting more ink. Everyone has been talking about Cam Newton, Brady’s record setting start, Romo’s chronicles in Dallas, and even Matthew Stafford’s 11TD start in Detroit. Yet there may not be a team more reliant on their signal caller than the Super Bowl XLV MVP. Right now they are balanced with Rodgers at the helm. James Starks has 210 yards rushing which is supplemented by Ryan Grant’s 157. If Rodgers were hurt teams would come forward to stop the run more which is a no brainer. What has been overlooked is the fact that the Packers defense is ranked a dismal 28th overall and 31st against the pass. http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?archive=false&conference=null&role=OPP&offensiveStatisticCategory=null&defensiveStatisticCategory=TEAM_PASSING&season=2011&seasonType=REG&t    This would not be a good time to take on Detroit and it’s a good thing they don’t have to for seven more weeks. What is a problem is the fact that there are no big injuries to point a finger to and after a quarter of the season is gone, it’s safe to say they may not be a top 10 defense this year. Teams are forced to play catch-up so much chasing the new highest scoring team in the league. The Packers dropped an epic 49-23 beatdown on the Denver Broncos last Sunday.

Matt Forte has quietly been one of the NFL's leading rushers.

However to the southwest is a Chicago Bear team seething at the attention afforded their division brethren. Sure they fell to the Packers 27-17 two weeks ago, but that was a tough game and the Bears relish a rematch with their rivals. Although they played in last year’s NFC Championship Game, this team has been largely forgotten about. They just beat the Carolina Panthers and slowed Cam Newton, somewhat, enroute to a 34-29 win that places them 3rd with a 2-2 record. This Monday Night matchup with the Detroit Lions is where the Bears can show that they are still in the fight. A lost fact is the Bears have scored over 30 points twice so far this season, and take a guess which two of their four games they won?? Matt Forte has rushed solidly for 324 yards and 1TD and Johny Knox and Devin Hester have been decent with 12 and 7 receptions respectively. However it’s former Lion WR Roy E. Williams who should be motivated to make an impression in this Monday Night showdown. If he can’t get going in this one against his former team when will he??

One looming problem for the Chicago Bears is they’re defense is ranked 31s overall after a tangle with Cam “The Human Highlight Film” Newton. He did throw for 376 yards on the Bears defense and they need to shore that up. By the way…did we tell you that Bears defensive co-ordinator is former Detroit Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli??  Division rival…wanting to showcase that they are still an NFC heavy, and the emotion of Williams and Marinelli coming back to Motown!! Dammit Hank Williams for your comments about Obama being Hitler, but if ever we wanted to hear your “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL??” It would be this Monday Night when the Bears travel to Ford Field.

The next time will be Thanksgiving when the Packers travel to Ford Field. Remember, late last year the Lions beat them in their 4 game winning streak. Shhhhh…food for thought.

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