Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Week 3 Rubdown - NFC North

Behold the Sword of Urlacher


WK 2 W at Dallas W 27-20, WK 3 W v. Green Bay 20-17
Offense Rank 11th, Defense Rank 15th

Thru 3 weeks, the last team standing in the NFC is not the Saints, not the Packers, not the Vikings, not the Cowboys, not the 49ers, not any of those preseason darlings. It's the Bears. They've earned it too. It's not like they've beat up on the dregs of the NFL here, they have wins against the Packers and Cowboys, two teams pretty much everyone had in the playoffs heading into the season. Is it real? Well, for starters, throw out everything you think you know about the Bears from last season. The reason is, Brian Urlacher is healthy. There is a very simple formula when it comes to the Bears, Brian Urlacher Healthy=Bears Good, Brian Urlacher Hurt=Bears Bad. There is little or no variation here. As long as Urlacher remains healthy, the Bears have the best pair of linebackers in the league in him and Lance Briggs. Without him, they are lost, like they were last year.

Offensively, Jay Cutler has been good so far. He could have had 5 INTs in the Monday Night win over the Packers, had some balls been held on to or plays not negated by penalties, but he didn't so we'll give him a pass for now. The Martz Offense is working, and all of a sudden the Bears are pretty strong on both sides of the ball. Not only that, but their next game against a team who currently has a winning record is Week 11 at Miami. Things could not be looking any better for the Bears right now.

What? 15 Yards For Illegal Grass In the Face? You're Kidding Me.

WK 2 W v. Buffalo 34-7, WK 3 L at Chicago 17-20
Offense Rank 12th, Defense Rank 2nd

If the Packers didn't get flagged 18 times for 152 yards worth of penalties (and it could have been more, I'm sure the Bears had some declines), and allow a punt return for a touchdown, and drop a couple of should have been interceptions, they'd be 3-0 right now, and have the inside track on an NFC North title. But all those things happened, and they're not 3-0, and they're in second place. That still can change very soon though. The Packers are a very good team. Clay Matthews is a demon, he already has 6 sacks, and the Packers rank 2nd in the league in defense (excluding penalty yards, a big exclusion given Monday Night's performance). The offense has been humming behind Aaron Rodgers and his merry band of receivers, no running game required, but turned it over at the worst possible time late in the Bears game, leading to the winning field goal (another PI penalty and a dropped INT helped too after the James Jones fumble).

The Packers have Super Bowl talent on both sides of the ball. It's possible they have the best offense in the league and the best defense. However, as the loss to the Bears showed, there are things that Super Bowl teams don't do, like racking up 150 yards of penalties, turning it over late in the game, and not capitalizing on mistakes by the other team. That's what separates a great team from the Packers right now.

One Man Gang

WK 2 L v. Miami 10-14, WK 3 W v. Detroit 24-10
Offense Rank 16th, Defense Rank 5th

Hmmm, it is a bye week for the Vikings this week. Think they will have to send Jared Allen and helicopter down to Hattiesburg to get Brett Favre to come back after it? It's possible. Things are not looking good for the Vikings. So far it's looking like the Brett Favre as Vikings QB thing is like a bowl of guacamole, absolutely sublimely transcendent at first, but brown and disgusting after too much time passes. Favre's passer rating so far this season is 60.4, which rates him one notch below Jason Campbell, who has been benched, and one notch above Trent Edwards, who has been released. There may be some hope for the Vikings though if they decide to go back to the pre-Favre offense and lean exclusively on Adrian Peterson. AD is averaging 5.6 yards per carry so far, which is his best since his 2007 rookie season. You can bet there will be some re-tooling of the offense going on during the bye week, and Peterson should rest up, because he'll be carrying a heavy, heavy load the rest of the way.

Same Ol' Lions

WK 2 L v. Philadelphia 32-35, WK 3 L at Minnesota 10-24
Offense Rank 22nd, Defense Rank 30th

I know that we have to measure the progress the Lions make with the same instruments they use to measure the movements of glaciers, but can you really say they are making progress? The defense should be better. They have a totally rebuilt front line that includes 3 time Pro Bowler Kyle Vandenbosch, and rookie monster Donkey Kong Suh (for the record they've combined for 3 1/2 sacks in 3 games, not horrible). But the defense isn't better, it's 30th in the league, and it should be receiving a fruit basket from Michael Vick for resurrecting his career in Week 2. I guess it should be improving as the season continues, maybe? Do we really believe that? I don't know. The offense has held up surprisingly well while Matt Stafford's shoulder heals in preparation for his next shoulder injury. Jahvid Best had an insane Week 2, and a sedate Week 3. His real level of production probably lies somewhere in between. An interesting matchup will be Week 5, when a presumably 0-4 Lions team (they are at Lambeau this week) takes on a Rams team that has started from the same post-apocalyptic starting point as the Lions, but seem to be making more progress.

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