Final Word: NFC North

September, 17, 2010
9/17/10
3:37
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 2:

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Jerry Lai/US PresswireExpect Jay Cutler and the Bears offense to test the Dallas secondary.
The Dallas Cowboys better get their nickel defense ready, because the Chicago Bears are a three-receiver offense. That's what we expected when Mike Martz took over as offensive coordinator, and it played out in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions in an obvious way. Receivers Johnny Knox, Devin Hester and Devin Aromashodu were all in the starting lineup, and the Bears had three receivers on the field for 71.4 percent of their plays, according to ESPN's Stats & Information. In addition, they were in that set on 83.7 percent of their passes. Quarterback Jay Cutler averaged a strong 8.4 yards per attempt on plays when three receivers were on the field. It will be an interesting matchup because, like the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys have only three true cornerbacks on their active roster: Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick.

The Vikings miss receiver Sidney Rice in many ways, but none more than when quarterback Brett Favre is under pressure. Rice was Favre's most dependable safety valve when blitzed last season, and the Miami Dolphins would be wise to test his ability to adjust Sunday at the Metrodome. According to ESPN's Stats & Information, Rice caught 80 percent of the passes Favre threw his way last year when facing a blitz. In the Sept. 9 season opener, the New Orleans Saints blitzed Favre on 13 of 28 dropbacks. Favre completed just three of those 13 passes, including 1-of-6 to receivers Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin. The Dolphins would be silly to sit back in coverage.

Attention, Minnesota defense: Play close to the line of scrimmage, especially when the Dolphins are in the red zone. According to ESPN's Stats & Information, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne hasn't had much luck throwing into the end zone in his career. Since the start of last season, Henne has completed only 20 percent (five of 25) of those passes. It's obviously not the easiest pass to throw, and for some perspective, you should realize Favre has led the NFL over that stretch with a 53.8 completion percentage on passes into the end zone. But with Henne, you're much more likely to see a shorter pass that asks the ball carrier to zip into the end zone.

Ryan Grant's season-ending ankle injury removed a player who took at least some attention from Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley. After his strong second half of last season, Finley entered 2010 as arguably the Packers' top offensive weapon. The Philadelphia Eagles certainly approached him that way with regular double-teams, and occasional triple-teams, during last Sunday's 27-20 Packers victory. The Buffalo Bills have no reason not to follow the same pattern, especially when the Packers take the field without a proven running back on their roster. I realize we're talking about running games and passing games here, but ultimately the Bills have one less player to keep track of in the Packers' offense. Grant might not have been a world-beater, but he reliably picked up yards. Will backup Brandon Jackson do the same? That's uncertain. If possible, Finley will be more of a marked man this Sunday.

As much as I like the Detroit Lions' defensive line, I'm not confident in the team's chances against Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. Unless the pressure is sudden and fierce, Vick has a pretty good chance of escaping the pocket against any team. And if he does that against the Lions, Vick will be off to the races against a hobbled and unproven back seven. Even if middle linebacker DeAndre Levy plays, he is nowhere close to 100 percent because of a groin strain. The same goes for safety Louis Delmas. And the Lions still have two starters -- safety C.C. Brown and cornerback Jonathan Wade -- playing with a fractured forearm and finger, respectively. The Lions' best hope is to get to Vick before he gets out of the pocket.

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