How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch

September, 15, 2009
9/15/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

 Barbre
1. Allen Barbre, Packers RT: You hate to pick on a first-time starter. And it’s almost unfair that we judge Barbre after a highly visible debut against a pass-rushing specialist in a contract year. But Barbre is lucky to have kept his starting job after getting torched Sunday night by Chicago defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Barbre looked too slow to handle a speed rush and didn’t seem strong enough to fight off the bull rush. Bad combination, and the Packers are fortunate his outing didn’t result in a significant injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

 Cutler
2. Jay Cutler, Bears QB: In some ways, the Bears have seen this before. Cutler looked like so many Chicago quarterbacks that have come before him -- whose collective performances resulted in the need to acquire him from Denver in the first place. It’s one thing to be aggressive and take chances. It’s another to wildly force the ball into coverage. Four interceptions, and a few other near-misses, doomed Cutler in his debut at Lambeau Field. But think of it this way: He’s got nowhere to go but up in Sunday’s home opener at Soldier Field.

 Smith
3. Kevin Smith, Lions RB: Detroit is counting on consistent production from its running game to serve as a crutch for rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford. Smith is the likeliest candidate to provide it, but he finished with 20 yards on 15 carries Sunday at New Orleans. The running game is a combination of backs and line play, so we can’t solely blame Smith. But it’s his name next to those numbers, and the Lions won’t go far this season if their leading rusher is averaging 1.3 yards per carry.


 Ogunleye
Rising

1. Adewale Ogunleye, Bears DE: At the start of a contract year, Ogunleye reminded us how good he once was -- and perhaps can still be. He exploded for two sacks and unofficially hit Rodgers five other times Sunday night. Ogunleye has been one of the biggest supporters of new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, and the coaching guru paved the way for him to have a breakout opening game.

 Peterson
2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings RB: He managed 40 yards on his first 14 carries and 140 on his final nine Sunday at Cleveland. That’s the kind of explosion you can expect from Peterson at any time during the NFL season. His energy in the third quarter sparked a 24-point surge to bring the Vikings back from a 13-10 halftime deficit. It’s hard to be surprised with anything Peterson does, but his 64-yard touchdown run -- in which he broke five tackles -- might have been the best of his career.

 Rodgers
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay QB: In the year of Air and Space in the NFC North, Rodgers had the best performance of a division quarterback. (Of course it’s all relative, considering Brett Favre’s quiet debut for Minnesota and a combined seven interceptions from Cutler and Stafford.) The Bears’ pass rush seemed to get to him early on, and his accuracy suffered. But Rodgers produced a 158.3 passer rating in the fourth quarter, and when it counted most, drilled a perfect 50-yard pass to receiver Greg Jennings for the game-winning touchdown.

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