Hopefully you all are enjoying a wonderful and respectful Memorial Day weekend. In the event you need an NFL fix in what is normally one of the quietest times of the year, let me point you in the direction of two ESPN Insider files with an NFC North focus.
The first comes from Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, who thinks the Green Bay Packers will be taking a huge risk if they entrust their backup quarterback job to Graham Harrell. You need an Insider subscription to read the entire story, but Schatz believes the dropoff from Aaron Rodgers to Harrell would make the difference between an elite team and a .500 team.
Schatz wrote the Packers were 15-1 last season with "possibly the greatest passing game in NFL history," but it "hid the fact that the 2011 Packers were essentially mediocre or just plain bad in every other aspect of the game."
My feeling is that most teams would have a dropoff upon the loss of a starting quarterback. The Packers' gap between Rodgers and Harrell is wider than most, but that might be more a reflection of Rodgers than Harrell.
Second, KC Joyner -- aka the Football Scientist -- suggests that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder could be in line for a breakout season in 2012 thanks to an improved supporting cast.
Again, you'll need a subscription to see the entire story. But here is a snippet: "An upgraded supporting cast should also go a long way toward helping Ponder reduce his 4.3 percent bad decision rate (BDR) last year (BDR being a gauge of how often a quarterback makes a mental error that leads to a turnover or a near-turnover). That total was the third-highest in the league, but is not atypical of the BDR numbers posted by many of today's top quarterbacks early in their career and thus isn't an unsolvable problem."
To me, Ponder will benefit as much from an improved situation at left tackle, where Matt Kalil will take over for the miscast Charlie Johnson. At times, Ponder seemed too quick to utilize his athletic ability and escape from the pocket. He made some plays, but over time an offense needs more passing plays from the pocket than scrambles outside of it.