NFC North: 2013 Week 2 QB Watch NFC

QB Watch: Packers' Aaron Rodgers

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback play.

Rodgers
Rodgers
Rewind: Maybe Aaron Rodgers should wake up with a stiff neck on game day more often. After getting an adjustment from a local chiropractor and some treatment from the Packers’ trainers, Rodgers had one of the best statistical performances in team history in Sunday’s 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins. He tied the franchise record for passing yards in a game with 480, while completing 34-of-42 passes. He threw four touchdown passes without an interception and had a passer rating of 146.0. Rodgers took advantage of the Redskins’ soft zone defense and used a variety of short throws that allowed his receivers to run after the catch.

Fast-forward: It’s a safe bet that Rodgers is taking the Cincinnati Bengals seriously. In facing the Bengals on Sunday, Rodgers revisits a team that gave him all kinds of trouble in their last meeting, which came in Week 2 of the 2009 season. Rodgers was sacked six times and completed just 53.8 percent of his passes (the eighth-lowest percentage since he became a starter in 2008) in the Packers’ 31-24 loss at Lambeau Field.

More milestones: Rodgers’ 480-yard passing performance against the Redskins was the third 400-yard passing game of his career in the regular season. Previously, he threw for 408 yards on Dec. 2, 2011, against Denver and 404 yards on Dec. 26, 2010, against the New York Giants. No other quarterback in team history has more than one 400-yard passing game. Rodgers also had one in the playoffs, a 423-yard day against Arizona in a wild-card game on Jan 10, 2010.

Prediction: Don’t expect another 400-yard day. But Rodgers has bettered the 300-yard passing mark in each of his last four regular-season games, dating to last season. Even that number might be tough for him to reach against a Bengals defense that ranked seventh against the pass last season, so put Rodgers down for 299 yards this week.

QB Watch: Vikings' Christian Ponder

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback play:

Rewind: Christian Ponder rebounded from an ugly first half in Chicago last week, going 10-for-16 for 146 yards after throwing an interception that Tim Jennings returned for a touchdown in the first half. Coach Leslie Frazier said he never thought about benching Ponder after the quarterback went 6-for-14 in the first half, and Ponder rewarded the coach's continued patience, directing three scoring drives and making a number of plays with his feet. Ponder looked more self-assured in the second half, though it didn't hurt that the Vikings' offensive line finally gave him time to throw after struggling for the first game-and-a-half of the season.

Ponder
Ponder
Fast-forward: Ponder has never faced the Cleveland Browns, but this weekend might present him an opportunity to build some consistency on offense. The Browns have been stout against the run, allowing just 119 yards in two games, so if the Vikings struggle to get Adrian Peterson going -- something hard to believe -- Ponder could get more opportunities against a pass defense that gave up an average of 285.5 yards per game in its first two losses. He also should benefit from playing at home, where he posted a 64.3 QBR last season (compared to 39.8 on the road).

Looking for consistency: Ponder's had a knack for turning in his best play when criticism of him is at its highest, and what he did on Sunday was no different. That, of course, begs the question: Why isn't Ponder able to be more consistent? "A lot of guys in our sport are like that: When you tell them they can't do something, they raise up and show you they can," Frazier said this week. Still, it would help Ponder's case going forward if he's able to build on what he did last week and turn in some complete performances during a three-game stretch -- against the Browns, Steelers and Panthers -- that should be one of the softest on the Vikings' schedule.

Prediction: Ponder will be at home, having created some optimism in the second half last week, and he could benefit from Frazier's calls to get rookie Cordarrelle Patterson more involved in the passing game. Look for him to throw about 230 to 240 yards and a couple of touchdowns as the Vikings get their first win.

QB Watch: Bears' Jay Cutler

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play:

Rewind: Jay Cutler started much faster this week, completing as many passes (19) in the first half as he had thrown through the first two quarters of the opener against Cincinnati (19), while generating a passer rating of 106. Cutler fumbled on a sack from Jared Allen, and the loose ball was returned for a touchdown. Cutler also forced a pass on the goal line that was tipped by Everson Griffen and intercepted. Still, Cutler shook off the mistakes to rally the Bears to their second come-from-behind victory, firing the game-winning TD to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds remaining. Cutler finished with two touchdown passes and a rating of 97.2.

Cutler
Fast-forward: Pittsburgh’s 3-4 front presents a challenge the offensive line hasn’t yet seen. So Cutler needs to be patient and maintain confidence in the unit if it struggles early. The Steelers failed to get to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on Monday night, and could possibly experience similar struggles against Chicago’s revamped offensive line. If that happens, expect a confident Cutler to light up the Steelers. Pittsburgh struggled against Cincinnati’s tight ends, so Cutler should be looking Bennett’s way often on Sunday.

Reduce the turnovers: Cutler was responsible for three turnovers: two interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown. He needs to practice better judgment and ball security. Cutler needlessly forced a pass (although I have no problem with him taking that chance) on the goal line, and another of his picks came as the result of a miscommunication with Brandon Marshall.

Prediction: Cutler’s passer rating should be in the high 90s to low 100s, and he’ll reduce the turnovers, too. He’ll get Marshall another 100-yard receiving day, but expect the main targets to be Bennett and Matt Forte.

QB Watch: Lions' Matthew Stafford

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Lions’ quarterback play:

Rewind: Matthew Stafford continued his accurate, strong play by completing 24 of 36 passes for 278 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Here’s why those numbers are skewed a little bit: His receivers have been struggling to hold on to the ball. Through two games, Detroit receivers have dropped eight passes, including at least four against Arizona on Sunday in a 25-21 loss.

Stafford
Stafford
Fast-forward: Things could look really good for Stafford in Week 3, as he may have one of the top matchups in the NFL facing Washington. The Redskins have yet to intercept a pass, allowing opponents to complete 73.1 percent of their passes at 10.19 yards an attempt. Considering the plethora of options Stafford has at receiver -- including Calvin Johnson -- a couple of them could have a huge day for Detroit.

Pass protected: An underrated part of Stafford’s success this season comes from the five -- or six, if you include tight end Brandon Pettigrew -- guys blocking for him. After Sunday’s loss at Arizona, Stafford told his offensive linemen they have done a good job keeping him clean, and they have. Through two games, he’s been sacked once. Granted, Stafford has been blitzed on only 23.2 percent of his drop-backs so far this season, the third-lowest percentage in the NFL, but he uses that well. He’s been sacked on only 1.2 percent of his drop-backs. Detroit would take that percentage all year for a player who is more of a pocket passer than a scrambler.

Prediction: Another big week from Stafford, who will top 350 yards, find Johnson for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being his best game all season. Washington is just struggling against the pass right now.

QB Watch: Bears' Jay Cutler

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play.

Rewind: Jay Cutler started slowly, throwing for 70 yards on 10-of-19 passing in the first half. In the second half, he threw for 172 yards and a touchdown to bring back the Bears from an 11-point deficit. Despite the slow start, Cutler remained calm, and against pressure from five or more defenders, he completed 8 of 10 passes for 94 yards. It’s worth noting Cutler ranked 33rd in Total QBR last season when teams brought five or more rushers. In what turned out to be the game-winning drive, Cutler hit 3-of-4 for 63 yards, including a 19-yard TD to Brandon Marshall, and scrambled for an 18-yard gain.

 

Fast-forward: Geno Atkins tested the interior of Chicago’s line last week, and Vikings defensive end Jared Allen might be a disruptive force on the outside against Jermon Bushrod. Cutler needs to stay cool under pressure. Cutler demonstrated confidence in the line in Week 1, but he’ll need to do it again against the Vikings. Bears head coach Marc Trestman lauded Cutler for hanging in the pocket long enough during blitzes to find open receivers for big gains. He’ll face similar circumstances this week but should be aided by more production from the rushing attack.

Smoother no-huddle execution: Chicago worked some no-huddle offense early against the Bengals but scrapped some of it because Cutler’s calls didn’t mesh with the personnel groupings and matchups on the field, which forced the Bears to burn timeouts. Look for Chicago to improve against the Vikings as Cutler continues to gain familiarity with the system and Trestman speeds up deployment of the personnel groups.

Prediction: Cutler threw interceptions in both games against Minnesota in 2012 and finished with passer ratings of 86.5 and 57.0. Look for him to eliminate the turnovers and generate a passer rating hovering somewhere in the 90s.

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