NFC North: 2013 Week 7 QB Watch NFC

QB Watch: Vikings' Josh Freeman

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback play:

Freeman
Rewind: Josh Freeman's first start with the Vikings looked sloppy from the early stages of Monday night's loss to the New York Giants; Freeman finished the night completing just 20 of his 53 passes, floating an interception over the middle to kill a Vikings scoring drive and overthrowing his receivers on 16 of his 33 incompletions, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Just two weeks after he signed with the team, Freeman could rightly point to a lack of experience with his receivers on some of the mistakes, but there were other times when he simply wasn't able to put the ball on target.

Fast-forward: Assuming Freeman starts on Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers, he might have to trade scores with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and he'll have to do it against a defense that appears vastly improved from what the Packers have had the last two years. Green Bay has allowed the ninth-most passing yards in the league, but is third in the league against the run and is tied for seventh in the league with 20 sacks. Teams that have been able to stop Adrian Peterson and pressure the quarterback have had plenty of success against the Vikings, and Green Bay might have that formula working on Sunday.

Help from Jennings? Wide receiver Greg Jennings had just four catches for 41 yards in the Vikings' loss on Monday, but it stands to reason he'll be looking for a big game against his former team this week. Freeman and Jennings looked out of sync at times on Monday night, but Jennings obviously knows the Packers' defense as well as anyone after practicing against it for seven years. Green Bay can throw a number of different looks at Freeman with its 3-4 defense, so letting Jennings find holes in the Packers' coverage might be useful for Freeman.

Prediction: Freeman is better in his second start (and first at home), throwing for around 240 yards and a touchdown, but he'll also commit a turnover or two against a defense that's so far had trouble getting back to its typical ballhawking ways.

QB Watch: Bears’ Josh McCown

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play.

McCown
Rewind: McCown entered the game for an injured Jay Cutler at the 9:47 mark of the second quarter and scrambled for an 11-yard gain on first down before throwing incomplete to Matt Forte the next play to end the drive. With Cutler running the show, the Bears missed on four third-down conversions in the first half. In the second half, Chicago converted 50 percent of third downs and racked up 313 yards. McCown hit on 70 percent of his throws for a passer rating of 119.6, as the quarterback scrambled four times for 33 yards in the fourth quarter in addition to leading three scoring drives.

Fast-forward: McCown admits he doesn’t possess as big of an arm as Cutler, but he can make up for that deficiency with solid anticipation, which for the most part is the backup’s game. McCown’s athleticism is on par with Cutler’s, and he’s probably more willing to tuck the ball and run than the starter if the targets don’t come open downfield. So McCown’s athleticism should be an asset when the Bears play Green Bay on Nov. 4. In the meantime, McCown will spend the week off immersing himself in the intricacies of the scheme as he prepares to make his first start since the 2011 season.

Run the offense through Forte: Establishing Forte early on is the best way to help McCown settle in and find a groove. The team should’ve done that in the loss last week to the Redskins but instead handed off to the running back just four times in the first half. That’s clearly not enough. By putting the ball into Forte’s hands often, the Bears can set up the play-action passing game and put the Packers on their heels. McCown will struggle if Green Bay gets into pin-your-ears-back-and-rush mode. So Chicago needs to feature the running back early.

Prediction: Fresh off the street from coaching high school football in 2011, McCown -- with a dreadful supporting cast -- put up 21 points in his first start against the Packers in December 2011. This time around, Chicago’s scheme and personnel are better, while Green Bay doesn’t appear to be as strong a team now as in 2011. So look for McCown to put together an efficient game with a passer rating in the high 80s to low 90s.

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