NFC North: Eddie George

Last week's SportsNation chat included a question that I imagine we'll hit regularly over the next year or so: How will the Detroit Lions split carries between their two tailbacks, Jahvid Best and rookie Mikel Leshoure? Here was that exchange:
Scott Linehan (Detroit)

[+] EnlargeJahvid Best
AP Photo/Paul SancyaThe Packers kept Lions running back Jahvid Best bottled up in their two meetings last season.
How are they going to split carries in Detroit? 170 again for Best and 150 for LeShoure. Best 4.4 YPC assuming healthy toes and LeShoure 4.2 YPC. Sound good?

Kevin Seifert (2:48 PM)

Not sure anyone cares about the YPC, but I wonder how radical it would be to give Leshoure more of the carries to bruise people up and use Best on third downs and in other situations...

Ultimately, the answer is going to depend on a number of factors. The most important is the presumption that both players are healthy. I know the Lions and other teams have noted how important it is to have a two-back system in the current NFL. But the price the Lions paid for Leshoure -- third- and fourth-round picks to move back into the second round -- is enough to give a conspiracy theorist cause for concern about Best's toe injuries. After all, Lions coach Jim Schwartz lived through the decline of Tennessee Titans tailback Eddie George, who like Best suffered multiple turf toe injuries in his career.

For the moment, however, let's assume Best and Leshoure are at full strength when (and if) the 2011 season begins. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton offered one way to evaluate the situation: Leshoure is best equipped to face 3-4 defenses, while Best might be better against the 4-3.

As the theory goes, a big back has a better chance of breaking the arm tackles he will face against a 3-4 defense that makes its linemen responsible for two gaps. Within the NFC North, then, Leshoure might be the Lions' answer to the Green Bay Packers.

Playing against the Packers' 3-4 defense last season, Best gained 88 yards on 25 carries over two games. In the latter, a 7-3 Lions victory at Ford Field, backup Maurice Morris rolled to a team-high 51 yards on 11 carries.

Depending on what direction some new defensive coordinators go, the Lions could face a 3-4 defense in a half-dozen or so games. Plenty of factors will determine the Best-Leshoure split, but defensive scheme is a good place to start.

Fear of the 'Madden Curse'

March, 28, 2011
3/28/11
5:50
PM ET
I've always been the first to admit that I've never paid much attention to "Madden" or any other video game, but I've been surprised at how passionate many of you are about NOT wanting Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers or Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson to win ESPN.com's bracket-style competition for the cover of "Madden 12." Both players have advanced to the second round of the event.

"The Curse" is in your head.

Nevertheless, wrote @TeeJayV via Twitter, "Just no reason to chance it. Keep @AaronRodgers12 off of it!"

Rodgers, for his part, tweeted last week that it is "hard not to want" the Madden cover.

I suppose this will become a bigger issue for us if Rodgers and/or Peterson advance to the finals next month. But courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, via NFC South colleague Pat Yasinskas, here are the basics of the so-called "Madden Curse."
  • Madden 11: Drew Brees: Threw for 4,620 yards but also set a career high with 22 interceptions. Started 16 games despite persistent reports of a knee injury.
  • Madden 10: Troy Polamalu/Larry Fitzgerald: Polamalu only played five games because of knee injuries, Steelers missed playoffs; Fitzgerald wasn’t affected much (97 receptions, 1,092 yards, 13 TDs, Pro Bowl).
  • Madden 9: Brett Favre: Feuded with Packers, traded to Jets, horrible down the stretch (lost 4 of last 5).
  • Madden 8: Vince Young: Missed 1 game with quad injury; led Titans to first playoff appearance in four years.
  • Madden 7: Shaun Alexander: Fractured foot, missed six games; fewer yards and TDs in '06 AND '07 than in '04 OR '05.
  • Madden 6: Donovan McNabb: Sports hernia in first game, missed seven games; feuded with Terrell Owens all year; had been to five straight Pro Bowls, hasn't been since.
  • Madden 5: Ray Lewis: Broke wrist, missed one game; first season without interception; missed 10 games next year with thigh injury.
  • Madden 4: Michael Vick: Fractured fibula one day after video game was released, missed 11 games; Pro Bowl next 2 seasons; obvious issues since then.
  • Madden 3: Marshall Faulk: Ankle injury, missed two games, never rushed for 1,000 yards.
  • Madden 2: Daunte Culpepper: 4-7 record before season-ending knee injury.
  • Madden 2001: Eddie George: Career season, but fumbled in playoffs as top-seeded Titans lost first game to Ravens.
  • Madden 2000: Barry Sanders: Retired one week before training camp.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Here's an interesting note that only the people at the Elias Sports Bureau could come up with.

Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson has scored at least two touchdowns in each of his first three games against Chicago, one of 19 players in NFL history to accomplish that feat against one team. Only one player, however, has scored 2-plus touchdowns in four consecutive games against one team.

That would be former Houston/Tennessee tailback Eddie George, who did it against the Cleveland Browns. Consider it one more subplot heading into Sunday night's matchup between the Vikings and Bears.

Continuing around the NFC North on a Saturday morning:

  • The Vikings are gearing up to stop Chicago's double tight-ends package of Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. In the teams' first game this season, Clark and Olsen combined for nine receptions and 133 yards.
  • In his weekly diary in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen revealed he got sick on Thanksgiving Day.
  • The Bears have a clear special-teams mismatch over the Vikings, but they acknowledge it will be difficult to match their two-touchdown output of the teams' first game. Nick Hut of the Northwest Herald has details.
  • Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs on Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte: "He is a veteran quarterback and I see him just doing what the system is asking him to do. Nothing special." David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune looks at Frerotte's season.
  • Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examines Green Bay's ill-fated decision to replace punter Jon Ryan with Derrick Frost. Ryan is now thriving in Seattle, while Frost is struggling.
  • A week after getting dominated by New Orleans' passing offense, the Packers are preparing for Carolina's power running game. Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at the issues involved.
  • Detroit's best chance at a win this season is next Sunday against Minnesota, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.

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