NFC North: Final Word 2010 Week 8

Final Word: NFC North

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
4:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

Brick wall: Whether it's an injured Brett Favre or backup Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback Sunday for the Minnesota Vikings, you would have to assume the play calling will be the same: A whole lot of tailback Adrian Peterson. Peterson ranks second in the NFL with 684 rushing yards despite having played only six games, and he might be the team's safest option at Gillette Stadium. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the New England Patriots recently made a personnel shift that has tightened up their run defense substantially. After moving Vince Wilfork from nose tackle to defensive end, the Patriots have limited their past two opponents -- the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers -- to a combined 2.6 yards per carry. That's the lowest mark in the NFL over that stretch. The Vikings will have their hands full, no matter what direction they turn, as they attempt to end a seven-game losing streak on the road.

[+] EnlargeRandy Moss
Icon SMIRandy Moss will face his old team on Sunday, but don't expect a huge game from the Vikings receiver.
Helpless: Were it not for the Favre situation, this week would have been about receiver Randy Moss' return to New England. It has only been three weeks since the stunning trade, and the story would have been Moss' presumed determination to make the Patriots sorry they shipped him out. But as we've seen in the previous two weeks, a receiver can't affect a grudge-match performance on his own. Moss has always excelled against the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, for different reasons. But in those two games, he has combined for a relatively harmless eight receptions. As much as it makes sentimental sense to project a big game for Moss this weekend, the Vikings' quarterback situation and their continued offensive struggles take that possibility out of his hands. Pun intended.

Keep it short: As we discussed Thursday, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have his hands full facing the blitz-heavy New York Jets defense Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium. The Jets have blitzed an NFL-high 51.5 percent of the time this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and when combined with their cornerback duo of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, their defense has been awfully stingy against the deep pass. According to ESPN Stats & Information, quarterbacks have a 37.5 passer rating against them on throws that travel 15-plus yards in the air. Based on available information, it seems the Packers will need to be patient and focus on their short and intermediate routes Sunday.

Pressure point: The Packers have been vulnerable against the run this season, and another spate of injuries this week leaves them in a bad matchup with the Jets' rush offense. Led by a rejuvenated LaDainian Tomlinson, the Jets are averaging 159.2 rushing yards per game -- the second-best mark in the NFL. The Packers, meanwhile, could be without their starting defensive ends, Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett, because of injuries. The Packers will also be missing three linebackers who have made starts for them this season. If you were the Jets, and you saw a front seven as riddled as the Packers', what would you do? Run it up the gut? Or challenge the Packers' stronger (and healthier) pass defense?

Patience, young Jedi: The Detroit Lions will get quarterback Matthew Stafford back on the field Sunday at Ford Field, and you have to assume Stafford will be eager to get rolling after missing most of the Lions' first six games. But here's hoping he has the maturity and patience to not try to get it all back in one game. No team has been eliminated, either mathematically or realistically, in the wide-open NFC North race. But the Lions should still be in long-term mode, especially as it relates to Stafford. If it accomplishes nothing else for the rest of the season, the franchise must get Stafford established as its quarterback of the present and future. To that end, an adrenaline-laced, multi-interception performance would be the worst thing that could happen. Let's just see Stafford lead his team to some victories, calmly and (relatively) mistake-free. For as much promise that surrounds him, Stafford hasn't been able to stay on the field long enough to show us he can do that.

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Thursday, 10/2
Sunday, 10/5