NFC North: Final Word 2012 Week 3

Final Word: NFC North

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 3:

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireMinnesota will surely welcome any red zone production from Adrian Peterson against Arizona on Sunday.
Running aground: The Minnesota Vikings' punchless offense is going to have a tough time functioning against the San Francisco 49ers' physical, fast and sure-tackling defense. Receiver/running back Percy Harvin has been the NFL's best open-field runner over the season's first two weeks, but it will be quite an achievement if he can run through the 49ers' group. Tailback Adrian Peterson noted the 49ers haven't yet played a team as committed to the running game as the Vikings are, but history suggests he will struggle as well. He has totaled 88 yards on 33 carries in two career games against the 49ers. One of those carries was a 35-yard run. So on the other 32 carries, Peterson has managed 53 yards against them.

Bad combination: Pulling off an upset of this magnitude would no doubt require a number of forced turnovers. But the odds are against the Vikings rattling 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who hasn't thrown an interception in nine games, including the playoffs. In two games this season, in fact, he has only had one pass broken up by a defender, according to ESPN Stats & Information. (His rate of having 1.8 percent of attempts broken up is the NFL's lowest.) Smith is playing exceptionally smart, and the Vikings have failed exceptionally over a long stretch to be opportunistic. They have only two interceptions in their past 13 games.

Cutler's next game: The Chicago Bears have spent the past eight days answering questions about quarterback Jay Cutler's performance and behavior. Cutler, of course, threw four interceptions and took seven sacks in a Sept. 13 loss to the Green Bay Packers. It was the fourth four-interception game of Cutler's career with the Bears. But as they prepared for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, the Bears could be comforted in knowing that Cutler typically has rebounded well from the previous three instances. The Bears are 2-1 in games after Cutler throws four interceptions, and Cutler has thrown five touchdowns and one interception in those games.

Titans 'defense:' Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has conceded that "I don't think as an offense we've hit our stride yet." The Tennessee Titans provide an opportunity for the Lions to straighten themselves out. The Titans' first two opponents this season have scored 34 and 38 points, respectively. The Lions are 11-1 since the start of last season when they score at least 20 points and 0-6 when they fall below that threshold. I think I'll take the over, especially considering the Lions will add a new element to their offense with the regular-season debut of tailback Mikel Leshoure.

Monday looms: We'll have more on the Packers-Seahawks game over the weekend and on Monday. So consider this a special "First Word." For now, we should at least put on the record how different the Seahawks are at home. Since CenturyLink Field opened in 2002, the Seahawks have a 65.5 winning percentage and a point differential of plus-787 points, the second-highest total in the NFL. Opponents have also committed a league-high 143 false starts in the stadium. On the road over the same span, the Seahawks have won 36 percent of their games. That litany is not meant to discount the Packers' chances of winning. In fact, they won their most recent game in Seattle, in 2008. It's just a warning that the Seahawks should always be considered a formidable opponent at home.

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