NFC North: Final Word NFC 2010 Week 15

Final Word: NFC North

December, 17, 2010
12/17/10
4:00
PM ET
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Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:

Shut down: Thanks in large part to the emergence of cornerback Tramon Williams, the Green Bay Packers have played some of the NFL's best pass defense this season. They'll face their stiffest test yet Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, where New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will take the field as the presumptive league MVP. But if you're a Packers fan, you can take solace that your team has been the league's best at limiting passes to and down the sideline -- one of Brady's favorite places to throw. The Packers have allowed an NFL-low 46.4 completion percentage and two touchdown passes outside the numbers on the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information. This season, Brady has completed 64.5 percent of those passes for 16 touchdowns and two interceptions. That's not to say the Packers will shut him down, but at least they are equipped to squeeze the field against him.

[+] EnlargeMatt Flynn
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonThe Packers are almost certain to start the inexperienced Matt Flynn at quarterback against the Patriots.
Step up: Let's face it -- the Packers are going to need a whale of a game from backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who seems certain to start in place of Aaron Rodgers (concussion), to win Sunday. I suppose it's possible the Packers could discover their running game here in Week 15, but the chances of winning a slowed-down, low-possession game against the Patriots' offense aren't high. The Packers' offense is built through the passing game, and Flynn needs to produce and ensure that every scoring opportunity is capitalized upon. It's worth noting this statistic from ESPN Stats & Information: Flynn has thrown three red zone passes in his career. Two have been intercepted. Rodgers? He has thrown one interception in 218 red zone attempts dating to his promotion to the starting job in 2008.

Base set: The Minnesota Vikings are expected to start rookie quarterback Joe Webb on Monday night against the Chicago Bears, although veteran newcomer Patrick Ramsey could also play. A raw passer, Webb has legitimate running skills. The Vikings almost assuredly want to de-emphasize the pass, but tailback Adrian Peterson was limited this week in practice by ankle and knee injuries. When Webb does drop back, the Bears are well-equipped to force him into rookie mistakes. The Bears' success in sending four or fewer pass-rushers this season -- they rank third in the NFL in yards per attempt and interceptions in those situations -- means they should be able to sit back in coverage and make plays on Webb's passes. That will also help them limit his scrambles. It could be a long night for the Vikings in that regard.

Quick change: Monday night's game will mark the 10th relocated home game in the past 37 years in the NFL. The home teams are 3-6 in those games and have lost the past four, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The last home team that won a relocated home game was the 1994 Seattle Seahawks, who defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers at nearby Husky Stadium while the Kingdome was undergoing roof repairs. I think we can say this much about TCF Bank Stadium: It will be a modest, at best, home-field advantage for the Vikings. First, they haven't played an outdoor game in Minnesota in 29 years. Second, it's been three years since they've won a December/January outdoor game, and that contest was in San Francisco. Their last December/January outdoor victory in a cold-weather site was a January 2005 playoff victory at Lambeau Field. But not since December 1999 have the Vikings won a regular-season game outdoors in December or January, a 34-17 victory over the New York Giants.

Getting pressure: The Detroit Lions' defensive line demonstrated that it can overpower an opposing offensive line in last week's victory over the Packers. The Lions have 36 sacks this season -- tied for sixth-most in the NFL, but they'll have their hands full Sunday with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. This season, Freeman has been sacked 20 times -- the ninth-fewest among qualified quarterbacks -- and ranks third among NFL quarterbacks with 301 rushing yards. That matchup will be key as the Lions try to snap their NFL-record 26-game losing streak on the road.

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