NFC North: Free Head Exam 2011 Week 5

Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
2:00
PM ET
After the Green Bay Packers' 25-14 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, here are three issues that merit further examination:

    Head Exam
    Kevin SeifertFollowing their win against the Falcons, the Packers take a seat in the examination room.
  1. We more or less crowned quarterback Aaron Rodgers the league MVP in last week's edition of this post, so it would be hard to add any more hyperbole to his performance Sunday night. So let's move on to a whole new level of hype: Are the Packers going to go undefeated this season? No matter how well they've played to this point, I can't get remotely interested in that question until they are at least 10-0. And in Week 5, I don't know that we can even look ahead and place asterisks next to the teams who might pose the biggest challenge. It's all WAY, WAY too early.
  2. We touched on a variety of issues in Sunday night's extended wrap-up post, but here's one we did not. Watching Roddy White's 5-yard touchdown reception Sunday night, I made a note to question what Packers cornerback Charles Woodson was doing on the play. You see Woodson pick up White at the middle of his crossing route. But when White veered into the end zone, Woodson ran upfield. Did he think he needed to cover someone in the flat? Did he believe quarterback Matt Ryan was about to run? As expected when it comes to Woodson, he 'fessed up and told reporters: "My eyes were in the backfield. But once that receiver comes under, I have to take him. That’s on me not making a football play."
  3. The Packers have experience falling behind at the Georgia Dome, and in all seriousness, that was a big part of their ability to withstand a 14-point first-quarter onslaught Sunday night. If you remember, they trailed 10-3 in the second quarter during the 2010 regular season and 14-7 in the second quarter during their divisional playoff game. "There was no panic," Rodgers told reporters. "We just knew that games down here ... the last couple of games we've played down here have been similar. They've kind of started fast, got the momentum, got the crowd involved and we've had to kind of withstand that first wave of attack from them and, once we do, settle into the game, start making some plays and get back into the game."
And here is one issue I still don't get:
I haven't decided if I'm bothered by coach Mike McCarthy's decision to go for a 2-point conversion with a little less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Packers held a 15-14 lead at the time, and the conversion would have left the Falcons unable to take a lead with a field goal. As it turned out, the failure left the Falcons in position to tie the game with a touchdown and a 2-point conversion once the Packers extended their lead to 22-14. You always want your opponent to need more than one score. But I also think McCarthy was supremely confident that his team still had some scoring left to do. That's the way the game felt at the time, and it proved correct. Sometimes you manage by the book, and other times by feel.

Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
1:20
PM ET
After the Minnesota Vikings' 34-10 victory against the Arizona Cardinals, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    Kevin SeifertFollowing their win against the Arizona Cardinals, the Vikings take a seat in the examination room.

  1. I honestly don't get what people expected from quarterback Donovan McNabb this season. He is generally a well-respected NFL citizen. So when the Vikings acquired him this summer from the Washington Redskins, no football person was going to come out and say how far his career had plummeted. But the evidence was all there for the taking. The Washington Redskins were willing to give him away for a sixth-round draft pick and take their chances with Rex Grossman and John Beck. The Vikings were able to leverage McNabb into a contract worth $5.05 million, one that befits a top backup. And that's the way he has played so far this season: Like a veteran seat-warmer. McNabb has been inaccurate on short and deep passes and has mustered one victory in five games. None of this should be a big surprise, nor should coach Leslie Frazier's decision to retain him as his starter. Frazier wanted a veteran to start ahead of a rookie he didn't think would be ready to play. The NFL doesn't have enough good quarterbacks for a team to find a high-functioning one who can fit that description. Frazier got a seat-warmer who is playing like one.
  2. Let's give defensive end Brian Robison some credit. A few of us wondered if the Vikings had made the right decision by allowing starter Ray Edwards to depart via free agency and inserting Robison into the starting lineup. Robison had been a backup for four seasons, and usually you are what you are by that point. But Robison's two-sack day Sunday brought his season total to 4.5, tying his career high. (It's also three more sacks than Edwards has for the Atlanta Falcons, but that's an apples-to-oranges comparison.) The Cardinals couldn't single-block Robison on Sunday, and his forced fumble on quarterback Kevin Kolb in the first quarter was one of the key plays in springing the Vikings to a 28-0 lead.
  3. I didn't think it was possible, but tailback Adrian Peterson ran with more purpose than I've seen him with the possible exception of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. That's not to say there are games that he doesn't run hard in. But you could just see in Peterson's eyes and movement that he wasn't going to be denied. The most impressive of his three touchdown runs was the last one. I doubt that rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson will forget coming in high and taking a 5-yard ride into the end zone. It's difficult for a non-quarterback to accomplish, but all superstars at times need to will their team to scores. Peterson did that Sunday.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
This is truly a question I don't know the answer to: How does the Vikings' mostly veteran roster truly feel about McNabb? Most veterans want an experienced quarterback to avoid the roller coaster performances of a rookie. They want someone who knows where to throw it, gets them the ball on time and mostly on target. McNabb has done those things only sporadically this season. Are players OK with what they've seen? Or are their eyes starting to wander toward rookie Christian Ponder? Of course, players would know better than us if Ponder has a chance to be any better at this point.

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