How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
11:31
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FALLING

1. Devin Hester, Chicago Bears receiver: The good news was that Hester was among three receivers in the Bears' starting lineup Sunday against the Detroit Lions. The bad, or at least odd, news: Quarterback Jay Cutler threw only one of 35 passes his way. Fellow receivers Devin Aromashodu (10) and Johnny Knox (seven), along with tailback Matt Forte (seven) were Cutler's primary targets. There was plenty of discussion this summer about Hester's assimilation into Mike Martz's scheme. Martz said at one point that Hester was a natural for the offense, but on Sunday he sure looked like an afterthought. It will be interesting to see if Hester grows into a more significant role.

[+] EnlargeJahvid Best
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJahvid Best scored two TDs against the Bears, but he rushed for just 1.4 yards per carry.
2. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions tailback: Fantasy owners no doubt loved Best's pair of touchdowns Sunday against the Bears, and ultimately the goal of every running back is to score. Best, however, gained 11 yards on those two plays and nine on his other 12 carries. It's true that the Bears' front seven mostly stood up the Lions' offensive line, and I didn't see many holes for Best to run through. But over time, you hope Best will use his speed and open-field running ability to create some plays on his own. The Lions have spent the past two seasons relying on a runner who only got the yards his blocking allowed in Kevin Smith. I think they're expecting more from Best.

3. Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings receiver: The season-opening game at New Orleans seems to have happened ages ago. But let's not forget that Berrian was a non-factor in the Vikings' first regular-season outing without Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice (hip). Conventional wisdom suggested that Berrian would account for some of Rice's production, but in reality, quarterback Brett Favre continued to look toward his more favored receivers. Favre targeted tight end Visanthe Shiancoe seven times and receiver Percy Harvin on five passes. Berrian saw three thrown his way, catching one for three yards. I realize the Saints were in a Cover 2 defense, which makes it difficult to throw to outside receivers, but the Vikings are going to need more production from Berrian moving forward.

RISING

1. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears tailback: On a number of occasions, we've discussed how nicely Forte appears to fit into the Martz offense -- especially in the passing game. And it doesn't get much better than a seven-catch, 151-yard, two-touchdown performance in the opening game. The yardage total was the second-highest for a running back in Bears history. Forte, meanwhile, was the third running back in NFL history to record 150 or more receiving yards and multiple receiving touchdowns in a game. The other two were Brian Westbrook (2004) and Joe Cribbs (1981). Forte showed a nice burst on an 89-yard screen plan and put his exceptional ball skills on display for his 28-yard game-winning touchdown catch. I'm sure he would have liked to punch the ball into the end zone during a failed goal-line effort in the fourth quarter, but Forte established himself as a force in this offense regardless.

2. Kyle Vanden Bosch, Detroit Lions defensive end: In his first game since signing a free-agent contract, Vanden Bosch was all over the field. He recorded 10 solo tackles and set what I thought was a new standard for hustle and intensity on the Lions' defense. We've been discussing this aspect of Vanden Bosch's game since training camp, and now you see how it translates in a game. On top of that, don't forget that Vanden Bosch had at least three post-throw hits on Cutler, at least by my unofficial count. He didn't have a sack, but multiple hits over time always take their toll on a quarterback.

3. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers linebacker: Matthews celebrated his return to the Packers' lineup -- and his shift to a new position on the right side of the line -- by making a team-high seven tackles and accumulating two sacks in a 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Matthews also made the game-ending stop of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on fourth-and-1 from the Packers' 42-yard line. Matthews missed most of the summer for the second consecutive year because of a hamstring injury, but it appears that 40-year-old quarterbacks aren't the only people who don't need training camp.

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