How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
10:38
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FALLING

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireJay Cutler had just 42 yards passing against the Giants.
1. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears quarterback: Cutler lands quite literally in the "falling" category after taking nine sacks in the first half of last Sunday night's 17-3 loss to the New York Giants. But as we discussed Tuesday , the sack total is more the result of a perfect storm of factors than purely based on Cutler's performance. There is a sense that he could release the ball more quickly in some instances, but this is a systemic issue that requires multiple solutions.

2. Confidence in the Detroit Lions' defense: I wouldn't say this group has been overly hyped this year, but Lions coach Jim Schwartz certainly trusted it with 6 minutes, 23 seconds remaining Sunday at Lambeau Field. Instead of attempting a long field goal or playing for a first down from the Packers' 37-yard line, the Lions punted. The idea was to pin the Packers deep, get a stop and get the ball back in good field position to launch a game-winning drive. But the Lions never got the ball back because they couldn't stop one of the NFL's least-proficient running teams from milking the entire clock. At this point, the Lions' defense very much remains a work in progress.

3. Between-play creativity: The NFL has informed Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen that he can no longer go to the ground as part of his sack dance because it violates NFL rules. Allen reacted with appropriate humor, joking he would use a piece of cardboard to prevent contact with the ground. Allen has been using the same dance for a while, so it's clear that someone recently complained that the league wasn't enforcing its rules fairly. That someone has too much time on his/her hands. Let's find something important to legislate.

RISING

1. Brett Favre's heart rate: The Vikings quarterback has dreamed of playing with receiver Randy Moss for years and was deeply disappointed the Green Bay Packers didn't acquire him from the Oakland Raiders in 2007. He'll finally get his chance. The short-term possibilities are endless for this duo, both of whom will be highly motivated to make history. Ask yourself this question: When Moss burst onto the scene with a five-catch, 190-yard performance at Lambeau Field in October 1998, did you ever think he would one day team up with the opposing quarterback that night?

2. Ted Thompson's confidence: Hours after passing on the opportunity to trade for a legitimate starting tailback, the Green Bay Packers general manager had to endure the news that Moss was likely on the way to providing a jolt for a divisional rival. But as the Vikings were agreeing to give up a third-round draft pick for Moss, Thompson was refusing to do the same to acquire Buffalo Bills tailback Marshawn Lynch. I realize Thompson probably didn't know about the Moss discussions before making a decision on Lynch, but I also doubt it would have changed his mind. Ultimately, the Seattle Seahawks sent a fourth-rounder in 2011 and a conditional 2012 pick for Lynch. Independent of the Moss trade, Thompson must be awfully confident in his current backfield of Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and Dimitri Nance to have passed up what would have been a quite reasonable deal for a 24-year-old starting-caliber runner.

3. Accountability in Chicago: It's impossible to ignore the facts. In four weeks, the Bears have benched their No. 1 cornerback (Zack Bowman), their leading Week 1 receiver (Devin Aromashodu) and one of their long-time mainstays along the defensive line (Tommie Harris). They released defensive end Mark Anderson, have instituted rotations at two offensive line positions and have made clear that, as the kids say these days, they ain't playin'. All 53 Bears players should be on notice. It will be interesting to see if this approach fuels motivated play or spirit-killing uncertainty.

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