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Friday, September 12, 2008
Audibles: NFC North Week 2 preview


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Chicago Bears (1-0) vs. Carolina Panthers (1-0), 1 p.m. ET

Carolina receiver Steve Smith has burned plenty of teams, but perhaps none moreso than Chicago. He made a career-high 14 receptions against the Bears in 2005 and then amassed a career-high 218 receiving yards in a playoff victory at Solider Field two months later.

So there aren't many Chicagoans shedding a tear that Smith is suspended for Sunday's matchup between the teams. His absence is one less point of concern for a defense that still must contend with invigorated Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme and, overall, a more balanced attack than the one it stuffed last week in Indianapolis.

Muhsin Muhammad, D.J. Hackett and Dwayne Jarrett won't scare anyone the way Smith does. But the Panthers have a formidable 1-2 punch of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the backfield. The Bears seem confident they are for real after walloping the Colts on opening night, and a victory at Carolina would cement that thought.

Green Bay Packers (1-0) vs. Detroit Lions (0-1), 1 p.m. ET

Panic (or is it resignation?) has hit Detroit in Week 2. Can the Lions really be as bad as they appeared last weekend in Atlanta?

The Lions took the loss seriously, enacting a series of lineup changes in preparation for a home opener that would have been blacked out had a local furniture store not snapped up 3,100 tickets or so at the last minute. But it might not be enough against a Packers team that looked pretty well-rounded Monday night against Minnesota.

The Packers are treating tailback Ryan Grant's hamstring with extra care, and it's possible he won't play Sunday. We can only wonder if they would take the same approach against a defense that didn't give up 318 rushing yards a week earlier.

There is one matchup to watch. The Lions have two excellent receivers and the Packers have two well-respected cornerbacks. One, however, has a fractured toe. Unless something changes, the Packers' Charles Woodson will have to defend either Roy Williams or Calvin Johnson with nine healthy toes. The injury isn't considered serious, but the Lions' duo is tough enough to defend against with 10 toes.

Indianapolis Colts (0-1) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0-1), 1 p.m. ET

Earlier this week, someone asked Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell if he had any reservations about quarterback Tarvaris Jackson's sprained right knee.

Bevell's tongue-in-cheek-response: "No, not about his knee. Maybe his mind and what kind of decisions he's making to slide and get down and protect us. His knee looked OK."

Bevell's gallows humor referred to Jackson's perplexing unwillingness to slide at the end of scrambles. But it also appropriately reflects the Vikings' predicament: They need their quarterback to rebound from a shaky season debut. Now. Unchecked, Jackson's questionable decision-making and sub-par accuracy could derail his team's push for the NFC North title.

Jackson should get plenty of help from his running game Sunday against Indianapolis, who waived nose tackle Ed Johnson during the week and don't have the personnel to stand up against the interior of the Vikings' offensive line. Tailback Adrian Peterson should be in line for a big game, but Jackson will have to do a better job of keeping the defense honest by providing a consistent passing threat.