Tuesday, November 3, 2009
How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
1. Ted Thompson, Green Bay general manager: It wasn’t a good week to be the Packers' official ultimately responsible for sending quarterback Brett Favre on his way. Favre has led an NFC North rival to a 7-1 start, and in the process he has nearly eliminated the Packers from contention for a division title. Thompson’s own roster has proved dangerously thin at some positions, most notably offensive line and running back. The situation has prompted the midseason signings of veteran free agents Mark Tauscher and Ahman Green. For a personnel chief who prides himself on developing his own young depth, both were revealing moves. Thompson’s narrow philosophy of team-building is being tested.
2. Dominic Raiola, Detroit center: Usually a reliable veteran presence, Raiola doesn’t seem to get the unfortunate reality of fan relations. In a nutshell, there’s no arguing with them. No matter how nasty the criticism gets, it goes with the territory of being a professional athlete. (And trust me, Detroit fans are pretty average when it comes to nastiness.) After confronting some Lions fans Sunday, Raiola said he doesn’t want them getting to rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford like they did to former Lions quarterback Joey Harrington. That’s another misread by Raiola: It’s up to Stafford to ignore the jeers, not for the fans to stop. If he’s like Harrington, unable to block it out, then he wasn’t destined to have a successful career in the first place.
3. Johnny Jolly, Packers defensive lineman: His inexcusable head-butt of Minnesota tailback Chester Taylor in the first quarter Sunday helped Minnesota to an additional four points. It didn’t cost the Packers the game, but it played a big role in the Vikings taking the Lambeau Field crowd out of the game early on. Worse, Jolly expressed no remorse immediately afterward. Jolly has been playing well this season, but I hope he realizes how loyal the Packers were following a 2008 arrest in Houston. (Felony drug issues were eventually dismissed.) Jolly needs to work harder at returning the favor.
1. Minnesota’s Triangle of Authority: The “TOA” was once a sarcastic description for the Vikings’ cumbersome leadership structure that included coach Brad Childress, vice president/football operations Rob Brzezinski and vice president/player personnel Fran Foley and later Rick Spielman. But with the support of owner Zygi Wilf, the TOA built a talent-studded team that has started 7-1 and is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. In Sunday’s victory over Green Bay, the Vikings got key contributions from three players -- quarterback Brett Favre, receiver/kick returner Percy Harvin and defensive end Jared Allen -- who were all either drafted, signed, or traded for in the past two years.
2. Chicago’s secondary: We’ve questioned the Bears’ defensive backs since training camp, but Sunday they fulfilled the mission of a Lovie Smith defense: Create havoc. Safety Danieal Manning forced two turnovers, including a diving interception and a strip/fumble recovery of Browns tight end Steve Heiden. Cornerback Charles Tillman also was in on two turnovers, recovering a fumble and returning an interception 21 yards for a touchdown. The Bears might continue to give up yards in the passing game this season, but they could certainly mitigate the damage by coming up with multiple turnovers in the secondary.
3. Cliff Avril, Detroit defensive end: Yes, I’m fully aware the Lions absorbed an inglorious loss at home to previously winless St. Louis. But Avril should be recognized as the only Lions player who had field awareness on the Rams’ fake field goal, which ultimately resulted in Josh Brown’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Fells. Avril, a defensive end, chased Fells across the field. He was unable to make the tackle near the sideline, but give him some credit for recognizing the Rams made no attempt to actually kick what would have been a 54-yard field goal attempt.