Wednesday, October 13, 2010
How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch
By Kevin Seifert
1. Backup receivers in Minnesota: Personnel distribution sometimes is a function of individual game-planning decisions, but it sure looks like Bernard Berrian and Greg Camarillo are going to have a hard time getting into the Minnesota Vikings' rotation as long as Randy Moss and Percy Harvin are healthy. Berrian has been a starter since his high-priced arrival in 2008 and Camarillo was acquired this summer from the Miami Dolphins for nickelback Benny Sapp. But Greg Lewis served as the No. 3 receiver in Monday night's game at the New York Jets, and neither Berrian nor Camarillo had a pass thrown his way. According to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, Berrian got 13 snaps and Camarillo was on the field for seven of 62 offensive plays.
2. Fourth-quarter play in Green Bay: ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer pointed out some painful statistics this week: The Packers' offense has scored one touchdown, committed four turnovers and been penalized 15 times in the combined fourth quarters of five games this season. Those numbers are a big part of why they have two last-second losses on their record already, and they don't bode well for long-term success. It's difficult to pinpoint a reason; conditioning, mental toughness and/or general organization are just guesses. But unless the Packers can start building insurmountable leads, they're going to have to find a way to be more efficient at the end of games.
3. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings quarterback: Elbow tendinitis and an ongoing NFL investigation made for a pretty dark week, and they threaten to consume what Favre has said is his final season. The league would like to complete its inquiry as quickly as possible, but there is no formal timetable. At the very least, Favre faces the possibility of an uncomfortable conversation with commissioner Roger Goodell. Discipline, if merited, could range anywhere from a fine to suspension. Aside from that issue, Favre matched the second-lowest completion percentage (41.2) of his career in Monday night's game. It's hard to imagine that tendinitis didn't affect at least some of his 20 incompletions.
Matt Forte rushed for 166 yards and two TDs on Sunday against Carolina.
1. Chicago Bears rushing game: In part because of quarterback Todd Collins' ineffectiveness, the Bears ran a season-high 42 running plays in last Sunday's 23-6 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Starter Matt Forte responded with a career-high 166 yards, while backup Chester Taylor helped run out the clock in the second half. It's hard to imagine offensive coordinator Mike Martz averaging 42 rushing plays per game, especially with starter Jay Cutler (concussion) on track to return to the lineup this Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. But the best offense is a balanced offense -- or, at least, one that has demonstrated the promise of balance. It's a maxim that Martz hasn't always lived by.
2. Upper Midwest medical costs: NFC North teams should be pretty close to fulfilling their deductibles by now. An incredible number of high-profile players have already suffered significant injuries, including all four starting quarterbacks. Usually, it's safe to say that the healthiest team wins a division. This year, however, it might be decided by the quality of depth. Little-noticed decisions could come into major play. Example: The Packers lost tailback Kregg Lumpkin via waivers when they tried to sign him to their practice squad last month. Had he remained with them, Lumpkin probably would have been the best candidate to replace injured starter Ryan Grant.
3. Confidence in Detroit: It had been 15 years since the Detroit Lions enjoyed a 38-plus point victory, and by all accounts, last Sunday was raucous at Ford Field. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has already predicted the Lions won't lose another home game this season, and some fans are calling for Shaun Hill to keep the starting quarterback job even after starter Matthew Stafford returns from a shoulder injury. I think we can recognize the Hill-Stafford "controversy" as silly talk, but it's an opinion driven by excitement rather than depression. Three near-wins followed by a blowout victory have the engines started in Detroit.