Tuesday, September 29, 2009
How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
Brett Favre’s magic arm: Sunday marked Favre’s 43rd come-from-behind victory or tie in the fourth quarter during his 19-year career. (Some perspective: None of the NFC North’s other quarterbacks -- Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford -- have even played in 43 games.) What Favre did against the 49ers, leading an 80-yard drive with no timeouts, was exactly what the Vikings ponied up $12 million for: To give their good team a chance to be great. Victories like that can be the difference between a 9-7 wild-card team and a 13-3 club that claims home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Roar: It’s been restored, at least for one week. The Lions’ 19-14 victory over Washington allows them to move on to more nuanced points in the development of a program. Next step: Handling success. “A win is a win and we're happy with a win,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “You're never not happy with a win in the NFL. But our expectations need to be higher. We shouldn't be content with a win.” The Lions’ job will get significantly tougher this weekend at Soldier Field.
Nick Roach, Chicago linebacker: After losing his starting job in the offseason, Roach has moved from backup strongside linebacker to starting strongside linebacker to middle linebacker in the course of three weeks. He’s played each position well, most notably keeping the Bears organized in Seattle when middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer left with a rib injury. Hillenmeyer isn’t seriously injured, and strongside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa should return soon. Will Roach find a way to stay on the field? You could make that argument. If nothing else, he’s proved to be the kind of uber-backup every NFL team wants.
Bernard Berrian, Minnesota receiver: Plenty of fans are upset about Berrian’s pair of drops Sunday at the Metrodome, and you can’t have that from your No. 1 receiver. But after watching the full tape of Sunday’s game, I hardly think the game was a total dud for Berrian. He made several plays as well, including a 36-yard catch-and-run to get the Vikings out of some bad field position. I would be more worried if he was still dropping passes at midseason.
Aaron Rodgers’ legs: The Green Bay quarterback took off eight times, gaining 38 yards and scoring a touchdown Sunday in St. Louis. The runs were positive and helped move the ball down the field, but ultimately I think he did it to relieve the early pass-rush pressure he was feeling. I don’t mind Rodgers running every now and then, but it’s not a permanent solution to the Packers’ pass protection issues. The Packers are best when he’s throwing downfield from the pocket.
Losing: We banished it from the Black and Blue, at least for one week. Every NFC North team won in a single week for the first time since November 2005. The division has a combined 8-4 record, tied with the big, bad NFC East for best collective division record in the NFL. There have been seasons when the national football conscience has considered the NFC North part of the CFL. That won’t be the case in 2009. We’re winning, and often we’re winning in dramatic fashion. Already half of our 12 games have been decided by less than a touchdown.