Da Bears (3-0):
The class of the NFC North. Sort of. Obviously the best team is not in first place, but all that matters is that little stat called wins and losses.
Cutler beat the Packers so all is good, but when he begins to lose (not if but when) the media and fans will again be critical of the mistakes he makes – interceptions, poor footwork, holds the ball to long, bad receivers. So the last one isn’t his fault, but does it make it any less true?
The saving grace and the reason the Bears could make the playoffs (that’s right) is their schedule. Let me list the next five opponents: Giants, Panthers, Seahawks, Redskins, and Bills. I could see them starting this season 8-0 assuming they don’t stumble. The second half of the year is markedly tougher, but I don’t know if any team has started 8-0 and not made the playoffs.
The Pack (2-1):
I am far more critical of the Bears than I am of the Pack. Green Bay has what will be the best QB in the NFL in two years (Aaron Rodgers) and an aggressive defense.
There are a couple glaring problems with the Packers.
First, what we all witnessed last night. The penalties, offensive line, and special teams. The Packers will not average 18 penalties a night, but they are heavily penalized because they can’t pass block and their defense plays to physical for their own good.
Second, the Pack seem to demolish the weak teams, but struggle with the good to great teams. Aaron Rodgers makes bad defenses look foolish. He completely exploits their weaknesses, and gains a couple touchdown lead almost instantly. When they play good teams they struggle because they are one-dimensional (no run game), and they can’t pass block effectively.
Make no mistake, the Packers are one of the better teams in the league. These mistakes will not change the fact they will most likely make the playoffs, however if left unchanged they will become Green Bay’s demise. This is no Super Bowl contender as currently constructed – both players and scheme.
Every team has holes/problems. Take the Saints for example: no superior running game and a statistically terrible defense. The Saints can still run well enough to keep you honest and incorporate screen passes as almost short handoffs. Meanwhile the defense forces turnovers and is as opportunistic as I have ever seen. That is why they won the Super Bowl.
Back to the Pack (no pun intended), their next two games are against the soon to be 0-4 Lions and the Redskins. Two games I would be amazed if they did not win. Then the road gets a little tougher.
Minnesota Vikings (1-2):
I won’t spend to much time here analyzing the Vikings since I cover them so heavy in other articles.
Truth is the Vikings lost to the Super Bowl champions, should have beat the Miami Dolphins (shoulda, woulda, coulda), and easily handled the Lions.
The pass game is dreadful, but improving. The running game is our offense, and has been extremely successful – thanks Adrian. And the defense has been better than I’ve ever witnessed – I missed the Purple People Eaters’ days. In fact, the defense is allowing only 12.7 PPG, which is good for second best in the NFL.
As of now the Vikings are fighting to stay in playoff contention. Once Sidney Rice returns we will truly be able to assess the Vikings chances of a meaningful playoff run.
Detroit Lions (0-3):
Nothing new here. The Lions sit, or lay if you will, at the bottom of the NFC North.
The Lions are still a mess, but not nearly as big of one as seen the past couple years. Let’s look at the good just to be nice.
They are establishing a young, talented nucleus. They played a couple of close games, and nearly won – one of which was stolen by a bogus rule. And their defensive line is mean and active.
The same cannot be said for the secondary, as they may be the only part of the team regressing. Injuries to Stafford and Best have not helped their offensive attack either.
Detroit is in the position to play as big of a spoiler as they can, but competing for anything meaningful is probably out of the question. Remember how bad the Vikings were three years ago? That’s gotta give the Lions hope.
Check back tomorrow night for news from Winter Park. Also look for players audio in the Podcast section.
*Correction: there will be no practice Wednesday. I will have more next week from Winter Park as the Vikings prepare for the New York Jets. Please check back for NFL Power Rankings and more throughout the weekend.