NFC North Know-It-All 10/8/13


Sep 22, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) throws a pass against the New England Patriots during the first quarter of a game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The spotlight shined on the NFC North this week as the Minnesota Vikings signed free agent quarterback Josh Freeman during their bye week. The Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers squared off in Lambeau Field for the Packers first NFC North game of the season. So what did we learn this week? And how does this effect the Bears?

NFC North Standings

Detroit Lions: 3-2 (2-1 in division)

Chicago Bears: 3-2 (1-1 in division)

Green Bay Packers: 2-2 (1-0 in division)

Minnesota Vikings: 1-3 (0-2 in division)

Green Bay Packers

The Packers hosted the Detroit Lions on Sunday in their first NFC North game of the season. The odds were in Green Bays’ favor as the Lions haven’t won a game in Lambeau Field since 1991. After a rocky start, the Packers shut down the Lions 22-9.

Eddie Lacy returned from his concussion suffered in Week 2 against the Washington Redskins. He finished the game with 23 carries and 99 rushing yards. This is exactly what the Green Bay Packers expected out of the young back. Lacy didn’t look like he lost a step from his short injury break.

Randall Cobb made a surprising appearance in the backfield to shock the Lions defense with a 67-yard run. It was just his fourth snap from the backfield this season, but sparked the Packers offense. Cobb’s long run was the longest by a Packer since Brandon Jackson’s 71-yard run in Game 5 of the 2010 playoffs. Head coach Mike McCarthy loves how versatile Randall Cobb is, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him take a snap at running back once a game every game for the rest of the season. One thing is for sure, after the Packers backfield performance on Sunday, McCarthy was extremely pleased with the Packers run game. Whatever you saw in the game against the Lions is what you should expect from the Packers backfield from now on.

Clay Matthews injury woes got a lot worse on Sunday, as Matthews suffered a broken thumb on Sunday. Since their Super Bowl run, it seems the Packers defense is the part of the team that’s been holding them back from going further in the playoffs. Last year, Green Bay couldn’t do anything about Colin Kaepernick’s duel threat abilities. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Matthews did have surgery on this thumb on Monday, and will be out at least one month. Mike Vandermause, Packers beat reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, gives his insight as to who might be stepping up until Matthews returns.

Green Bay takes a field trip to Baltimore where they will face the reigning Super Bowl champions in the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at noon.

Detroit Lions

As I said before, the Lions took a trip to Wisconsin in hopes to climb atop the NFC North. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned.

The fantasy football world was rocked by the news of Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson made inactive for Sundays game. With Megatron out, quarterback Matthew Stafford needed others to step up in his absence. Having another reliable wide out has been a huge ongoing issue for these Lions battling for the top of the NFC North division. On Sunday, eight different receivers had two receptions or more. The Lions offense never looked fluent or consistent. At some points, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan lined Reggie Bush as a wide out. Even worse, the red-zone was a nightmare and was only found once by Stafford (to Kris Durham). Good news for Lions fans is that Megatron said his absence should be short.

For the defensive side of the ball, the Lions defensive is proving to be remarkably better than it was one year ago. Detroit made consistent stops in the red-zone and a ton of correct reads on the Packers wide receiving core. Ultimately, the Lions held Aaron Rodgers to just one touchdown pass.

In Week 6, the Detroit Lions head to Cleveland to face the Browns on Sunday at noon. The Browns still undefeated without running back Trent Richardson, but they will be stuck playing with Brandon Weeden at quarterback.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings got to sit back and relax on their sole bye week of the season.

This week America turned their attention to the Minnesota. Sunday night the Vikings signed former Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman to a one-year deal. Freeman was drafted by the Bucs and has been their starting quarterback since the 2009 season. To correct some rumors going around, Freeman will be getting paid just under $3 million dollars for the remainder of the season. And the Vikings are not going to pay him to sit on the bench. I call to question: was Christian Ponder really injured in Week 4 or was he benched? I can’t help but take the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers as Matt Cassel’s tryout. Even then, the Vikings front office saw an upgrade to Ponder in Freeman. It’s a solid pick up. Freeman is better than Ponder, statistically, in almost every category except interceptions. For almost every touchdown Ponder has thrown, he’s thrown an interception to marry statistically speaking. Head coach Leslie Fraizer said that Freeman will not start in Week 6, but I anticipate a Week 7 appearance.

Whether it’s Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel, the Vikings will look to get their second win of the season against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Minnesota at noon on Sunday.