Five Story Lines for the NFC North
The NFC North was projected to be one of the best divisions in football. Through the first month, things have taken some interesting twists and turns. The Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings are both in first place with a 3-1 record while the Green Bay Packers are a game behind at 2-2. The Detroit Lions bring up the rear at 1-3. Going into the season, many would have reversed these standings with the Bears in third and the Vikings in fourth. However, the Vikings appear to be the team on the rise and the Lions are in total disarray. The Packers have plenty of weapons and despite a horrific ending in Seattle, aren't playing the type of football we'd expect out of the defending division champions. The Bears are two different teams. There's times where they look like a Super Bowl contender, but other times they can make countless mistakes. Even at 3-1, they haven't quite put it all together. It certainly will be an interesting October for these four squads. The Vikings want to keep their momentum going while the Packers and Lions want to get better. The Bears want to find their mojo and continue doing the things well that were expected entering the season. I still think this is one of the league's best divisions, but it may come from an unlikely source in the Vikings. I'd love to know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @ChicagoBearJew and Hashtag #RML.
Is the Madden Curse for real? Well Calvin Johnson hasn't been injured, but his performance on the field is below expectations. Through four games, he has one touchdown catch. This doesn't bode well for the Lions. They rely on Johnson's playmaking abilities on offense, and with Johnson only having one tally for a touchdown, it has to be a concern. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has three touchdown passes and four interceptions. He isn't helping the cause. If the Lions continue to underachieve this season, is head coach Jim Schwartz on the hotseat? I would say it is getting bit warm in the Motor City.
The Packers are a dangerous offensive football team. Greg Jennings is a major reason for it. Entering the season, Jennings wanted to get paid. Now he has an injured groin. Regardless of the other weapons the Packers employ, Jennings is Aaron Rodgers' favorite target and a dangerous weapon. Without Jennings being 100 percent, we're not seeing the explosiveness from the Packers. Can that change? Sure, Head Coach Mike McCarthy is a good one and will figure some things out. But through the first month, the Packers look human. I'm thinking that not having Jennings at 100 percent plays a role in this problem.
Jay Cutler & Brandon Marshall
Jay Cutler has had another boring season. He hasn't been seen on National Television shoving a teammate or running away from a coach. OK, so I jest. But Cutler is the Bears quarterback and one of the league's most scrutinized players. He brings plenty of this upon himself, but he also does get watched under a microscope at times. Last Monday night, Brandon Marshall finally showed Bears fans the type of receiver he can be. The Bears also have a strong running attack. The defense has been dominant and a turnover creating machine. At 3-1, the Bears appear to be the class of the NFC North. It's early, but fans in Chicago have a lot to be excited about.
Former 1985 Chicago Bear Leslie Frazier was a great cornerback before a knee injury shortened his career. And despite some sub-par years with the Vikings, he's stuck around. Quietly he is the frontrunner for NFL Coach of the Year. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. He has the Vikings playing tough defense and a solid brand of offense that doesn't make many mistakes. Considering no one had the Vikings even in the team photo this year, it is quite a nice story.
Because the national press isn't, I am going to continue to give the Vikings some love. Christian Ponder is quietly one of the league's most consistent quarterbacks. While he doesn't have flashy numbers, he doesn't turn the ball over and finds the endzone. He is one of the major reasons for the Vikings sitting at 3-1. As a Bears fan, I am starting to think the Vikings are for real. And with the Packers loaded with talent and the Lions somewhat dangerous, The NFC North is a scary land full of dangerous animals, hunters and explorers.