Fall football begins: NFC north preview

Fall football begins: NFC north preview

Fall and football. When the air turns crisp and the leaves begin to change,
football is not far behind. It’s time to wear your favorite jersey and turn on the TV.
Sunday afternoons are no longer for homework — the NFL Season has begun.

The beauty of football is in the volatility. The “experts” spend an entire off-
season analyzing every minute movement made in the NFL. They make predictions
with excruciating detail. They even televise the draft live. Then opening week comes
along and turns most every prediction upside down. Here’s a preview of the NFC
North as it stands after the second week of play.

1. Green Bay Packers (1-1)

15-1 last season, the Packers surprised the division and the nation by losing their
season opener to the Redskins. Their secondary play and defensive struggles were
to blame. However, they rolled over their conference rivals the Bears, after an initial
struggle by both teams.

Players to watch:
Aaron Rodgers: Arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the league, it is scary when
Rodgers has the ball. With a talented receiving core composed of all-stars like Greg
Jennings (who was sidelined with a groin injury against the Bears) and veterans like
Donald Driver, Rodgers has targets.

Charles Woodson: The veteran defensive back is the only defensive player to ever
win the Heisman. The Packers moved him to safety from his traditional cornerback
position in their new 3-4 defensive scheme. Against the Bears, Woodson had an
interception and a fumble recovery, proving that age and a new position are no
obstacles to success

2. Chicago Bears (1-1)

Coming off a disappointing season riddled with injuries, the Bears hoped to come
hard out of the gate this season. A shaky start against the Colts in the first quarter
seemed to weigh them down, but then the offense hit its stride. However, offensive
line troubles proved to be their downfall against Green Bay, letting up six sacks and
contributing to Cutler’s four interceptions. Problems with their offensive line have
plagued the Bears in recent years, and they face heavy criticism for not addressing
those concerns in the off-season.

Players to watch:
Jay Cutler/Brandon Marshall: Cutler seems to be fully recovered from the broken
thumb that kept him on the sidelines for the second half of last season. With one of the strongest throwing arms in the league, he now has an old favorite target to look
for. Marshall was his go-to target in Denver and is now his go-to target in Chicago.
Marshall had a breakout game against the Colts but struggled against the Packers
who limited him to just one catch.

Tim Jennings: The ex-Colt cornerback has played two terrific games so far this
season. Three interceptions and nine tackles in two games are stand out statistics. He has
the athleticism and heart to make a difference in a division dominated by receivers
such as Calvin Johnson and Greg Jennings.

3. Detroit Lions (1-1)

The Lions are on an upswing; there is no question about that. They
went to the playoffs last year for the first time since 1999. The real question is
how big of an upswing will it prove to be. They came out with a 27-23 win against
the Rams, then struggled against the 49ers on Sunday. The 49ers picked apart the
Lions’ defense, who were unable to effectively stop San Francisco’s running game or
passing game.

Players to watch:
Calvin Johnson: At 6’5” and 236 pounds, Johnson aka “Megatron” is a force to
be reckoned with. The size of a tight end with the speed of a receiver, he is a dream
target for any quarterback. Against the Rams, Johnson had over 100 receiving yards,
a stat that will no doubt be repeated more than once this season.

Ndamunkong Suh: Suh is every offensive lineman’s nightmare. Big but quick, he is
capable of wreaking havoc in the backfield. And with a reputation of giving non-stop
effort on the line Suh can be hard to stop. Going up against him is intimidating, and
his reputation serves to increase that intimidation factor.

4. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)


The Vikings are coming off a less than impressive season last year and
did not have the start they wanted this year. They beat Jacksonville by a narrow
margin and then fell to the Colts 23-20 on Sunday, the same Colts that the Bears
beat 41-21. Their pass rush is strong but their secondary needs to improve in order
to win games. That along with a struggling offense makes for a rocky start to the
season for the Vikings.

Players to watch:
Adrian Peterson: The Viking’s RB defied the odds recovering from a torn ACL earlier
than expected. In the first week he ran for 80 yards and had two touchdowns.
Against the Colts he wasn’t quite as successful but still rushed for 60 yards. As long
as Peterson stays healthy he could prove to be a difference maker for the Vikings.

Christian Ponder: The Vikings have struggled with the quarterback position ever
since the glory days of Dante Culpepper. Bringing in old veterans such as Favre and
McNabb has not helped them the last few seasons. Halfway through last season,
former first round draft pick Ponder stepped up. Currently he’s playing well, but not
well enough for the Vikings’ needs.