If you watched the Detroit Lions/Minnesota Vikings game on Sunday, then you’re already aware of how at least half the NFC North fared in the NFL’s opening week.
Still, let’s have a look at the rest of the Black and Blue Division.
Detroit — 1-0 (1-0)
Chicago — 1-0 (0-0)
Green Bay — 0-1 (0-0)
Minnesota — 0-1 (0-1)
Technically, Detroit has sole possession of first place in the division, being the only team with a divisional win. But it’s probably a little too soon to start figuring out the playoff picture. Instead, we’ll take a quick look at how each team started the season.
Despite the “Lions-like” first half, in which the team consistently put itself in a position to succeed then failed to capitalize, the end result was a win against the Vikings that looked almost dominant. Reggie Bush is exactly the player the Lions signed him to be, the offensive line was better-than-advertised, and the defensive line played two yards beyond the line of scrimmage the whole game.
Lots of good stuff came together to beat a 2012 playoff team and bottle up the reigning league MVP, but the team has to limit those game-changing mistakes. It’s those things that keep them from beating elite teams, regardless of talent level.
Next Game: 9/15 at Arizona (0-1)
The Bears look to be exactly the team people expected. An intermittently effective offense that keys on Matt Forte and the Jay Cutler/Brandon Marshall, and a defense that is a much greater threat. Despite Cincinnati’s A.J. Green coming up with a two-touchdown day, cornerback Charles Tillman snagged two interceptions on passes meant for Green, and Tim Jennings pitched in with two forced fumbles.
This continues to be a team that keys on its defense, especially on turnovers. However, perhaps the most impressive part of the game for the Bears is the fact that Jay Cutler was not sacked, a trend that will need to continue for the Bears to keep winning.
Next Game: 9/15 vs. Minnesota (0-1)
Green Bay Packers
It’s really hard to fault the Packers for losing a close game to last year’s NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, but the fact that young Colin Kaepernick appeared to outperform perennial MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers should put the NFC on notice. The Packers will always be dangerous with their passing offense, but against the 49ers, many of the issues they had last year (and in many recent years) were as prevalent as ever.
With all due respect to the 49ers offense, the Packers appear incapable of defense. Anquan Boldin had 208 receiving yards against them, or roughly 23 percent of his entire stat line in Baltimore last season. Colin Kaepernick, talented as he may be, was starting his first season opener, and would likely not have been able to put up 400 yards on a championship-caliber defense (like that belonging to his own team, for instance).
Meanwhile, rookie Eddie Lacy, who was expected to revitalize the run game, averaged less than three yards per carry, and Aaron Rodgers is now the team’s second-leading rusher. Granted, the 49ers have a notoriously stout run defense, so maybe this was too tough an initial test. But if this game is an indication, it looks like the Packers are going to rely on Rodgers’ arm to win them a lot of shootouts this year.
Next Game: 9/15 vs. Washington (0-1)
People will talk about Adrian Peterson’s three touchdowns, and his fantasy owners are no doubt thrilled with his performance. But after his outstanding 78-yard touchdown romp to start the game, he posted less than 20 yards for the remaining 55 minutes of the game. Sure, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry in the game, but after the long touchdown run, he averaged less than one yard per carry for the rest of the game, never breaking more than seven yards. Whether that says more about the Lions’ defensive front or the Vikings’ offensive line, it’s to early to say, but it’s not Peterson’s fault.
If this team is going to replicate its 2012 success, it is going to need to play better in all phases. Peterson can carry the team a long way, but the defense allowed the Lions to move the ball almost at will (though they stood strong when backed up in their own territory), and Christian Ponder has been in the league too long to be making the kinds of mistakes he made last weekend. They’ll need to bounce back immediately against the Bears, or they’ll fall into a 0-2 divisional hole with two games against the Packers still on the docket.
Next Game: 9/15 at Chicago (1-0)