With the Detroit Lions losing to Arizona, the Bears take sole possession of first place in the NFC North. It’s still too early for that to matter, but the Bears eked out a big game against a divisional rival, which can never be overstated. The Bears haven’t looked impressive overall, but they’ve performed where and when they needed to, and they’ve got the division’s only undefeated record to show for it.
The Vikings are the only team in real trouble at this point, as their two losses both came within the division. That’s a big hole to be in after only two games. Here’s an overview of each team’s performance after the second week of NFL action.
Chicago — 2-0 (1-0)
Detroit — 1-1 (1-0)
Green Bay — 1-1 (0-0)
Minnesota — 0-2 (0-2)
Like last week, this was a tale of two halves. Everything appeared in sync in the first half, but after Reggie Bush went down with an injury, offensive production evaporated. Against Minnesota, Calvin Johnson caught four passes for 37 yards. Against Arizona, Johnson had four catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns — in the first half.
A pick-six by DeAndre Levy and key stops to hold the Cardinals offense to field goals rather than touchdowns were key, but bad penalties and a lack of second-half offense doomed the Lions, whose main issue continues to be self-inflicted damage.
Obviously, the big story going forward is going to be Reggie Bush’s knee. After suffering an injury to his already hobbled left knee in the first half, he continued to play a bit, but was pulled after a fumble on which he was clearly still bothered by the injury. The offense did not score a single point after he left. Bush provides the Lions with an irreplaceable dimension on offense, so his health going forward is going to be key, especially if their second half offense against the Cardinals is a glimpse into the future.
Next Game: 9/22 at Washington (0-2)
The funny thing about the Bears is that the offense line, which was the biggest question for this team coming into the season, looks pretty decent. Jay Cutler had more time to throw against the Vikings than he’s probably used to, and yet the Bears offense still turned the ball over four times.
For years, the Bears have been a team whose defense and special teams support the ineptitude of the offense. This week, that storyline kept mostly true, but for the second straight week, Jay Cutler and the Bears offense came through in the clutch and pulled out the win late. They haven’t been pretty games, but it’s hard to argue with a 2-0 start and first place in the division. This is a team that knows how to win, and they can use all three phases of the game to do it — if not always at the same time.
Next Game: 9/22 at Pittsburgh (0-1, at Cincinnati Monday night)
Green Bay Packers
What can you really say about the Green Bay Packers? They lost to the defending NFC Champion 49ers to start the season, then turned around and beat the daylights out of the next team they saw. The Washington Redskins never stood a chance in this one.
The status of rookie running back Eddie Lacy is worth monitoring this week. He left in the first quarter with an apparent head or neck injury and did not return. As a result, the Packers threw the ball around wherever they wanted in this game. Aaron Rodgers finished the game with 480 yards and four touchdowns. Oh, and James Starks (remember him?) had a touchdown and 132 yards on 20 carries. This is how the Packers’ offense operates: one guy goes down, and his replacement turns out to be a star.
The 1-1 record belies the fact that the Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North.
Next Game: 9/22 vs. Cincinnati (0-1, vs. Pittsburgh Monday night)
That’s a tough loss for the Vikings, who were right there with the Bears for the entire game, but gave up their six-point lead with just seconds remaining. They’re now 0-2 in the NFC North after just two games.
The interesting thing about the Vikings through these first two weeks is that Adrian Peterson looks relatively human. Maybe that’s just a function of people having absurdly high expectations for him, because he still went over 100 yards and continues to be one of the best running backs in football.
But in 2012, Peterson was a superhuman basically carried his entire team to the playoffs. This year so far, he’s just a star player in an otherwise mediocre offense. Still, their game against the Bears showed why both of these teams are to be feared: both teams can score with defense and special teams. There are still serious questions about Christian Ponder, who continues to exhibit inconsistent decision-making skills, but he made some reasonably good plays against a vaunted Bears defense.
Also, safety Harrison Smith is my early pick for All-Pro consideration. The guy is really, really good.
Next Game: 9/22 vs. Cleveland (0-2)