Marquee Quarterback Fun: The NFC North After Three Weeks
The NFC North has been the subject of the limelight in the media since this summer's colossal Quarterback shakeups. With the addition of Jay Cutler to the Bears, the number one draft pick Matthew Stafford to the Lions, and the re-addition of Brett Favre to the division with the Vikings (honestly, it still feels weird to not write Packers following the name "Brett Favre").
After three weeks of regular season, I would like to take a moment to analyze the play of the division, especially as it relates to the three new starting Quarterbacks in the division.
Most people are starting to come off their criticisms of Favre and rejoining the "you just got Favred" bandwagon. As he showed in the final seconds of the game against San Francisco, he can still get the ball in the spots it needs to be in downfield.
While this nailbiting win validated Coach Childress' obsession with Favre to most, I remain a cautious skeptic. I know Favre is a future Hall of Famer, and an elite Quarterback. I also know, however, that he is about to turn 40 and has been getting banged up in the backfield.
Teams seem to understand what the critics were screaming all offseason - Favre won't make it through the stretch if this continues. As teams continue to disrupt Favre, both with sacks and knockdowns, his status as an "ironman" will cease and he will have to sit it out.
I admire his fire and love of the game, and would never take that or his obvious talent away from the guy. All I am saying is that he has to be realistic about the wear and tear of a full season (plus offseason, as this is a team with strong Super Bowl aspirations, as well as the talent to be a serious contender) and his age.
Should he falter down the stretch (as I am inclined to think he will), the guys who will have to step up in his stead are the same two guys who were told that they would be competing for the starting job all summer. The issue here is loyalty from receivers.
Obviously, they wouldn't want to underperform, as it hurts their chances of having a job in Minnesota or anywhere else in the league - however, the chemistry will be lacking with the receiving corps as trust issues surface.
Don't worry Viking fans, your team is out to an early lead in the division, and is one of seven undefeated teams in the NFL after three weeks. My only concern for your team is Childress' willingness to put the entire season into the Brett Favre basket without regard to the structural integrity of that basket.
Well, I know everyone everywhere agrees that picking up Jay Cutler fills a void that has been present in Chi-Town since Sid Luckman. I disagree. Sounds crazy, I know. There is logic here, so just hear me out. I like Cutler's talent, I really do. He throws a great deep ball, and can get mobile when necessary.
However, he also has a penchant for being a drama queen. There isn't a nicer way to put that, sorry. As it turns out, he is only in Chicago because he likes to whine so much. The reason that this is cause for alarm is simple - Chicago has a knack for having extraordinary talent on their roster and still losing.
If Chicago gets to a .500 record this season, not only will Cutler prove that last year's 8-8 in Denver was not just a poor outing by the defense, but that his propensity to think with his arm and not his head played a role.
I also believe that Cutler's whining killed his chance to be an elite, even potentially a future Hall of Fame candidate Quarterback. Following the departure of Mike Shanahan, New England's offensive genius and Quarterback guru Josh McDaniels came to take his place. If I am Jay Cutler, I relish the opportunity to work under McDaniels - seriously.
This is the man who helped make Tom Brady a record setting quarterback in 2007, and also the man who took Matt Cassel from a name on the roster to a 11-5, franchise tagged Quarterback.
My God, whatever Cutler thought about McDaniels sniffing out his trade value, stick it out and just let your new boss know that you are excited about his track record with QB's and maximizing their talent.
Back to the Bears. Cutler is doing a good job in making an average group of receivers look great. Hester is coming along nicely, and Cutler is getting better at putting the ball in spots where Hester can use his speed as an advantage. Rookie Wide Receiver Knox is Cutler's new Eddie Royal, which is good for the Bears.
However, as Bears fans are painfully aware, the ugly Cutler can kill. Were it not for the ugly (not a personal attack folks, its more of a "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" reference, and we have seen the Good and Ugly, but not the Bad yet - most likely to come in Week four or possibly five), Chicago could be looking at 3-0, and a two way tie for first in the division. Yet, they sit at a respectable 2-1, but in a disappointing third within the division.
Lions fans rejoice! The second longest losing streak in the NFL is over. Not too much to say here, as Matt Stafford is a rookie, and so far I have only seen him in three games. So far, so good though. He is making mistakes (which is not bad, as they are rookie mistakes, nothing to indicate experience won't improve his game), but more importantly, he has not made the same mistake twice so far.
Each game he plays, he accepts a larger role in the offense. With a running game taking a good deal of burden off Stafford, I doubt they will end the season with just the one win. More on the Lions as we see more from them.
Green Bay Packers
Wow. Talk about a 180 from the preseason. The Packers looked invincible with their first string players in the preseason. Now, they are struggling to find answers along the O-line, and cannot seem to get into a rhythm on offense as a result. Aaron Rogers is the key to making the Packers offense.
The Packers will get Grant back into sync and develop the run after Rogers can open up the pass. The strategy is realistic, wherein the pass opens up the run, instead of the lie most teams try selling about the run opening the pass game (except maybe the 49ers and Vikings, who would be telling the truth).
Still, 2-1 is a fairly good start for the Packers, and they remain second in the division after besting the Bears on opening weekend. Expect the Packers to focus their efforts on pulling their O-line together and keeping Rogers upright in the pocket - and also to take the lead in the division as they play their first "Eff You" game against Brett Favre and the Vikings.
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