NFC North: Stock Down

Jeff RobbinsContributor IDecember 21, 2009

When it comes to pop culture, I am as loyal as they come.

I was one of the few people who kept watching The Facts of Life even after Mrs. Garrett left.

And while I appreciate Lost wrapping up its convoluted but fascinating run this season, I would stay tuned for many more years, long beyond the point of cultural relevancy.

Hey, I still watch Survivor, and that’s been culturally irrelevant for as long as John Kerry.

But I still love the show, and its most recent season, Survivor: Samoa, which ended Sunday night, was one of its best.

But again, this season’s finale fell victim to the same fatal flaw that has befallen many other seasons: The jury, suffering from hurt feelings, refuses to give the money to the strategic player (i.e. Russell) who schemed to vote out most of the jurors, and instead gives the $1 million to the nicer player who did little more than ride on the more strategic player’s coattails (i.e. Natalie).

Natalie didn’t deserve to be crowned the winner of Survivor: Samoa.

Earning their prize on the same day as Natalie, the Minnesota Vikings seemed to be no more deserving of being crowned the winner of the NFC North.

It was a horrible day for the NFC North, but especially for the division leader. Whoops, I mean winner. (Hard for me to put “Minnesota Vikings” and “winner” in the same thought.)

Let’s go through what the teams did on Sunday and what we can expect from them moving on:



1. Minnesota Vikings. I didn’t buy into the hype that Sunday night’s game was that important for the Vikings.

Yes, a victory would have put them one game behind the Saints for the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but the Vikings still would have to count on the Saints losing one of their last two while the Vikings would have to win their remaining two. And (Hello, Tampa Bay!) I don’t think the Saints will lose again.

Also, the Vikings are a dome team. The Saints are a dome team. I don’t feel that, if the teams were to meet in the playoffs, home field advantage would be that important. Both teams, like Chuck E. Cheese’s, are built for indoor fun.

And, for what it’s worth, the Vikings in recent years have owned the Saints. No, the Saints haven’t always been good. But neither have the Vikings.

The Vikings certainly didn’t look good Sunday night. Their vaunted offensive line looked as bad as the Packers O-Line did in October. Brett Favre was hit more often than Edward Norton in Fight Club. Adrian Peterson couldn’t run the ball (again), and their defense allowed the Panthers’ backup quarterback to torch them and their backup running back to slash them.

And if their play on the field wasn’t bad enough, now Chilly Childress and Favre are having a lovers’ spat over whether Favre should have been benched in the third quarter. Tired of watching Favre get sacked by Julius Peppers, Childress supposedly wanted Favre out, saving the old man for more important games down the road. Favre apparently refused and stayed in.

What’s important here is not if Childress was right to bench Favre. (He was. Even Tavaris Jackson couldn’t have played worse than Favre Sunday night.) What’s important is that Childress was overruled by Favre.

When a player can overrule a coach—and do so in such a public manner—you got problems. Right now the Vikings got problems.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: It’s December and Favre is running out of magic. And so are the Minnesota Vikings.



2. Green Bay Packers. Unlike the Vikings loss, I don’t see any red flags coming out of the Packers’ loss to Pittsburgh.

Yes, the highly-touted Packers defense allowed the Steelers to amass an incredible 537 yards of offense.

Yes, the Packers allowed the Steelers to win the game on an 81-yard drive with only 1:54 left to play.

Yes, Mason Crosby missed another chip shot field goal that proved crucial.

But this game had the stench of a loss long before Mike Wallace (was Morely Safer on the IR?) secured both feet in-bounds with no time left on the clock.

The Steelers came into this game a wounded animal known for playing up or down to their level of competition. Though the loss was heartbreaking, the Packers did many things right: They kept the penalties down (7 for 53 yards). The offensive line continued its strong play as Aaron Rodgers was sacked only once. And Rodgers continued his stellar play.

No doubt any Packers fan watching the performances of Rodgers and Favre on Sunday was happy they had Rodgers in green and gold.

With games against Seattle and Arizona (with the 49ers loss on Sunday, the Cardinals likely will have nothing to play for in week 17) on the horizon, the Packers are in very good shape and look to be the most dangerous team in the division come January.



3. Chicago Bears. Same old story for the Not-So-Scary Monsters of the Midway: Bad defense (31 points to Baltimore Sunday); awful quarterback play (Jay Cutler was 10-for-27 for 94 yards and three picks for a 7.9 QB rating on Sunday); and continued disappointing production from Matt Forte (69 yards rushing and a lost fumble).

It’s hard to imagine the Bears being good any time soon. Although with how Minnesota has been playing outdoors lately, the Bears beating Minnesota next Monday night suddenly doesn’t seem like such an impossibility.



4. Detroit Lions. Make all the jokes you want about the Lions, but this team took the Arizona Cardinals—a team who had plenty to play for at game time—deep into the fourth quarter. And that was with their starting QB and starting RB out with injuries (Watching Daunte Culpepper play quarterback is as stomach-churning as finding a toenail in your McChicken).

If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy next year, would it be too surprising to see the Bears owning the NFC North cellar starting in 2010?

That is, if the Vikings can stay out of it. 


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