Week 3 in the NFC North upended what has been the natural order of things in this division the last few years. A perennial NFC North favorite, the Packers anemic offensive performance against the Lions moved them down in the unfamiliar position of chasing after both the Lions and Bears. Both of those teams made strong statements in support of being the team to beat in the NFC North. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, the Vikings are looking like the NFC North doormats once more.
Green Bay Packers (1-2) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
Can there be a “must-win” game in week four of the season? If there can, this is it for the Packers. The Bears are coming off two straight road wins over the 49ers and the Jets. Most impressive for the Bears (and it pains me to say this), has been Jay Cutler’s handling of pressure, something that has been his unraveling so many times before. As I suspected, Marc Trestman has been the best thing that ever happened to Jay Cutler. Or perhaps having a couple of giant wide receivers can make up for a lot of ills. Whatever it is, the Packers job will be to get pressure on Cutler without having to blitz (paging Mr. Peppers).
After the Packers’ performance in Detroit, I’m surprised they weren’t made to swim across Lake Michigan to get back to Green Bay. Coach Mike McCarthy firmly placed the blame on the players’ performances, but pretty much everyone else (including his quarterback) thought the right in-game adjustments weren’t made. I say there is plenty of blame to go around, and with all the ruckus about this underachieving team, perhaps they break out and destroy a Bears secondary decimated by injuries. Then again, the Lions’ secondary was in similar shape last week and that didn’t seem to matter did it?
Detroit Lions (2-1) at NY Jets (1-2)
After making Aaron Rodgers look pedestrian last week, what do you think the Lions can do to Geno Smith? The Lions had a masterful defensive plan last week, and carried it out with some guys in the secondary who were on the street just a week ago. That’s almost impossible to believe, but yes, it did happen. The Lions were surprised by nothing the Packers did, and certainly inter-division familiarity has a lot to do with that. Frankly, that’s the only chance the Jets have – come out and show the Lions things they’ve never seen from them and then hope Geno Smith doesn’t throw another bunch of interceptions. That and keep using their running backs as receivers, a tactic the Packers should have employed last week.
The Lions offense can expect to have a tough time with the Jets defense. Matt Stafford does indeed rattle under pressure and will make some bad decisions. the Jets, as they showed against the Bears, will bring blitzes like the Lions have never seen before. How they handle that will most likely be the determining factor in this game.
Atlanta Falcons (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-2)
The Vikings traveled to New Orleans last week to face a potent Saints offense and acquitted themselves well on defense, relinquishing only 20 points to Drew Brees and company. The Vikings defense kept them close for most of the game, but the offense, already missing Adrian Peterson, lost starting QB Matt Cassell in the second quarter. Rookie replacement Teddy Bridgewater led the team on two field-goal scoring drives the rest of the way, which wasn’t nearly enough. To make matters worse, TE Kyle Rudolph also went out with agroin injury and will require sports hernia surgery, keeping him out for at least six weeks.
The Falcons come in as a team that loves it’s home cooking, but has big problems on the road, where they are 1-8 in their last nine games. Another sign of hope for the Vikings is that the Falcons come in as one of the worst pass rushing teams in the league, which will be a big boon for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. However, Minnesota still needs to find some semblance of a running game without Peterson, and if they can do that, they have a decent chance at an upset in this game.——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.