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Around the NFC North

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Around the NFC North

Chicago Bears:  This is no doubt a rebuilding year for the Bears under new General Manager Ryan Pace and Head Coach John Fox.  Last year’s opening roster was the oldest in the league at 27.08 years old. The re-building Bears, after some major shedding of older veteran players, enters opening weekend as the 19th youngest at 26.21 average years. They went from 16 players 30 or over last year, to 9 players 30 or older to open this year’s campaign.

Chicago has major offensive line woes.  The Bears waived former starting right tackle Jordan Mills in their final cut-down.  Charles Leno, Jr. apparently beat Mills out, but Leno himself was extremely shaky.  The collapse of the right tackle position may bring on the highly unusual move of shifting Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long to right tackle the week of the opening game of the season.  The Bears have used Vladimir Ducasse at right guard in the past when Long has shifted outside. The Bears added the Buccaneers’ Patrick Omameh, who started all 16 games at right guard last season, via the waiver wire on Saturday and could be in for extended playing time right away vs. the Packers.  Did you hear that news Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews?   Did ya’?

The Bears have also been without the services of Alshon Jeffery since suffering a calf injury on August 11.  Coupled with the loss of 6th overall pick WR Kevin White (due to a shin injury) it could mean that the Jay Cutler will enter the season without his two preferred wide-outs.  If Jeffery is unavailable for Sunday, Eddie Royal, Josh Bellamy and Marquess Wilson would be the Bears’ top receivers, even though Royal and Wilson have also battled injuries.  With Brandon Marshall jettisoned in the off-season the Bears will need to lean heavily on star RB Matt Forte; and, dare we say it, Jay Cutler.

Rich Campbell, writing in the Chicago Tribune, reminds Bears fans of the daunting task that their team will be facing this upcoming Sunday (noon kickoff) when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers visit the Bears.

“Last season, on the way to his fourth straight NFC North title, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers annihilated the Bears. Twice. Rodgers' first-half numbers from those victories: 31-for-41, 499 yards, eight touchdown passes, zero turnovers.  Overall, Rodgers faced the Bears for 16 possessions over two games and led the Packers to 83 points. Seriously.”, wrote Campbell.

Last Week: Won at home, 24-0 to Cleveland Browns

This week:  At home vs. Packers

Record:  3-1 pre-season

Record in NFC North:  N/A

Detroit Lions:  The Lions reached their mandatory 53-man roster by cutting third string QB Kellen Moore.  Moore was then signed by the Dallas Cowboys.  The Lions also cut former starting tight end Joseph Fauria.  Getting rid of Moore leaves Dan Orlovsky as the only backup to Matthew Stafford.  Fauria was made expendable with the acquisition of TE Tim Wright from the Buccaneers in exchange for K Kyle Brindza.  TE is a weakness for the Lions after a disappointing rookie year turned in by highly touted draft choice Eric Ebron.

The Lions released former Packers player Jeremy Ross this past Saturday.  Ross was their primary return man and who will be taking his place is a mystery.  TJ Jones is one of three or four possibilities for return duties vs. the Chargers.  Ameer Abdullah is the other leading candidate for the job, although Head Coach Jim Caldwell hinted at yet another possibility after practice Monday: Golden Tate.

"There's a possibility (Tate handles punts)," Caldwell said. "He has the ability to do so. So does Lance Moore.”  

Rookie Abdullah was not impressive as a return man in the exhibition games, but was drafted in the second round in part because of his potential to contribute on special teams.  He averaged over 13 yards per punt return at Nebraska in 2012, the final year he was used in that role. That ranked 15th nationally.  Stay tuned.

The Lions will, of course, live and die with the play of QB Matthew Stafford.  The 27-year old had a near perfect pre-season posting a passer rating of 156.3.  But none of that matters anymore as the regular season kicks off for the Lions who travel to the Golden State to face the San Diego Chargers Sunday afternoon.

Last week: Won at home vs. Bills 17-10

This week: At San Diego

Record:  3-1 pre-season

Record in NFC North: N/A

Minnesota Vikings:  Minnesota had ten choices in the 2015 NFL draft and eight made the cut.   Defensive lineman B.J. Dubose, a teammate of Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville became the second of their ten draft picks not make the final roster.  The team also parted ways with offensive lineman Tyrus Thompson.  Both were sixth-round picks.

The Vikings, after years of futility, are comfortable that they have finally landed their quarterback for many years to come in Teddy Bridgewater.  Interesting enough, the three quarterbacks who started the 2013 season on the Vikings roster were roster casualties of other teams this past weekend:  Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman all received their walking papers.  Cassell was later re-signed to the Bills roster.   

Star running back Adrian Peterson was shut down during the pre-season as a precaution against injury.  The opening game of the season will be the first live action with QB Teddy Bridgewater.  Bridgewater prefers to run from the shotgun whereas Peterson has thrived running from the “I”.  Something has to give and we won’t know what until the first live action this coming weekend.

The Vikings open the season on the road where the will take on the San Francisco 49’ers in the late game (9:20 PM Central) on Monday Night Football.

This Week: At San Francisco

Last Week:  Lost at home, 24-17 to Tennessee Titans

Record:  4-1 in pre-season

Place in NFC North:  N/A

Green Bay Packers:  The Packers 2015 draft class was left largely intact when it came to making the roster.  Only DL Christian Ringo was not retained, but was later signed to the practice squad.

Free Agent TE Mitchell Henry was claimed by the Denver Broncos.  The Packers desperately wanted Henry to return to their practice squad and he was negotiating with the team for just such a position when he was informed he was heading to the Mile High City. Former 2014 number-three pick DL Khyri Thornton was also signed onto the New England Patriots roster.

According to PhillyVoice writer Jimmy Kemski the Packers will enter the 2015 campaign as the third youngest team in league based on average age at 25.49 years.  The Rams and the Jaguars are the only clubs younger than Green Bay.  The Packers will only have 6 players who are 30 or over – including James Jones -   and two of them are special teams’ players only (Brett Goode and Mason Crosby).  The others are Aaron Rodgers, John Kuhn and Julius Peppers. This continues a trend where the Pack was the sixth-youngest last year, sixth in 2013 and 5th in 2012.

The Packers open the 2015 campaign in Chicago on Sunday at noon central time.

Interesting stats of the week:   This coming Sunday will mark the 191st meeting between the Bears and the Packers. The Bears have lead the Packers in the all-time series record since 1933.  At one time the Bears lead was up to whopping 23 games.  No longer.

The NFL’s oldest rivalry now stands at 93-91-6.  If things go as planned the series will be a tied on Thanksgiving night in Green Bay while honoring HOF Packers quarterback Brett Favre.  Speaking of Favre, since Favre arriving on the scene in 1992 he has combined with Aaron Rodgers for an astounding 34-13 mark against the Bears.  As for rival Jay Cutler?  Just 1-11 against the Pack.  All you need to know.

Last Week: New Orleans - win 38-10

This Week: At Chicago

Record: 2-2 pre-season

Place in NFC North: N/A


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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (9) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

porupack's picture

One would imagine that the Bears have little to lose because the predictions seem about right; (they don't have a chance) if playing conventional football. Only chance is coming out with some counter-intuitive offense. I would imagine that considering their O-line shambles they are in, and lack of 2 top WRs, we will see heavy dose of RB Forte on screens, and check downs, and run the ball. Fox loves to run, checkdowns, but I think he'll take the risk and let Cutler sling some unexpected deep balls and see if GB is unprepared. Will Pack be ready? Somehow I'm not always confident GB defenses are ready for the RB in passing attack. Will they be ready if Bears take some wild chances downfield hoping Capers expects Bears run and short pass all day?

croatpackfan's picture

I have no doubts Packers will be ready for John Fox... Dom Capers is maybe bigger fox than Fox...

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I'd be amazed if Chicago did not sling a few bombs downfield against any rookie or Hayward, even without their top receivers and having to use Cutler. If they don't, that's surrendering the vertical half of the field like MM surrendered half the field to Sherman in Seattle.

croatpackfan's picture

I think John Fox will be worring more on his players performance, less to his team performance during that game. He will never admit, but I think they already marked that game as loss in their calendar - with Jordy or without him... I think first 5 games will decide Jay Cutler future with Bears...
If they will have chance to win, they will take that, of course... But I expect everything will be on the table - lot of running game - from I formation, shotgun, check down, wheel routes, flanked wide etc..., then fast short passes, some screens, deep balls, even some QB running (Jay Cutler is one of the fastest QB in the league!)...
So, that will be everything they may throw against Packers... Still, I'm confirdent that Packers will win, maybe a little harder than we expect today, but still...

egbertsouse's picture

I hope that Dom comes up with a game plan that has someone other than Barrington covering Forte out of the backfield. If he does that, the D should be OK.

Allan Murphy's picture

You nailed that one bro.

Jersey Al's picture

You could see Nate Palmer in that role. While he's not overly impressive overall, he's much better in coverage than Barrington.

D.D. Driver's picture

"The NFL’s oldest rivalry now stands at 93-91-6. If things go as planned the series will be a tied on Thanksgiving night in Green Bay ...."

I've been waiting a long, long time for this. It seemed like Chicago's lead was insurmountable. I need a sweep.

Bearmeat's picture

It was insurmountable. The Bears owned us in the 80s. But 2 HOF QBs and Head Coaches will catch you up quickly. We were down like 82-60. What a glorious 25 years its been!

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