Cory's Corner: The NFC North Is Full Of Gristle

There is a lot to be excited about. 

According to the NFL, the Packers are only the fourth team in NFL history to score more than 80 points and rack up more than 1,000 yards of offense in the first two games. 

This time it was Aaron Jones who sliced through the toothless Lions defense to the tune of a career-high 168 rushing yards and three total touchdowns as the Packers destroyed the Lions 42-21 on Sunday in front of an empty Lambeau Field. 

Aaron Rodgers threw it to eight different receivers — technically nine if you count the batted ball that Rodgers snatched out of midair late in the fourth quarter. 

The offense looks locked and loaded right now. 

However, there's one problem: the NFC North is terrible. The first two games of the season were supposed to be a decent test for Green Bay. Many picked Minnesota to win the division and Detroit's Matthew Stafford was the trendy pick to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award. 

However, the Vikings couldn't stop the pass in Week 1 vs. Green Bay and couldn't stop the run this past week in Indianapolis. There's not much to say about Detroit, except the Lions continue to lose in classic Lions fashion. Similarly to Minnesota, the Lions have an inexperienced secondary and veteran quarterbacks will pick this team apart.

And yes, I know Chicago is 2-0. However, Mitchell Trubisky is 28th in the league in completion percentage — which happens to be just ahead of Kirk Cousins at 29. (And for what it's worth, Stafford is No. 31). Trubisky and the Bears will come back down to earth eventually. 

That's why this week's game is so important. The Saints are one of the best teams in the NFC. They have an elite quarterback that is hungry for another Super Bowl before he rides off into the sunset. And it's even more interesting because Lousisiana officials have given the green light for the Saints to have fans at the Sunday night game. That stadium is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL and now with rowdy fans in the stands, this game just got ratched up a notch.  

I do like what I've seen from the offense, mainly from Rodgers. He has fired darts even when his wideouts have had issues with drops. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is tied for first in the NFL with three drops but Rodgers has continued to look his way. That's the one thing that really sticks out to me. In an offseason in which everyone, including myself, was screaming for receiver help, Rodgers is trusting his guys. That early season trust will likely pay big dividends later on when home field advantage is a double move away. 

The Packers are doing great things right now. But I want to see if they can continue it in New Orleans — away from the flabby NFC North. 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (57)

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DragonSilk's picture

September 22, 2020 at 06:45 am

It's still too early to tell who's who in the 2020 season. The Saints just got carved up by Derek Carr. Derek Carr. He threw 3 TD's and could have had 5 if he hadn't missed 2 wide open guys for TD's. Kamara is going to be a challenge but If Michael Thomas misses The Packers game that should make dealing with him a little easier.

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arthurl's picture

September 22, 2020 at 07:53 am

I like where the Packers are right now. It seems the second year in their offensive system, they appear more fluid on offense. They have that balance it would appear between run and pass. Their OL play has been excellent and overall execution very good. They have room for improvement if they can cleanup those dropped passes. As for the defense the thing that could hold them back is their weak DL. Outside of that position there are no weaknesses on defense. They have locked down enough to give the ball back to the offense. The Saints definitely represent a legit challenge so that will be fun to watch.

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JerseyCheese's picture

September 22, 2020 at 07:54 am

Nice post! I agree, I don't think we'll know who the real "contenders" are until at least week five or six. You can say the Saints will be a real test for the Packers, but they just lost to the Raiders. Then you can argue that the Raiders are for real! It's just way too early to know who's good and who's not.

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Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:12 am

Saints seem to struggle on D too. We came in to last week expecting the pass to be the weapon and then ran all over Detroit. Offensively it’s good that we seem to be effective both ways. To me the big question is did our D really figure it out as the last game went on or were they just flattered, because pressure and stopping the run will be critical against the saints.

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nostradanus's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:02 am

Great start for the Pack! If you are going to start 2 & 0 do it in your own division, that’s a BIG advantage moving forward.

It’s early but, dontcha love being 2 & 0 on Monday morning!!!!!

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:03 am

I’m not ready to say the North is terrible. Bears have a really good defense and they’ve gutted out two wins.

Saints defense didn’t look like they’re going to slow us down much. They couldn’t get off the field against the Raiduhs.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 22, 2020 at 09:58 am

Yep, way too early for any Conference wide declarations.

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dobber's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:07 am

"However, there's one problem: the NFC North is terrible. "

Yes, but the NFC South and AFC South -- the two divisions on the Packers schedule -- are packed with teams billed as playoff contenders (Houston, Tennessee, Indy, Tampa, NO, Atlanta). That's where the meat in the schedule will come from. The Packers will challenged plenty before this season is out. It doesn't matter to me that the NFCN looks weak: win your division, defend home field, get to the playoffs, make some noise.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 09:56 am

Defend your home field, win the division, and get to the playoffs. That’s been the path for 50 years.

I would add “ keep your QB healthy. Rodgers threw 30 times and we scored over 40; Mahomes threw over 40 times and scored 23. Every time I see Rodgers take a hit I wince because he’s absolutely necessary to any Super Bowl plan.

So I love to see our young, cheap, guys take the beating while we’re moving the ball.

We scored 42 with Adams on the sideline. Fortunately, the remaining WRs didn’t look like a bottom 5 unit of jags and garbage, as they’ve been characterized. I don’t think Rodgers got sacked once and only took a couple of hits.

This is the offense I have wanted to see for a long time.

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scullyitsme's picture

September 22, 2020 at 02:31 pm

So when the receivers sucked last year we didn’t need them( while we watched the Super Bowl at home) now the receivers and Rodgers look better this year we need a passing game? Way to keep flipping. Run the ball back to the 60’s if I remember right.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 04:12 pm

Dude. We’re the #1 rushing team in the NFL after two weeks. Our RBs got over 40 touches last week. We have no sacks and no turnovers. Rodgers isn’t getting beat up.

No flip here. Run more, throw less, win the time of possession and keep your QB healthy.

And our receivers didn’t suck last year, either. Same top three this year as last year.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 04:20 pm

A

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NickPerry's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:15 am

I could be wrong and it won't be the first or last time, BUT does Drew Brees look OLD this year? Or at least a bit older than say the last 2 years?

Maybe it's because Thomas was out although he's not normally the one who goes deep on the Saints...BUT Dree Brees didn't throw a pass over 20 yards all night last night against the Raiders, even when down 14 and then 7 in the final minute. Hell IIRC he was dinking and dunking right down to the final seconds. Did Drew Brees get MUCH older this past offseason?

Watching the the last 2 weeks, they sure don't look too scary. Kamara, yes, Brees...Not so much. Like it was mentioned above, that was Derek Carr whooping that Saints ass last night... Derek Carr...

BTW... Can anyone tell how many fans will actually be allowed in the stands? That article Cory mentioned didn't really go into it.

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murf7777's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:56 am

I don’t see much difference. The O has been dink and dunking for awhile now and of course without michael a bit more. I think the O is predicated around short passes and YAC. Can Brees throw long, yes but with limited velocity. Our LB’s and Safety’s better be ready to tackle. They will also be fired up after losing to the Raiders.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 22, 2020 at 09:07 am

Honestly I have thought he has looked old the last 3-4 years.

Basically Brees game right now is throw underneath and let his players make plays. Kamara is a very dangerous weapon.

Packers will get tested hard Sunday night. Peyton is still a very good play caller and continues to find ways to scheme guys open.
It will be a really good test for our defense for sure.

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dobber's picture

September 22, 2020 at 09:56 am

I agree with Murf and RC: the Saints have been a catch-and-run team for years. They relied on Thomas to keep things open for other receivers. Without his ability to pull safety help, and with Brees' inability to push the ball deep, they're severely limited...at least, limited in comparison to what people expect.

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flackcatcher's picture

September 22, 2020 at 03:15 pm

Saints have played YAC ball especially for this current skill position group. Outside of Rodgers and Brady, none does it better at breaking down defensive formations than Brees. The turf in N.O. is fast with both offensives running the same offensive system. Literally a matchup game for both defenses. Pettine's group going to be doing some heavy lifting this week. Heard the Saints want a couple of thousand in the stands at the Dome for more sound, and NFL wants to follow up on the Dallas test of last week. After last week at home, I want fans back in the stands too. We'll see...

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 10:03 am

I agree that Brees didn’t look that scary. Have QBs ever just fallen off the cliff from one year to the next? Hell yes. Kamara is good. The rest doesn’t seem too awesome.

As regards attendance, if you only allow healthy people in, you could fill the stadium.

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PeteK's picture

September 22, 2020 at 01:02 pm

What is the medical definition of the word asymptomatic?
The term asymptomatic means literally the absence of symptoms. It describes a condition that is present, but in which a person does not show any outward signs or symptoms of the disease.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 02:26 pm

So, in other words, asymptomatic isn’t the same as healthy, is it? We could fill a stadium with healthy people.

For that matter, if masks worked then there wouldn’t be any reason to deny asymptomatic people into the stadium either, would there?

Your chance, today, of catching this and being sick enough to go to the hospital, is 0.3%. Less if you aren’t old and sick already, less if you wash your hands and keep them away from your face.

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holmesmd's picture

September 22, 2020 at 10:48 am

He’s older and more dependent on a clean pocket, timing, and footwork. He’s also missing his security blanket in Thomas who is one of the best in the league. Time waits for no man, even the HOF Drew Brees! He certainly has come to the point where he is dependent on other variables to be efficient.

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Lphill's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:15 am

The saints have had over 120 yards in penalties the he first two games they look like an undisciplined team right now , they had several personal fouls last night , the Packers better be ready for a dogfight !

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Guam's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:15 am

I think it is a little early to write off a Zimmer coached Viking squad (as much as I would love to!). The Lions are going nowhere under Patricia. The Bears have a good defense to go with their crummy offense. I think everyone believed the Packers would win the NFC North because they had minimal turnover from last year's 13-3 team.

More interestingly, the NFC looks wide open. San Francisco lost their first game and then took two serious hits in their win over the Jets - Bosa and Solomon (half their D-line starters) are gone for the season with ACL tears. New Orleans lost to Oakland and Tampa Bay lost their first game. This could be a wild year in the NFC and the Packers have a chance Monday night to establish themselves as the team to beat.

GoPackGo

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Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:26 am

Vikings are inexperienced at key positions but the Lions seem just to be awful on D. We didn’t beat them in the air really, but on the ground. I have to say I think Patricia is done for. But Minnesota’s offense looks like a one trick pony, albeit with a talented receiving prospect for future years. Can Zimmer survive till then?

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Guam's picture

September 22, 2020 at 10:11 am

The Viking secondary is going to be their weak link for most of this year and with Rodgers and Stafford in the Division, that could be trouble for Zimmer, but I also believe the management team has to know they stuck Zimmer with a very young and inexperienced team this year. They let half their D-line and three quarters of their secondary go over the winter. Tough for any coach to win when that happens.

Will the Lions ever find a good coach?

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Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2020 at 02:06 pm

No. I think for the same reason that they can’t find a decent GM. Owners are a millstone sometimes, however well meaning. Ultimately the Fords have simply failed for years.

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murf7777's picture

September 22, 2020 at 03:05 pm

That's what mismanaging the Salary Cap does. I'm so appreciative, even thou there are times I really want them to sign everyone. They are the voice of reason that must be there to be consistently good in the NFL.

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mrtundra's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:51 am

IMO, It's never too early to write off a Zimmer coached viking squad!

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Guam's picture

September 22, 2020 at 10:12 am

I love it!

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 10:23 am

The Curse Of The Super Bowl Loser.

You can look it up....the team that loses the Super Bowl is almost always worse the next year, sometimes by a lot. I discount the 49ers this year. They probably won’t win their division.

The best looking team in the NFC after two weeks is the Packers. Seattle looks good. The NFC East looks not very good. I think Tampa will be good.

If the Packers prevail in New Orleans, then we’re clearly the team to beat in the NFC.

Don’t dismiss the Bears. They are 2-0 and have a real good defense. They’re nothing special on offense, but they don’t turn it over much. If they win in Atlanta this week....and they could....then you have to kind of think they’ll make the playoffs.

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BROOKEDAVIS's picture

September 22, 2020 at 08:21 am

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murf7777's picture

September 22, 2020 at 09:04 am

MVS stats after two games 7-160-22.9 YPC on only 13 targets. He’s #13 in terms of yards. Let’s hope he limits his drops and targets increase because he has shown to be dynamic. Adding inside slants this year makes him more dangerous. We might’ve found our deep threat we sorely needed.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 10:31 am

Over a season, that would be 56 catches for over 1200 yards. For a part time guy.

Adams, MVS, and Lazard were targeted 15 times in total. 15 plays went to the WRs.

40 plays went to the RBs.

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Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2020 at 02:09 pm

I do give Lazard credit for what he does when not the target. It’s a nicely varied troika backed up by catching RBs. Now if Tonyan can get going, that will be sweet.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 22, 2020 at 02:02 pm

I like how Rodgers is varying up when he snaps the ball. He was so predictable in 2019 snapping when the clock was at 1 second every time. He's made a lot more check downs and a lot less throw aways. They just need to quit wasting time outs to avoid delay if game penalties. Pretty minor grievance!

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murf7777's picture

September 22, 2020 at 03:11 pm

I haven't seen much difference in the clock management. I believe that is Rodgers wanting to assess the defense and change plays to take advantage of said defense. MLF is giving him the OK on that one! Rodgers does make a lot of big plays by doing this, it isn't a stat so hard to tell how affective compared to hurry up or snapping with 10 seconds would be. I would love to see them do hurry up on occasion. If Rodgers and Company are going to average 28+ a game then it's hard to argue.

I do agree with him checking down more often and much quicker. He is also getting rid of the ball quicker, which I suspect leads to less throw away.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

September 22, 2020 at 09:19 am

This offense can do almost anything it wants. This week it should want to pass to the TEs. NO gave up over 100 yds and a TD to the Raider TE. Tonyan will get some work, Jake should get a chance to redeem himself, and I really hope Deguara can play because he's already becoming the favorite of the bunch.

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mnbadger's picture

September 22, 2020 at 10:58 am

Oakland's, oops, Las vegas' tight end is as good as it gets. We can't expect the same from our group. But I honestly think we have better receivers so we make it up there. GPG

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JohnnyLogan's picture

September 22, 2020 at 11:45 am

I have very high hopes for Deguara. He looked like a complete TE, can run routes with good hands, blocks really well, can line up in multiple positions. We'll never throw to the TE like the Raiders, 16 targets for Waller, but if Deguara develops as hoped he can be a difference-maker, someone the opposing D has to look out for. Heavily criticized pick but now looks pretty pretty good.

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murf7777's picture

September 22, 2020 at 03:13 pm

Yes, Deguara he is looking very very good and probably an excellent draft choice. It's early, only one game, but he is quickly becoming one of favorite players.

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holmesmd's picture

September 22, 2020 at 12:09 pm

Agree but Waller is a rare talent. Our TE group is going to need to be on point for sure.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

September 22, 2020 at 12:43 pm

Deguara being back would be huge. I love what Lewis brings as a blocker and occasional receiver, but being able to get them both on the field for some packages really opens things up offensively.

If the Packers D can keep Brees and Kamara in check, I would expect to see a lot of ground and pound early with big plays over the top to punish NO if they overcommit at the line. GB will want to control the tempo and keep Brees off the field as much as possible.

Defensively, whether or not Clark plays I think you'll see more of those LB-heavy looks so they can keep Brees guessing where the pressure will be coming from. If Thomas doesn't play I think you'll see Alexander matched up on Kamara given his usage in the passing game.

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 22, 2020 at 12:57 pm

I think people need to pump the brakes on MVS a little. He's gone up against two of the youngest, least experienced DB groups in the league so far. And he's been the beneficiary of some beautiful passes that Rodgers has dropped right into his hands. He still hasn't proven he can go get the contested balls. And while some on here want to project his totals for the year after two games, I find it interesting they don't want to mention he currently leads the league with 3 drops. Those haven't hurt the team yet, but he better clean that up against the better teams.

It's a long season. His first two years he started strong, then faded down the stretch. Hopefully this year will be different.

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dobber's picture

September 22, 2020 at 01:11 pm

There aren't a lot of teams that can cover Adams with a single CB. I think we'll see the Saints try on Sunday (assuming Adams plays), but teams that can't cover Adams with a single CB are going to push safety help that way. That opens up the other side of the field and the deep middle. The Saints have a veteran secondary and two good cover CBs (Lattimore and Jenkins). It will test the Packers pass-catchers across the board.

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murf7777's picture

September 22, 2020 at 02:57 pm

Lattimore is good, but got burned quite a bit last night, maybe he is our target this week to get some big plays?

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Coldworld's picture

September 22, 2020 at 02:20 pm

If you are arguing he hasn’t got separation and caught those yards, you are obviously wrong. Unless he comes up against a similarly fast corner his deep game is about getting behind, that’s all one can ask. The difference is not only is he making plays deep, but he is getting first downs on intermediate routes. Not much to pump the brakes on. 64 yards last week: I will take that for our number 3. He belongs.

Maybe more to come? Perhaps, but he has become what we asked for: a true receiver and weapon within our O despite not being an every down player in a team whose most targeted receiver was a running back last week.

At some point one has to move on. I have happily admitted that Lazard is bringing a lot to this team despite significantly less yards than MVS. Moreover, in our current scheme he is a darn good number 2. Reliable catcher who can beat his man and do a lot off the ball. MVS is different but has similarly found a niche. Let’s just be happy and hope they keep healthy.

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 22, 2020 at 02:39 pm

Pumping the brakes is in reference to predicting 1200 yds and x number of TDs, based on 2 games against teams with very inferior DB talent.

Pretty much any comments I've made concerning MVS, I usually include that I hope he succeeds. He still has issues with drops in his third year. What I would love to see is a 5-6 game stretch, particularly against decent defenses, where he shows consistency and continues to build off these first two games, minus the drops. At that point, I'll be a believer. He has a HOF QB throwing him the ball, and top 3 receiver drawing double coverages. I hope he takes advantage of it.

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murf7777's picture

September 22, 2020 at 03:01 pm

Your point is well taken as 1200 yards might be too much, but you can't argue with his start and the fact that he is showing he can be a better route runner. Love to see him doing crossing routes, that adds to ability to break a long one as CB's can't just take off without watching his movements. That bit of hesitation might be all MVS needs to break it long.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 04:33 pm

A projection is saying, “at this rate, he would finish the season with 56 catches for about 1200 yards. Those are Math Facts. A prediction is a guess about the future. It could be an educated guess, or a wild ass guess, but it’s not the same as a projection.

Read more closely, please.

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 22, 2020 at 05:14 pm

3 drops after 2 games means he'll finish with 24 "at this rate". Another math fact. About as likely to happen as your 1200 yards.

Maybe that war you fought in Berlin in '79 has made it difficult for you to focus. But thank you for your service.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 22, 2020 at 06:00 pm

I tried to be decent with you but you’re just determined to be a whiny little princess, are t you?

You are stupid. Projection and prediction are confused in your mind. You could have just admitted it and I might have respected it. Instead, you doubled down on stupid and got insulting. Because you are a stupid and insulting person.

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13TimeChamps's picture

September 22, 2020 at 07:13 pm

Lol. Still sticking with the ridiculous fake avatar I see. Very tough looking. You have a wonderful evening Leatherface.

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Demon's picture

September 22, 2020 at 10:39 pm

Why does this clown not get banned? I dont feel it necessary or acceptable that anyone come on here with a god complex and call someone on here stupid!

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

September 22, 2020 at 06:14 pm

The fade from last year was injury related, as was Davante's "fade" his second year. Doesn't mean the talent isn't there. If you rely on speed and you have a lower body injury, it absolutely limits your game. They just didn't use it as an excuse much.

And of course he's been the beneficiary of Rodgers' perfect passes. That what GB has thrived on over the years, not just jump balls. Particularly with speed guys. I haven't seen anyone who hasn't "mentioned" MVS's drops. It's been hammered on in every article and every comment about him I've read this week.

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Archie's picture

September 22, 2020 at 02:33 pm

It will be interesting to see if, who and when the Pack offense is stopped this year.

On D, I'm disappointed in the Safeties, especially Savage - still taking bad angles, leaving assignments, etc. I thought he was a sure thing on draft day. Haven't seen it yet.

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murf7777's picture

September 22, 2020 at 03:16 pm

Oh, there isn't a doubt the O will be stymied a time or two. Were not going to put 400-500+ yards every game. That is normal and to be expected. That is when the D has to show up and make some big plays ala last year.

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murf7777's picture

September 22, 2020 at 03:18 pm

Your right on and we will soon find out if the safeties will show up against NO because their bread and butter is short, intermediate passes. They will get there catches, it will be important for our backfield to limit the YAC.

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