NFC North First Quarter Recap

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NFL is a quarter of the way through the season. Only two games got moved for COVID so far and the quality of football has been good. Let’s take a look at how the season has gone so far in the NFC North.

Green Bay Packers 4-0

The Packers have been near perfect on offense despite injuries to Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. They are scoring well over 30 PPG and have 0 turnovers. Rodgers is firing on all cylinders in year 2 of the Le Fleur offense.

Aaron Jones is playing well in a contract year both rushing and receiving. Rodgers is getting good protection in 2020 so far from a good offensive line that has some depth. Robert Tonyan stepped up at Tight End (5 TDs) and MVS is a big play threat. Adams looked great against Minnesota. Green Bay is clearly the division leaders.

Green Bay’s defense has been solid. Run defense has been hit or miss but they miss nose tackle Kenny Clark the last 3.5 weeks. Green Bay is getting just enough stops but haven’t dominated as much as 2019. Z’Darius Smith still wreaking havoc and Gary took a step forward until injury. Preston Smith regressed though. Packers could use a little more pass rush and consistent run defense.

Keke Kingsley and Tyler Lancaster are both grading well in run defense. The Inside Linebackers are playing poorly still other than the rookie Kris Barnes. Chrisitan Kirksey is hurt now. Oren Burks and Ty Summers need to step up. The Packers safeties have been average (Amos, Savage, Greene and Redmond) but Jaire Alexander has been an elite CB (top ranked). Kevin King has been average but provides some good matchups and Chandon Sullivan has been solid through 4 games with a big pick 6. Bye came at the right time for the Packers to get healthy at WR and defense.

Green Bay beat the Vikings with a big lead despite garbage time for the Minnesota, came back down 14-3 to throttle a banged up Detroit 42-21 and beat the Saints in a shoot-out in the quiet Super Dome. Finally, Green Bay beat the banged-up Falcons on Monday Night handily at Lambeau. Green Bay still has some tough games (Bucs, Colts, Titans, 49ers, Bears twice) but they are set up nicely to control the division if the Bears can’t figure out their QB issues.

Bears 3-1

Chicago has won ugly but no complaints about 3-1 for them. Trubisky got benched in Week 3 and Foles led a great come-back against the Falcons. Nick Foles had a dud game against a good Colts defense in Week 4 though the Colts defense might/may be legit.

Trubisky came back on the Lions in the 4th quarter down 23-6 somehow in Week 1 and had a good first half to beat the lowly Giants in Week 2 17-13. The Bears pass protection is good and the run game is solid with Montgomery (4.1 YPC) in year 2 so far. They did lose Tark Cohen to an ACL injury which is big. Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller and Jimmy Graham are doing enough as weapons for the Bears QBs.

The 2020 Bears defense has taken a step forward from 2019 but they aren’t 2018 elite yet. They will be tested facing good offenses going forward though against the Packers twice, Lions (scored 23 and dropped a game winning TD for 30), Titans, Saints, Bucs and Rams. Mack and Quinn can rush the passer along with Hicks. Fuller and the rookie Jaylon Johnson playing well at CB. Eddie Jackson still a good safety but not elite like 2018 and Veteran Tashaun Gibson has been a solid addition. Bears still very formidable on defense giving them a chance to win any week no matter the QB.

Bears must figure out their QB problems and split at least with Green Bay if they want to compete in the division. Wild card looking likely so far though.

Lions 1-3

Sigh. Detroit blew 3 double digit leads including a Fourth Quarter 17 point to the Bears. Their defense got wrecked against the Saints and Packers (which is probably expected for most teams). Stafford is good but a little off a times with 3 picks (2 bad ones) through 4 games with 8 TDs in year 2 of the Bevell offense.

The Lions run game showed progress but not efficiency. Peterson has been nice late add but Swift, KJ and the run blocking can do much more. Kenny Golladay missed the first two games and has been solid in his return. He needs to start taking over games for the Lions. Marvin Jones needs to step up as well but made some big catches against the Cardinals. Hock has been good but needs better run blocking as well. Jessie James even made a handful of plays too which is progress from nothing last year. The Lions offense has the makings to be good but need to get out of their own way. They play 6 bad and 3 mediocre defenses in the final 12 games so they should have a chance to shine.

The Lions defense has problems all over. They lack a great player and a bunch of good ones get out schemed too much. Too many missed tackles, wrong gaps, blown assignments. Not enough speed to keep up on crossing routes and some deep balls in one on ones. Run defense has been bad too other than the win against Arizona.  Detroit has forced 4 picks which helped secure the win over the Cardinals (3 picks).

The Lions can’t put enough stops together and need to figure out how to fix it without game changers. Need more pass rush somehow and someone to step up at JACK LB. Jeff Okudah will grow as he plays more but has been ugly early. Trufant has been hurt and looks slow because of it in Week 1 and 4 (missing 2 weeks). AO has been solid and still developing. Justin Coleman needs to return from IR to help the secondary. Tracy Walker needs to get back to good and consistent. Duron Harmon has been good at FS.

In the front 7, LB Jamie Collins has been either really good or poor (plus got ejected Week 1). Flowers and Hand need to do more in pass rush plain and simple. Nick Williams needs a healthy shoulder to help the pass rush. Romeo Okwara showed signs of life in Week 4 but can’t get around the corner for consistently. It’s now or never for the Lions defense.

Detroit plays 5 weak and 5 mediocre offense (through 4 games) in the final 12 games. Now or never for Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn. Will they blitz more and play more zones? Can they fix the tackling and run fits/angles? Can they figure out how to stay with speed and win more jump balls on defense?

6-8 wins won’t be good enough for Patricia. Schedule is lighter out of the bye but lots of road games in the next 8. Patricia needs to figure it out and many defensive players must play much better.

Vikings 1-3

It was a rough first 3 weeks for Minnesota. Dalvin Cook has looked good and Kirk Cousins has 3 decent games and one really bad game (Colts). Minnesota regressed on offense though but have firepower with Adam Thielen, rookie Justin Jefferson and Rudolph/Irv Smith plus Cook.

The Vikings defense regressed big time losing Danielle Hunter to injury and Anthony Barr to IR later. The Vikings young DBs are growing  (Dantzler, Hughes and Gladney) and getting better every week with more experience.

The Vikings can salvage things if they can get the defense back to good. Yannick Ngakoue, DJ Wonnum and Odenigbo need to do much more pass rush for the Vikings to help the CBs. Harrison Smith is still a very good safety but Harris regressed as expected at safety. Erik Kendricks still a beast LB but needs more help around him. Can the Vikings right the ship? They still have the talent and coaching to do so but WildCard more in the cards for them down 3 games to Green Bay already with a loss to them in Minnesota.

Enjoy the final 12 games!