Greg Gillis' NFC North Preview - Week 2It's Week 2 in the NFL and the action's in the NFC North
By: Greg Gillis, Pierce County Herald
Chicago should have lost in Week 1, but didn’t. Dallas should have lost in Week 1 and did. Jay Cutler and the Bears offense racked up almost 500 yards, but could only manage 19 points. Tony Romo and the Cowboys could only put seven points on the board. No, it wasn’t great defenses that got the stops, it was a case of inept offenses. As the season goes on, one team is expected to stay inept, the other is supposed to be pretty good.
Dallas is the popular choice to win the NFC East. Chicago is the pick for 3rd or 4th place in the NFC North. The Lions were awful defensively last year and didn’t become great in the off-season. So while Mike Martz had some success in gaining yards last week, let’s see how it goes against a better team. Going on the road, against a defense with some talent, should slow the Bears down. On the other side, the Bears have been average on defense the last few years, and probably are going to be middle of the pack (or worse) in 2010. If the Cowboys are going to win their division, they have to beat the weak teams on their schedule. And Dallas is usually pretty good early in the season and don’t fade until November and into the playoffs. Week 2 would qualify as early in the season. Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Felix Jones, Marion Barber and the Dallas offense should look a little better this week. The line is Dallas by eight but the Cowboys will win by 10.
Detroit’s home opener at Ford Field is against the Eagles. The Lions lost QB Matthew Stafford to a shoulder injury (right—throwing shoulder). That puts Shaun Hill in the lineup as starter. The Eagles lost QB Kevin Kolb to a concussion, elevating Michael Vick to starter. The Lions showed improvement over last year and played pretty well on the road. Philly played better when Vick took over at QB. Vick has always been a great runner, but has shown poor decision making and a strong but inconsistent arm. A little early to see how accurate he is in 2010.
The line is Philly by three and a half. Vick’s numbers could be better than when he played against Green Bay. The Lions seem to be heading in the right direction, but suffered a setback with the Stafford injury. While there might not be a big difference between Stafford and Hill, it’s clear the Lions looked deflated when Stafford left the game. It’s also clear that Vick gives the Eagles their best chance to win now. The Lions will stay pretty close at home, but the Eagles win by six.
The Vikings opened in New Orleans and came up five points short. The Dolphins opened in Buffalo and hung on to win by five. Neither offense looked very sharp, although the Vikings should look better at home. Miami is expected to give New England and the Jets a run for the AFC North. Minnesota is looking for answers. Who will take Chester Taylor’s role this season? With Sidney Rice out, is there a receiver (not including TE Visanthe Shiancoe) Brett Favre trusts? Can they be adequate in pass defense? Are they able to beat good teams this year? Last year they beat good teams like Green Bay and Pittsburgh. This year they lost to the Saints in Week 1 and while losing to an AFC team (if Miami wins) doesn’t hurt as much as losing to an NFC team, they have to protect home field.
The line is Minnesota by five. That was the difference in both games last week. That should be close to right again this week. The Dolphins are playing their second straight road game, and it can get pretty loud at the Metrodome. The Dolphins are a good team, but things are stacked against them. The Vikings win by four.
The Packers home opener is against the Bills. The Bills have no offense, but are pretty good on defense, at least for much of the game. The Packers are dealing with a season ending injury to Ryan Grant. No, it wasn’t Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, or a starting D lineman (Cullen Jenkins, BJ Raji or Ryan Pickett). After that, it’s probably Mark Tauscher or Grant as the player the Packers could least afford to lose. The roster to start the season had 4 tight ends, 3 fullbacks, but just 2 running backs. Now Ryan Grant is on IR, and Dimitri Nance was added to take his place. Grant isn’t Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson or one of the other elite backs, but he’s at the level just below them.
Brandon Jackson is now the starter, and John Kuhn the backup. Jackson is good at pass protection. He can catch the ball. He can run wide. But a featured back running between the tackles? He’s been injured every year with a light load. He has worked hard in the off-season and is stronger. But he hasn’t shown he can carry the ball 25 times a game over 15 games.
There is some discussion on talk radio that Grant won’t be missed, that the receivers are more important and with the Packers offense, they’ll be fine with whoever is plugged in. Really? Last season when the offensive line struggled early in the season, Grant didn’t have much running room, but still had positive yardage. When Jackson came in, the yards per carry was consistently lower. Grant could get something out of nothing, Jackson hasn’t shown he can do that. And Kuhn might break off an eight yard run, maybe even an 18 yard run if enough defenders fall down. But he’s not going to hit a home run from 80 yards out. It will be more three yards or less than big gainers.
The defense should have an easier time this week chasing down Trent Edwards than Michael Vick. C.J. Spiller is getting a lot of publicity, but should have a long day against the Packers run defense. Lee Evans is a big play receiver, but Charles Woodson can keep him in check. Clay Matthews made plays against Philly, he’ll likely have that chance against the Bills.
The line is Green Bay by 13. Losing Ryan Grant is a huge loss, but it won’t be a problem this week. The Bills are one of the worst teams in the NFL, Green Bay should make the playoffs. The Packers should hold the Bills to 10 points or less. If they can score 24, they cover. I think it will be at least 24, Pack by at least 14.