Thanksgiving Day football; there’s almost nothing better. Twelve straight hours of NFL action included the Lions downing the Eagles, the Panthers destroying the Cowboys and the Bears edging the Packers for Jay Cutler’s first ever win at Lambeau Field. As we near the pointy end of the season, I’ll begin to look at the most interesting divisional situations playing out before us, with playoff hopes being revived and shattered on a weekly basis.
We’ll begin this week with the NFC North.
Adrian Peterson is the best RB in the game, and the Minnesota Vikings are surging towards the playoffs
At 30 years old, a lot of people expected Adrian Peterson’s production to drop; indeed, most NFL running backs do experience a steep decline in their performance as they age. Losing a yard of pace, or the ability to cut as sharply, can spell the end for a lot of guys at this position.
But Peterson has never been your typical RB; we’re talking about the guy who won an NFL MVP after taking just nine months to return from an ACL tear. Peterson’s run has been invaluable, and has revitalised the Vikings offense. Second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater struggled at times last year, due in no small part to the lack of strength in the Vikings running game.
This year, Peterson has 1,164 rushing yards, just 100 yards short of eclipsing his 2013 total, and while Bridgewater hasn’t been setting the world on fire, he is doing enough; protecting the ball, keeping drives going, and making plays – both in the air and with his feet – has kept the Vikings on track.
While I’m sure Peterson is excited about he possibility of securing his third rushing title, I’m sure he has bigger plans for these Vikings, and the way they’re playing, the NFC North could be theirs. A week 17 showdown with the Packers at Lambeau Field looms large.
Fantasy watch: Who else? Adrian Peterson rewarded owners with a huge outing against the Atlanta Flacons: 187 total yards, 2 TD’s and 30.70 fantasy points. Nice.
The Detroit Lions aren’t ready to give up on this season
While today’s loss was heartbreaking, the Detroit Lions will take a lot out of the three weeks prior. Wins against quality opposition came after the appointment of new offensive co-ordinator Jim Bob Cooter, and the improvement was almost immediate, even drawing praise from QB Matthew Stafford for his aggressive play calling.
The Lions dismantled the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving, and it was behind an aggressive style on offense and defence, something that was evident in their hard-fought wins against Green Bay and Oakland the two weeks before.
These games have shown the potential of this team, and honestly, the Lions’ poor start to the season had me scratching my head. Why? Because they have weapons – Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ezekiel Ansah are all capable of making huge plays.
Today’s loss will definitely sting, losing on a Hail Mary with no time left on the clock always does, but at least they showed that they can match it with the best in the NFC North. With their slim playoff hopes ending, the Lions can now look forward to next season and, hopefully, will show everyone just what they can do.
Fantasy watch: Matthew Stafford owners, including my opponent, rejoiced as he went off for 337 yards, 5 TD’s and 34.78 fantasy points. A huge game, and so well timed…it’s not like I lost my matchup because of him or anything…I’m not bitter about it either…sigh.
What in the world has happened to the Green Bay Packers?
A mixture of injuries and underperforming players, that’s what’s happened. Aaron Rodgers was working miracles early in the season, making plays and winning games without number-one WR Jordy Nelson. But with Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy all struggling in the last month, the bulk of the offensive production has been left up to TE Richard Rodgers.
It’s safe to say that things haven’t been going well, and were it not for one of the best comebacks I’ve seen in a while, the Pack would be in serious trouble.
While it was an important win from a divisional standpoint, moving them to 8-4, my worries for the Packers moving forward are still the same. They do not have anyone in their receiver corps who is consistently making plays, and that will have to change if they are to challenge for a Super Bowl.
Rookie RB John Crockett was a bright spot for the Green Bay running game, and will be one to watch in the next few weeks with Eddie Lacy seemingly on the outer with coach Mike McCarthy. Crockett only rushed for 22 yards, but at a crucial stage in the game, and I’m sure he will see more reps over the next few weeks.
If the Packers receivers get going, watch out.
Fantasy watch: Aaron Rodgers, for all the wrong reasons. The former California Golden Bear had an off day against the Chicago Bears, throwing for 202 yards, one TD, one interception and 13.38 fantasy points. That, coupled with Matthew Stafford’s huge game, cost me badly this week. Still not bitter.
Don’t forget the Chicago Bears
It seems easy to do so at this point of the season, and that’s because the Bears are in a strange place right now. At 5-6 they are well and truly in the Wild-Card conversation, and they have been playing some good football, but I don’t think many people truly trust Jay Cutler to get this team to the playoffs.
With the exception of the last month, they have been wildly inconsistent – winning against Green Bay and St. Louis is all well and good, but losing to Seattle, Arizona, Minnesota and Detroit calls into question their ability to win consistently against their NFC counterparts.
The Bears have a favourable draw for the run home, with games against San Francisco (3-8), Washington (5-6), Tampa Bay (5-6) and Detroit (4-8) seeming winnable, and facing just one team with a winning record – the Minnesota Vikings (8-3). While winning the division might be out of the question, winning four of their last five could put them right in the mix for a playoff spot. I know I’ll be watching, because with the Bears, almost anything could happen.
Fantasy watch: Rookie RB Jeremy Langford has moved up the Bears depth chart of late, and he had a decent outing against the Packers notching up 53 total yards, one TD and 11.3 fantasy points; definitely an option as bench cover.
Questions? Insults? Let us know in the comments section.