1

December

Around the NFC North: Bears Hanging in, Lions’ Attitude, Vikings Irrelevent

Caleb Hanie takes over for Jay Cutler in Chicago.

For a while, it looked like the NFC North might send the Packers, Bears and Lions to the playoffs. There’s a chance that still could happen, but it’s a longshot. With the Packers cruising, the Bears and Lions have some work to do if they want to grab a wild card slot.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings are holding down the bottom of the division while trying to get a new stadium.

It’s time for a trip around the NFC North.

Chicago Bears

Remaining schedule: Chiefs, at Broncos, Seahawks, at Packers, at Vikings.

Biggest issue: Making adjustments. Jay Cutler is out for at least the rest of the regular season, leaving Caleb Hanie to try and lead the Bears to the playoffs.

Analysis: The challenge the Bears face is actually twofold: Is Hanie capable of taking the Bears to the playoffs and is offensive coordinator Mike Martz capable of adjusting his gameplan to maximize Hanie’s strengths and mask his weaknesses?

Hanie was bad last Sunday against the Raiders, but Martz’s gameplan was worse. You know how Mike McCarthy refuses to adjust his gameplan when an offensive lineman goes down, even if the backup lineman is struggling? Martz is the same way, only he is refusing to adjust to a backup quarterback. There’s a big difference between a backup offensive lineman and a backup quarterback.

The Bears have Matt Forte, a great defense and dangerous special teams. They’re more than capable of making the playoffs if Martz does a better job adjusting his offense to the reality of having a backup quarterback instead of Cutler.

Prediction: 10-6. Even if Martz keeps his head buried in the sand, the soft schedule and the aforementioned defense, special teams and Forte result in another playoff berth for the Bears.

Detroit Lions

Remaining schedule: at Saints, Vikings, at Raiders, Chargers, at Packers.

Biggest issue: Attitude. It’s not often you want a football team to relax a little bit, but head coach Jim Schwartz and the Lions need to chill out.

Analysis: When the Lions were rolling early this season, their swagger and bravado appeared to represent a new era of toughness in Motown. No longer were the Lions the doormat of the NFL.

21

October

Know Your Packers Enemy: Previewing Packers – Vikings with Max Ginsberg

In this week’s installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” I talked with Max Ginsberg of Purple Pants, Green Jersey, a blog dedicated to news and information about both the Vikings and Packers. Max also writes on occasion for Cheesehead TV. He’s a great follow on Twitter (@MaxGinsberg) for news and opinions on both franchises.

Enough with the intros, let’s get to some Packers-Vikings talk.

ZACH KRUSE: The big news this week is the transition from Donovan McNabb to Christian Ponder at quarterback. McNabb has historically done well against the Packers, but I think we could all see that this move needed to happen sooner rather than later. What are some of the pros and cons of the Vikings’ decision to start the rookie this week?

MAX GINSBERG: I don’t see much of a negative side to this one. The worst-case scenario entails Ponder falling flat on his face and the Vikings completely tanking; in which case, the Vikings would secure a top pick in next year’s quarterback-heavy draft. On the other hand, the move to Ponder has a lot of benefits. It satisfies a fan base that (aside from one golden year with Favre) has suffered through mediocrity at the quarterback position for a long time, and it could also reenergize a team that could use a lift. The Metrodome is a crazy place where anything can happen; why not turn to a rookie quarterback and give the Vikings coaching staff a chance to see what he can do? And while one player is not going to make-or-break the team’s chances on a new stadium, the move to Ponder shows the state of Minnesota that the Vikings are looking to the future. In return, the Vikings are hoping the state ensures that future is in Minnesota by building the team a new stadium.

ZK: C John Sullivan was a no show at practice on both Wednesday and Thursday, and T Phil Loadholt missed Wednesday and was limited Thursday. Their injury statuses could be something to watch with a rookie quarterback preparing to make his first start. How big of losses would those two be if they can’t go?