Scott McCabe looks back on the week one action in the NFC North.
Football is back! A season of possibility looms ahead of the four teams in the NFC North as fans dare to dream big. It's fantastic to see fans back in NFL stadiums cheering on their team. However, for NFC North fans, there wasn’t much to cheer about in week 1. It was a week to forget for EVERY team in the NFC North. A division that usually prides itself on being competitive was humiliated. Each team in the North lost their opener, meaning the division currently sits at 0-4.
Green Bay Packers (0-1) @ New Orleans Saints (1-0)
Final score: 3 : 38
Well, what was that? No seriously, WHAT WAS THAT GAME! The Packers were humiliated on national television as Jameis Winston handed out touchdowns the same way Oprah Winfrey hands out gifts. You get a touchdown, you get a touchdown, everybody gets a touchdown!
The 2020/2021 League MVP [Aaron Rodgers] looked a shell of his former self. Rodgers struggled to get anything going in the passing game, finishing 15/28 with 133 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, according to Espn.
By the time the fourth quarter came around, Packers Head coach Matt LaFleur had decided that he’d seen enough of Rodgers for one day and gave Jordan Love the opportunity to make the score line a little less excruciating for Packers fans. Love went 5/7 and totted up 67 passing yards but it was too little, too late.
Last season, the Packers were electric on offense. The run game was flowing, Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers were in sync and the defense was making plays. In this game, it was hard to find any bright spots. The most worrying statistic of the game involved veteran TE Merecedes Lewis. 37-year-old Mercedes Lewis led the team in YAC [Yards after catch] yards. When your second-string tight end is leading the team in YAC yards, you know it's been a bad day of football.
Now, its only one game so let's not get ahead of ourselves, but the Packers looked poor on both sides of the ball. The run game needs to be utilised more and cannot just be abandoned. You do not give Aaron Jones a $48,000,000 contract for him to carry the ball 5 times for 9 yards.
Expect the Packers to come out with a point to prove in week 2 against the Detroit Lions.
San Fracisco 49ers (1-0) @ Detroit Lions (0-1)
Final score: 41 : 33
Ok Lions fans, I know it’s a week one loss, but there were a few positives to take from this game. The 49ers are a darn good team and the Lions had them a little shaken near the end of the fourth quarter. Fumbles from the 49ers gifted the Lions a few opportunities to claw their way back into the game. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.
Jared Goff looked comfortable under centre even though he had a terrifying 49ers defense charging at him. Goff was only sacked once during the entirety of this game. That was mainly down to Penei Sewell living up to his draft capital as the rookie offensive lineman did his best to keep out Nick Bosa.
Goff has most definitely found his reliable passing target: Tight end T.J. Hockenson. The two combined for 8 receptions, 97 yards and a touchdown. Week one proved that the Hockenson is the centre piece of this Lions passing attack, well, until a clear no.1 wide receiver is established. Hockenson and Goff could become a QB and TE tandem similar to Derek Carr and Darren Waller.
The wide receiving core was exactly what we thought it would be- below average. When a tight end and two running backs surpass all your receivers in receiving yards, that is not a good sign. The Lions will need to have a receiver emerge as a top pass-catching candidate to relieve Hockenson of his heavy workload. Rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St.Brown still has a golden opportunity to become the Lions top wideout. However, he will need to improve on his two receptions for 21 yards from week 1.
The Lions passing attack was nothing to scream about, but how bout that run game? D’Andre Swift and Jamall Williams each nabbed a touchdown, and it looks like Swift will be used as the pass catching back and Williams should take on the more tradition ‘ground and pound’ role.
After week one, the Lions took not one, but two losses. Star cornerback Jeffrey Okudah tore his Achillies in the fourth quarter against the niners. It’s a huge loss for the Lions as Okudah was going to be one of the leaders of this defense. The rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu will now be thrusted into matchups against the league's top receivers.
Expect the Lions to lean heavily on Hockenson and the run game during their week 2 encounter against the Packers.
Minnesota Vikings (0-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
Final Score: 24 : 27
This game was definitely a top candidate for ‘game of the week’. It was an absolute cracker full of twists and turns. You well and truly couldn’t keep your eyes off it.
It was a cagey affair to begin with as the first quarter ended scoreless, however, both teams let loose in the second quarter with three touchdowns being scored.
The Vikings did manage to pull the score level thanks to touchdowns from WR Adam Thielen and RB Dalvin Cook. A 53-yard field goal by Greg Joseph gave the Vikings a chance to get a result in overtime.
The Vikings looked to be putting a couple of nice plays together in overtime as they marched up field with authority. However, a fumble by Dalvin Cook flipped the game on its head as the Bengals trotted down the field and positioned rookie kicker Evan McPherson to kick the game winner- which he did. The rookie became an instant hero with Bengals fans as his kick sends the Bengals to 1-0 on the year.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Mike Zimmer told Espn.
Zimmer wasn’t wrong. Penalties were the story of the day for the Vikings. They were penalised 12 times over the course of the game with a total of 116 yards penalty yards being totted up at the end of the game. However, three false starts on the opening drive was an early sign that this could be a horrid match for the Vikings in terms of their lack of discipline.
Going forward, the Vikings will need to be sharper in terms of penalties. You cannot give up 12 penalties and expect to win the game comfortably.
There were a few positives to take from the game; the Vikings defense managed to sack Joe Burrow five times, Adam Thielen looked sharp and it looks like the Vikings have a solid kicker in Greg Joseph.
The Vikings will take on a red-hot Arizona Cardinals team in week 2. Justin Jefferson will need to be involved in the action if they want to compete with the Cardinals’ electrifying offense that left the Titans scratching their heads.
Chicago Bears (0-1) @ LA Rams (1-0)
Final Score: 14 : 34
Is it already time for Justin Fields to become the QB1 of this team? Well, he certainly looked up for the challenge.
The Bears kicked off their new season against the L.A. Rams on Sunday Night football. With the nation watching, the stage was set for Andy Dalton to prove that he is the undisputed QB1, and he’s got what it takes to lead this team to the playoffs and beyond. Unfortunately for Dalton, that wasn’t the case. Matthew Stafford grabbed all the attention as he sliced through the Bears’ secondary with his three passing touchdowns.
The Bears had problems in the passing game. Allen Robinson II and Darnell Mooney were on a different wavelength to Dalton as neither of the two wideouts could find their groove with Dalton. Instead, Dalton relied on TE Cole Kmet and WR Marquise Goodwin. The running game was also effective as the Bears gave David Montgomery freedom to run the ball. Montgomery rushed for over 100 yards and got himself a touchdown in the process. Free agent acquisition Damien Williams also saw time on the field as he became a reliable pass-catching back for Dalton.
There wasn’t much to scream about for Bears fans. It was a pretty disappointing performance against star-studded Rams team. However, as soon as Justin Fields took to the field, the whole dynamic of the game changed. Fields was brought on in the third quarter when the Bears were in the red zone. It was quite a bizarre move, but it paid off as Fields rushed into the end zone to score his first touchdown in the NFL.
It then came as a surprise when Nagy decided to bench Fields and put Dalton back in the game. Surely you’d keep the quarterback with the hot hand in the game? Well, Nagy thought otherwise and unfortunately Dalton couldn’t give the Bears a fighting chance as Stafford continued to punish the Bears’ secondary.
The Bears QB situation is most definitely worth monitoring in week two against the Cincinnati Bengals. Although, with Dalton going up against his former franchise, you’ve got to think he’ll be ready to prove a point in this game, but who knows, maybe Fields will see more playing time.