NFCN Questions – What’s the No. 1 Issue For Each Team?

NFCN Questions – What’s the No. 1 Issue For Each Team?

Editor-In-Chief of NFCN Barroom Aldo Gandia loves to asks questions. Some think it’s his background as a television news reporter. Others wonder if it has to do with his massive insecurities. Nonetheless, he’s looked at all four NFCN teams and spotted reasons for each team to feel insecure.

NFCN Questions tackles one, according to Aldo, massive issue that could rain all over the team’s season.

NFCN QUESTIONS – Green Bay Packers

For several days last season the Green Bay Packers locker room  mourned as news of Jordy Nelson’s knee injury sunk in. The star wide receiver’s 2015 season was over before it started. This year, the Packers locker room is mourning again. Except this time the mourning could transform itself into a season-long sinister antagonism against the team’s head coach and general manager.

The release of All-Pro guard Josh Sitton is not sitting well in a locker room considered primed for a serious run for a Super Bowl. The team’s schedule, return of Nelson, a rejuvenated Eddie Lacy and more have the Packers offense ready to return to their number one status of points scored. In 2014, the team led the league in points, 30.4 per game. Last year the Packers were 23rd with only 23.0 points per game.

The decline in points isn’t solely attributable to Nelson’s absence. The injuries suffered among members of the offensive line left Aaron Rodgers escaping the pocket early and misfiring. In 2014, Rodgers’ passing percentage was the 9th best in the league (65.6%) and last year he dropped to 26th (60.7%).

Sitton’s mysterious release has frustrated the Packers’ players. Here’s why:

  • Sitton had lost weight to decrease the chance his pesky back injury would re-surface. He camp showed he was ready to avoid any slippage in play
  • Despite the injury he was the iron man of the offensive line. He had started 112 of 121 regular-season games since being drafted in the fourth round in 2008 and played every game last season
  • His salary was accounted for in 2016. The team didn’t dump him to use the salary for any other needed resouce
  • The team’s offensive line is indisputably weaker without Sitton
  • By not allowing Sitton to walk away at the end of the year, the Packers lose a compensatory draft pick. This has been a staple of general manager Ted Thompson’s player acquisition model. Let aging veterans sign elsewhere and reap the draft pick award by the NFL

A loss to the Jaguars at steamy EverBank stadium in Florida could prolong the irritability among certain Packers players. A dramatic decrease in the efficiency of the offensive line could re-surface the misery for some players who had recovered from the shocking Sitton snub.

The temperature in NFL locker rooms is something fans and media can never accurately gauge. But, right now the mercury is climbing in Green Bay’s locker room and if Lane Taylor proves to be an inadequate replacement for Sitton it could pop.

NFCN QUESTIONS – Minnesota Vikings

It’s pretty obvious what the major issue in the North Star state is… the quarterback. Never mind all of the nonsense about whether general manager Rick Spielman overpaid for Sam Bradford (he didn’t). The question now is can Bradford quickly get up to speed and help the Vikings get into the playoffs? According to one media report, it looks like we won’t get a look at Bradford under center. If that’s the case, the reporter didn’t hear it from head coach Mike Zimmer.

NFCN questions

But, who can complain if Bradford is feeling uneasy about uttering the Vikings complicated play calls. The wristband quarterbacks wear with plays and formations resembles  a mathematical equation.

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The larger question, for me, is whether Bradford is capable of – at least – playing to the level of Rex Grossman. Yes. Rex Grossman. Don’t forget that Grossman is a Super Bowl quarterback. In 2006 he played 16 games and threw for over 3,193 yards, with 23 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. Not the stuff of legend. But, enough to get the Chicago Bears to Super Bowl XLI. Of course, you and I, and everyone with a dozen or so working brain cells knows that it was the Bears defense that carried Grossman and the offense to the Super Bowl. The 2016 Vikings defense compares favorably to that Bears defense. In fact, they have more depth than the Bears squad which actually began to falter later in the year as fatigue and injuries grew.

Last year the Vikings only had a turnover differential of +5. But, expect the defense to improve in turning the ball over. It’s in Zimmer’s DNA to make that happen. He’s been talking about it since April. “I’m kind of preaching turnovers more this year, because I think that can help us get to somewhere else,” said Zimmer at OTAs.

Bradford is going to receive one of the greatest gifts all quarterbacks crave… short fields. All he needs to do is not give it back, manage the game and make the big play now and then. If he does then there’s no question that the Vikings can still think Super Bowl. If he doesn’t… then maybe Rick Spielman did overpay for Bradford.

NFCN QUESTIONS – Chicago Bears

Much has been made of the dramatic player upgrade Ryan Pace has made within the defense in the 20 months he’s been general manager. And, it’s true that on paper the 2016 Bears defensive personnel is vastly superior to the players the team fielded in 2013 and 14. Bears fans will never forget the humiliation of back-to-back 50+ points allowed in 2014. For a team that has always identified itself with strong defenses the Phil Emery units from ’13 and ’14 were worthy of facing a firing squad. (And they did. Everyone is gone save a few players.)

What this defense must answer now is if this mixture of free agent acquisitions – Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan, Pernell McPhee – and draft picks – Eddie Goldman, Leonard Floyd and a slew mid-round defensive backs – can coalesce into a new version of Monsters of the Midway?

Pace was heralded for signing players in their prime, primarily McPhee and Trevathan. Unfortunately, they also arrived with a history of injuries. McPhee had knee and groin injuries in Baltimore that stunted his development as a premier EDGE rusher. Trevathan’s own 2014 season was ruined by injuries. Now with the Bears, McPhee is on the PUP list so he’ll miss at least a half-dozen games and Trevathan has already suffered a hamstring injury that limited his preseason snaps to 37.

Difficult to get to an elite defensive status when you have setbacks like these.

Keep in mind that Freeman was frequently on the Indianapolis Colts’ injury list the last two seasons, missing five games during that span.

And, as for Leonard Floyd… well if you’ve been following the Bears this week you know his training camp was described as, “choppy,” by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The rookie’s progress, according to Fangio, was “retarded” by the need to rest his ailments.

The Bears have a front seven unit that is – on paper – impressive. Their back four isn’t. The aging Tracy Porter comes with his recurring injury history. There other corner, Kyle Fuller, is currently recovering from a knee scope. The safeties are both second-year men, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartay, and have much to prove (although Jones-Quartay had one of the better training camps of any of the Bears defensive players).

Every Bears fan is worried about the offense. And, they should be. But, I have huge question about the defense. The offense will not be a juggernaut, but is quite capable of putting up enough points to win. That is, IF, this Bears defense stays healthy and the young players mature into reliable defenders.

NFCN QUESTIONS – Detroit Lions

Is it sexist of me to write that the past 24 hours my thoughts on the Detroit Lions football team has been distracted by the release of photos and bios of the team’s new cheerleaders. I’d put up a poll, but who really cares. The fact is that the Lions’ plan is working. Distract people!

Cheerleaders have been brought back to the Lions organization for the first time since 1972. Yes, there were cheerleaders in the Lions past. History lesson:

The Lions only made the playoffs one time during the span Kae Gaskin was trying to avoid being hit by beer bottles. The new cheerleaders will hopefully not have to worry about being DOA because disgruntled fans hurled IPAs at them. But, they should plan on having to work hard to muster up cheers from the Lions faithful.

This is a team in transition. The question I ask though is whether new general manager Bob Quinn should have begun a complete overhaul immediately. He chose, instead, to retain head coach Jim Caldwell. It will take a motor city miracle for Caldwell to still be coach after the 2017 season when his contract expires. The thinking here is that Quinn knows there are rough years ahead and that his plan to transform the Lions into winners is not a quick-fix scheme. Those schemes always last a year or two and then break down like a Ford Pinto. Quinn wants enduring success. Like that they he helped to build in New England. And, there’s no way to accomplish that overnight. Or over a season.

Caldwell will be blamed for much of the season’s upcoming woes. Quinn desperately hopes his first coach as a GM doesn’t totally alienate Lions fans. He’d like to see him get through the year without any beers thrown at him. Firing the head coach in mid-season would be too much for this franchise.

Expect Caldwell to last through the year and then Quinn will determine if the coach of his dreams is available to replace the one he inherited.

Meanwhile the Lions plan to distract people until they get their act together is working…  on me.

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Aldo Gandia

Aldo Gandia

Among my career highlights I have produced two films while in high school that received nationwide attention; leaned out of a helicopter over the Gulf of Suez at the age of 20 to shoot movies of oil rigs; won an Emmy award for a sports special and another for a kid's fitness show; and led a team of very talented creative professionals to produce break-through corporate communications.



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