NFCN Report – Week 17

Sunday marked the end of the regular season and the crowing of the NFC North champion on the very last game of the season. In a two six-pack, beer-spilling, prime-time, nationally televised game the Green Bay Packers were unable to stage a 4th quarter comeback (again) and fell, at home, to the Minnesota Vikings.

Championship Card

The Vikings go on to play the sizzling Seattle Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium and the Packers travel to the nation’s capital to play Washington. Packers fans took solace in defeat by knowing the Vikings will face the more domineering team, even though Green Bay has to take their troubled team on the road.

Trouble is an understatement when describing the Packers. Currently, these are their more serious concerns:

  • The Packers lost all of their NFCN home games this season
  • They go into the playoffs having lost six of their last ten games
  • In their last two games, the offense averaged 10.5 points a game
  • Aaron Rodgers is clearly suffering from BQBS (Battered Quarterback Syndrome), and the overall health of the team is worse than any other playoff team
  • Despite their sixth straight playoff appearance there’s an unmistakable gloom over the team

[graphiq id=”6LA2WOHWKSV” title=”NFCN Barroom – Green Bay Packers Overview” width=”640″ height=”500″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/6LA2WOHWKSV” link=”http://nfl-teams.pointafter.com/l/20/Green-Bay-Packers” link_text=”NFCN Barroom – Green Bay Packers Overview | PointAfter”]

When Rodgers met the media after the Vikings loss you could hear the resignation in his voice and words.

Rodgers Q are who u are

What’s more troubling for Packers fans is a sense that the window for Rodgers’ led Super Bowl wins is closing. This is why:

  • Rodgers just turned 32
  • Clay Matthews will be 30 in May
  • Julius Peppers, the team’s leader in sacks, turns 36 soon
  • Jordy Nelson turns 31 in May
  • Ted Thompson’s draft and develop strategy is missing one element: free-agents

The Packers playoff pedigree is still intact – this is their seventh appearance in the last nine seasons – but the title town aura is fading.

Adding to the Packers’ problems is that while they may be descending, the Vikings are clearly ascending. No one will remember their win at Lambeau Sunday night as a signature, slam the door shut, there’s a new boss in town kind of win, but this team holds promise for a run of division titles.

But, are they really ready for a serious Super Bowl run this year? On Sunday, leading 20-3 in the 4th quarter, Minnesota began playing as if they were contractually obligated to create drama. They held on to win the game, but the Green Bay Packers of… pick one – 2010, 11, 12, 13, 14 – would have taken the gifts the Vikings kept presenting them and had Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth waxing poetically about Packer lore.

Nonetheless, Mike Zimmer’s team held on and broadcasters might consider the lore the second year Vikings coach is creating. There are very few people not surprised by the team winning a division title so quickly. Zimmer, though, isn’t one of them.

Zimmer of making playoffs

If the Vikings are to continue their season of surprises they need better play from their offense – especially Teddy Bridgewater. Given the national stage Bridgewater flopped. His stats told the story: 10/19 for 99 yards, zero touchdowns and one uncharacteristically dunderheaded interception. His quarterback rating, 45.7, was his lowest of the season and the lowest of any QB in week 17. That’s not how a championship quarterback responds when the curtain rises.

[graphiq id=”41fgfz4qtbT” title=”NFCN Barroom – Minnesota Vikings Overview” width=”640″ height=”841″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/41fgfz4qtbT” link=”http://nfl-teams.pointafter.com/l/14/Minnesota-Vikings” link_text=”NFCN Barroom – Minnesota Vikings Overview | PointAfter”]

Fortunately for Vikings fans, Bridgewater had excellent outings against top NFL defenses (Denver, Arizona) this season. Maybe Sunday night’s performance was simply a case of stage fright. If so, Teddy better man up against a truly frightening Seahawks team.

While the Packers and Vikings were wrestling for the NFCN championship, the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears engaged in a pillow fight to avoid being the division’s doormat. The Lions, who are headed into a busy offseason of job interviews for a new general manager – and potentially new head coach – won at Soldier Field to sweep the season series and extend their winning streak over the Bears to six games.

[graphiq id=”f0Ap2zCvBY1″ title=”NFCN Barroom – Detroit Lions Overview” width=”640″ height=”841″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/f0Ap2zCvBY1″ link=”http://nfl-teams.pointafter.com/l/21/Detroit-Lions” link_text=”NFCN Barroom – Detroit Lions Overview | PointAfter”]

The Lions lost their first five games of the season, but finished 7-4 over their last 11 games. They averaged 34 points a game in their last four wins. Matt Stafford finished as, unquestionably, the best (statistically) quarterback in the NFCN and top nine in the NFL. Stafford clearly responded to new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, but also plugged the team’s head coach, Jim Caldwell.

Stafford on Caldwell

A close look at the level of competition the Lions and Stafford faced during their flight from disaster-ville tempers thoughts that Detroit might be the best team not participating in the playoffs. But, whomever is traveling to Michigan to interview for the general manager position might be thinking this is the best opening for an NFL GM job.

The Bears, however, did not finish the season with a flourish. Losers of five of their last seven games and managing only one home win all season it’s difficult to fathom why there’s so much optimism in Chicago about the team’s near-future. But, it exists.

[graphiq id=”1CczDIDAYcZ” title=”NFCN Barroom – Chicago Bears Overview” width=”640″ height=”841″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/1CczDIDAYcZ” link=”http://nfl-teams.pointafter.com/l/26/Chicago-Bears” link_text=”NFCN Barroom – Chicago Bears Overview | PointAfter”]

The team’s coaching staff re-worked the culture at Halas Hall. John Fox and his staff stressed the ABCs of football – discipline, tackling and running the ball – and transformed things to more of a CIA operation – absolute secrecy about everything.

Ryan Pace-7

What’s unfortunate for Bears fans is that the team’s two biggest assets (arguably), Adam Gase and Vic Fangio, might be headed out of town for head coaching jobs. Gase is considered, by many, the best candidate available (see here). Fangio’s name isn’t mentioned nearly as much as Gase’s, but general manager doing their homework will surely know that the defensive coordinator has delivered excellent results as a coordinator and demands consideration.

Of the four NFCN teams, the Bears are clearly the furthest from being considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender, which is why Bears general manager, Ryan Pace, will have a super-busy offseason.

 

 

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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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