We are eight games into the NFL season, in the NFC North three of the four teams have byes this weekend and with that it gives us time to reflect on how the teams are doing in comparison to how we expected them to do at the start of the season. We are going to grade the offense, defense and special teams along with a brief description as to why they got this grade. Just like the school report, the teams will be hiding it from their parents in a hope of a happy Halloween.
NFC North Mid-Season Report Card
Offensive Grade: C+
Injuries to Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush have left the Lions offense in a bind. Play on this side of the ball has not been good enough to have the record they have, but I guess that is a sign of a good team, being able to grind out wins when you are depleted.
Defensive Grade A+
This is the true reason the Lions are sitting atop the NFC North, the defense has mauled all before them. The defensive unit is first when it comes to fewest points conceded and yards allowedand is in the top five for both passing yards (5th) and rushing yards (2nd). If this unit continues to dominate the other units might just get out of Jail.
Special Teams Grade: D-
This really should be an F but the punt unit has been okay. The Lions are on their third kicker having missed 10 of their 19 attempted field goals and let me just state this, they should not have won in London on Sunday, a delay of game penalty (against the Lions) saw the missed field goal called back and re-attempted. This rule needs to be looked at, as the Falcons got burned.
Remaining Season Outlook: Positive
Somehow the Lions have got to 6-2 they possibly should be 4-4 with two very late wins. The offense should improve with Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson coming back but the offensive line has been suspect. As long as the defense can stay in the top five it should get them to the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers
Offensive Grade: A-
The game against New Orleans on Sunday, highlighted one important fact this team is one injury away from being terrible. When Aaron Rodgers is not healthy this teams offense flounders, it happened last year and it could very easily happen again. The offense collapsed when Rodgers picked up a hamstring injury and he was not the same player.
Defensive Grade: D+
While in Detroit it is the defense keeping the team in contention in Green Bay it is a hindrance. Ranked dead last in run stopping the rest of the stats could be a little over inflated by a poor Vikings team that gave up 48 points and had Christian ‘oh no please don’t throw’ Ponder under center.
Special Teams Grade: B
There has been noting negative about the special teams play, one missed field goal the only blotch on the stats sheet, there hasn’t there been anything special about it either.
Remaining Season Outlook: Positive
As long as Rodgers stays on the field, they should make the post season and the run continues to improve. Sunday’s game was an eye opener at how vulnerable they can be to a team that can put points on the board. Like in Spanish Soccer, the Packers are relying on a score more points than the opposition rather than a concede less points philosophy. It remains to be seen if they can maintain the juggernaut that is Aaron Rodgers.
Offensive Grade: D+
Oh how Chicago could regret giving Jay Cutler that mega contract, for better or worse the Bears are stuck with Cutler for the next three years, the cap hit before that is too great to cut him. Brandon Marshall has publicly slated Cutlers play and things could start to get toxic if he does not improve fast. The Bears are loaded up on weapons and have a good offensive line and yet they are at 3-5.
Defensive Grade: C-
When Cutler is turning over the ball so often it is hard to keep points off the board as a defensive unit. His 12 turnovers have influenced games more than the unit being terrible. Ranked in the bottom 2/3 in each category, this unit needs help from the offense.
Special Teams Grade: C+
Like the Packers this unit hasn’t done anything wrong nor has it done anything great, letting Devon Hester go has proven a huge hit to the return statistics, while he has been productive in Atlanta.
Remaining Season Outlook: Negative
Unless Cutler can find his form and start commanding the offense the way his wage packet suggests, this team will continue its downward slope. Cutler is known for getting stroppy and for attempting to shift blame when things go wrong, it will be interesting to see if this happens again.
Offensive Grade: D
Considering the calamity that has befallen the Vikings Offense, things aren’t a complete dumpster fire. Teddy Bridgewater has shown flashes of being a good quarterback but he has to stop turning the ball over. Adrian Peterson is gone and while many predicted the run game would collapse Jerick McKinnon has been more than a surprise in that department. The problem is the offensive line which is a train wreck, predicted to be one of the strongest in the league, both Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt find themselves at the bottom of the table when it comes to player grades.
Defensive Grade B+
When the season started not many would have predicted such a reverse in performance. This very young unit has grown up fast and become one of the more stout defenses in the league. Harrison Smith ranks second among safeties Sharif Floyd has turned into a terror at DT, Everson Griffen is third in sacks and rookie Anthony Barr is on pace to be defensive rookie of the year. In games where the Defense has given up large amounts of points (Green Bay, Patriots) it has been offensive turnovers that have caused short fields.
Special Teams Grade: D+
Beyond Blair Walsh this unit has been terrible. Mike Zimmer has suggested personal changes could be on their way, as the Vikings have committed almost as many penalties on special teams as they did all of last year (12-18). Both Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels have made questionable decisions when returning the ball and Jeff Locke continues to struggle on punts.
Remaining Season outlook: Neutral
I was going to say positive here but any improvement would look positive in comparison to the last eight games. The Defence has made this a 3 win team without their improvements I do not see them having more than one win. I see Bridgewater improving and the run game getting more established. Patterson seems to have found rhythm as a wide reciever and Rudolph should be back from injury after the bye.
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