NFC North Stock Watch


1. Help for Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears quarterback: At some point, you wonder if Cutler is on the road to being the next David Carr, a player so battered by opposing pass rushes -- mentally and physically -- that his game is forever altered. Cutler hung in as best he could Monday night against the Detroit Lions, but you wonder if he fully trusts the players around him. Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com reported that Cutler has concerns about his offensive line and receivers. We'll touch on this more in the Bears' Free Head Exam later Tuesday, but after watching Monday night's game, I wouldn't blame Cutler if he has some concerns.

2. Mistakes by Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers quarterback: Rodgers is completing an NFL-high 71.7 percent of his passes. And most notably, he is pushing the ball downfield, as evidenced by his average of 9.6 yards per attempt, tied for highest in the NFL. You don't need me to tell you that Rodgers is playing at a high level, but it's quite amazing to think no one is playing more aggressively with fewer mistakes.

3. Concentration in Chicago: There is no other way to attribute a stunning nine false starts for a veteran team in one game, but that's what the Bears did Monday night. Left tackle J'Marcus Webb had three of them, but the Bears can't possibly hold him accountable in a meaningful way because their personnel is so thin right now. Who could they replace Webb with, if even to send a message? Frank Omiyale has been benched in consecutive games for poor play at right tackle. Rookie Gabe Carimi is recovering from a knee injury. The Bears and offensive line coach Mike Tice are once again left to make chicken salad from the leftovers. Or something like that.


1. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions running back: Remember when Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he fantasized over Best's potential when he was drafted in 2010? This was the kind of fantasy Schwartz was imagining: A scatback rolling up 172 all-purpose yards on 16 offensive touches in a key divisional game. Best had exceeded 70 rushing yards only once in his NFL career before Monday night. But his breakout total of 163 yards against the Bears will add a layer to the game planning of opposing defensive coordinators for weeks to come.

2. Marshall Newhouse, Packers offensive lineman: A few weeks ago, no one knew for sure if Newhouse could play at all on the NFL level. Sunday night in Atlanta, Newhouse handled the exceedingly difficult job of flipping from right to left tackle in the middle of a game after Chad Clifton's hamstring injury. The Packers have drafted college left tackles in the first round of each of their past two drafts (Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod), so it will be wild if Newhouse ends up taking Clifton's place for a substantial part of the 2011 season.

3. Passions in Minnesota: The Ramsey County Charter Commission could decide as early as Tuesday whether to place a stadium financing referendum on the November 2012 ballot. The county is being asked to contribute $350 million in new taxes to the Minnesota Vikings' stadium project, and some opponents are calling for the issue to be opened to the voting public. The referendum would likely scuttle the project altogether if you assume voters won't choose to raise their own taxes. In the end, a legal battle likely would be initiated to determine whether the charter commission has the final authority on this matter or if the state legislature can reverse the decision. In the meantime, the clock will tick toward the February 2012 expiration of the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome.