NFC North Stock Watch


1. Patience of Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions defensive tackle: Suh forcefully and emotionally defended himself Monday against allegations of what would have been some sketchy trash talk by the Atlanta Falcons. Suh vehemently denied he called for the Falcons to bring out a medical cart when quarterback Matt Ryan injured his left ankle. Falcons receiver Roddy White stood by that allegation during an interview with the NFL Network on Monday night, so someone is not telling the truth. Crazy things get said and done on NFL fields all the time. But based on the passion of Suh's defense, you have to assume (and hope) he's not the one lying here.

2. Minnesota Vikings locker room: Coach Leslie Frazier has plenty on his management plate as he enters Week 8 of his first season as a permanent head coach. Cornerback Chris Cook, a rising young player on a roster of veterans, has been jailed since Saturday morning on domestic violence allegations. Receiver Bernard Berrian has apparently run afoul of team discipline on a number of occasions, resulting in two game-day deactivations and a looming departure from the organization. And although it went underplayed late last week, Frazier absorbed some rare and direct public criticism from soft-spoken defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who challenged Frazier's assertion that the defensive line hasn't played physically. Williams told the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "If you want to call somebody out, call who you're talking about out." There are growing pains in any head coaching transition, and Frazier is dealing with it on a number of fronts.

3. Silliness of criticizing Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers linebacker: Matthews had a sack of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, bringing his season total to three. But I thought his performance Sunday was a perfect example of how a rush linebacker can make a tremendous impact without sack totals. For one, his run defense was excellent. He was in on tackles that limited the Vikings to 2, 1, 2, minus-2, and minus-5 yards on rushing plays. On the latter, he beat Vikings left guard Steve Hutchinson to the backfield by several steps, as noted by Pro Football Focus.


1. Tim Masthay, Green Bay Packers punter: It hasn't been a stellar season for Masthay, who entered Sunday's game against the Vikings with the second-worst net average (30.4) in the NFL. But he made the most of his three punts at the Metrodome, averaging 55.3 net yards. According to Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information, that net average was the third best by an NFL punter in the past 35 years (minimum three punts). Masthay's 64-yard punt in the fourth quarter was especially important, flipping field position at a time when the Vikings were trying to get into position for a go-ahead score. The punt, downed at the Vikings' 2-yard line, increased the Packers' win probability from 75 to 80 percent, based on data from games compiled over the past 10 years.

2. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears running back: Forte notched his third 100-yard rushing game in the past four weeks Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's almost impossible right now to distinguish him from the top running backs in the game, as ESPN analyst Andrew Brandt writes for the National Football Post. Forte's 1,091 all-purpose yards is 211 yards ahead of the next-best mark in the NFL, and he has accounted for more than 50 percent of the Bears' offense. With Forte and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the NFC North might have the top two MVP candidates through Week 7.

3. Charles Woodson, Packers cornerback: Two interceptions Sunday brought Woodson's NFL-leading total to five after seven games. You can note that four of the five have come against rookie quarterbacks Ponder and Cam Newton, but I haven't noticed any asterisks in league rankings lately. Plus, half of what makes a good defensive player is getting in position to make plays that will eventually be afforded you. Woodson might not be blanketing receivers as he once did, but his playmaking has been a huge equalizer for the Packers' defense.