NFC North weekend mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

One note before we get into our weekend fun.

Sarcasm is and will be our default tone here on the NFC North blog. Some of you don’t like it, but many of you don’t seem to get it. (Maybe that’s a comment on my limited skills as a sarcasteur, but we’ll leave that debate for another day.)

When I wrote last week that Minnesota’s bye makes it “an awfully difficult chore for me to develop interesting blog items,” I figured most readers would recognize its absurdity and take it accordingly. But I got more than a few notes like this one from someone who claims to be named Johnny Appleseed: “Even if you truly think there is NOTHING to watch with Minnesota on a bye, keep that in your head and print the objective thoughts that filter through that homer head of yours.”

Sarcasm, people. Chill out. Sarcasm.

Ok, let’s get to some questions. Remember, you can reach me via Facebook, Twitter, or the good old-fashioned mailbag.

Steve of Madison, Wis. writes: I can't help but wonder what the difference was that made Garrett Wolfe appear more productive then Matt Forte in that last drive. He was gaining 4-5 yards a carry and was pushing the pile which is no easy feat at his size. Was it the fact that it was garbage time and perhaps the Browns quit on the game, or just that it was the Browns? There just appeared to be a significant difference in their runs. Do you have any logical explanation? And should the Bears look at mixing the run game up more to really provide a change of pace?

Kevin Seifert: I think you said it: Garbage time. There is almost nothing to discern from the point in a game where both sides are just trying to end it. Chicago was trying to run out the clock, and Cleveland was allowing it. It’s like getting excited about an NBA bench player who scores 16 points in the final 10 minutes of a 120-80 blowout. It’s mostly baseless excitement.

With that said, I don’t think you’re off-base in suggesting the Bears at least mix up their backfield rotation. Their original plan to play Kevin Jones behind Forte was scuttled by Jones’ preseason ankle injury, and I can understand their reluctance to put much faith on Wolfe’s shoulders. In three years, he has only 68 carries.

But I also think it’s a bit stubborn to keep pounding away with the same formula when it isn’t working. Forte, of course, should remain the Bears’ starting tailback. But if you’re averaging 58.3 yards per game, as Forte is, it shouldn’t be out of the question to mix it up with more regularity. If the Bears don’t trust Wolfe to run the ball at least sometimes, then he shouldn’t be on the roster.

Matt of Chicago writes: I am amazed at the people coming to Dominic Raiola's defense on his latest (not his first and likely not his last) run-in with fans. His defense -- that he was sticking up for his QB and won't let the fans run him out of town like we did with Joey Harrington -- is pure bunk. The fans were incredibly supportive and in fact it was his own teammates such as Dre Bly that hung him out to dry. The simple fact that there is anyone at all in the stands after what we have endured in the last decade proves our loyalty. Maybe if Raiola focused more on the field and less on the stands there wouldn't be so many disgruntled fans.

Kevin Seifert: You said it better than I could have, Matt. Joey Harrington ran himself out of town with poor play, a shaky attitude and a much-too-sensitive personality. Some might argue that Harrington’s promising career was ruined by Detroit’s losing culture, but I don’t buy that. He’s had multiple opportunities elsewhere to prove he can be a starting-caliber quarterback, and has failed each time.

I’m sure Raiola is just as frustrated as the most disgruntled fan. But after seeing the 25,000-plus empty seats Sunday at Ford Field, he should have been thanking those who did show up. The fact is that fans in every professional city can be unfair, uneducated, rude and even nasty. Absorbing their jeers and cheers is all part of being a professional athlete. Why Raiola thinks Lions players should be treated any differently is beyond me.

Josh of Michigan writes: How can you write an article about Percy Harvin in good faith talking about him as the most feared? AP and CJ are the most feared offensive players in the North. Harvin is like option 3 on his own team. Putting Harvin up there is ridiculous and a slap in the face to all the North teams. I understand he caught a big pass but does he deserve such an article?

Kevin Seifert: Here’s another issue of careful reading, or lack thereof. The headline on the Harvin post was “Dangerous Player,” and every NFL blogger wrote one for his division. The headline wasn’t “Most Feared” or even “Most Dangerous.”

I wouldn’t argue for a minute that Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson have, over the course of their careers, been the most explosive players currently in the NFC North. But through eight games this season, and especially Sunday at Lambeau Field, Harvin has been a very dangerous player. He’s been the NFL’s top kickoff returner, taking back two for touchdowns already, and he’s been one of Brett Favre’s favorite targets in the passing game. I always let you know when I’ve second-guessed a choice I make for one of these posts, but in this case I have no regrets.

Karl of Mountain View, Calif., notes our post on Yards after Catch and writes: One thing about YAC. At least for WRs, the skill of the QB in placing the ball in the right place in step can also have an impact on it. A good WR can still get YAC even on a poorly thrown ball, but it's tougher. A lot of YAC comes from hitting the receiver in stride. It's more WR than QB, but not exclusively the WR. The WR might make a great play on a poorly-thrown ball to catch it, but it's a lot tougher to get that YAC then.

Kevin Seifert: I think that’s a fair point but agree it’s a complementary factor. That said, accuracy should always be the top measuring stick for any quarterback. Quite literally, inches matter.

I get the opportunity to watch NFL quarterbacks in training camp every summer, and it’s always amazing to see some of the things they can do during drills. In Green Bay, for example, I saw Aaron Rodgers drill three passes into a small square from about 40 yards away. Some of these quarterbacks can rival baseball pitchers in terms of putting the ball where they want.

It doesn’t just matter if a receiver has to break stride to catch a pass. Simply moving the hands away from the direction he is running can slow him down.