How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch


1. Matthew “Macho Man” Stafford, Detroit quarterback: Has Stafford shown us how tough he is? Oh, yeah. Has he taken most of the Lions’ snaps since separating his left shoulder two weeks ago? Oh, yeah. Has he gotten enough experience this year? Oh, yeah. There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason for the Lions to continue playing their $41.7 million man through an injury that remains painful and seems to be impacting his play. Coach Jim Schwartz was non-committal about the situation Monday, but Schwartz doesn’t typically tip his hand on personnel issues. If Stafford won’t shut himself down, which most rookies wouldn’t do, then the Lions might have to do it for him.

2. Minnesota’s defensive line: One of the best position groups in football was totally shut down by Arizona’s offensive line. It was clear the Cardinals were not going to let right end Jared Allen beat them, and he faced a battery of double-teams and chips throughout the game. On this occasion, Allen’s teammates didn’t pick up much of the slack. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams and left end Ray Edwards each finished with one tackle. Only nose tackle Pat Williams took advantage of the single blocking he faced, making two tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

3. The rumor mill in Chicago: It seems that every day there is a suggestion about who will replace Ron Turner next season as the Bears’ offensive coordinator. One day it’s Mike Martz. The next it’s Charlie Weis. Then Jeremy Bates. Some of the names are legitimate and some are being tossed into the ring for leverage in other jobs. But with more than a month left in the regular season, the speculation is mostly moot right now. It’s pretty unlikely coach Lovie Smith has formed a search committee. So everyone relax for a few more weeks -- until we really start grinding that mill.


1. Dom Capers, Green Bay defensive coordinator: Whether you buy the NFL’s method for ranking defenses (based on total yards), you have to admit the Packers have made dramatic strides on that side of the ball. Much of the credit goes to Capers, who has transformed a passive scheme into an attacking and opportunistic defense. The Packers rank first in the NFL with an average of 273.5 yards per game and second in with 31 takeaways. The defensive turnaround has the Packers in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card berth.

2. Matt Forte, Chicago tailback: Heard of small victories? Forte’s 91-yard performance Sunday against St. Louis was his second-highest single-game total of the season. In fact, it was only the third time he’s finished with more than 66 rushing yards in a game. A pessimist would note that those performances came against the St. Louis, Cleveland and Detroit (combined record: 4-32). But when you’re having a season as disappointing as Forte’s has been, you take your success in any form it comes your way. Remember: small victories.

3. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay tight end: If only every game was on Monday night. Finley caught seven passes for 79 yards on and two touchdowns in the Packers’ victory over Baltimore. And in two "Monday Night Football" games this season, Finley has 13 receptions for 207 yards and three touchdowns. His all-field potential was on display against the Ravens. Finley made a nice catch on a fade route over Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski for one touchdown, and then ran over Zbikowski for his second.