NFC North Stock Watch


1. Chances of a new contract for Matt Forte, Chicago Bears tailback: We've been discussing the risks and rewards of giving big money to a running back for months. Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com recently posted some updated thoughts. But it's worth noting that the better Forte plays this season, the more sense it makes for the Bears to avoid a long-term deal and instead use the franchise tag on him next spring and possibly beyond. Forte's MVP pace has elevated his value substantially since the start of training camp. The Bears can either pay out an ever-increasing total of guaranteed money, or wait until the spring, when they can lock in Forte for less than $8 million in total compensation. Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, who is averaging 2.8 yards per carry this season after receiving $30 million in guarantees, is providing the latest cautionary tale.

2. Cedric Griffin, Minnesota Vikings cornerback: How many times have you heard about an NFL player continuing his career after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in both knees? That's what Griffin has done after suffering those two serious injuries in less than a year, missing only 14 games over a two-season span because of the timing in each case. But the Vikings will take some time during their bye week to evaluate his play and determine whether a demotion is in order. It's a cruel business, but Griffin's admirable push to get back on the field and do his job has revealed him to be less effective than he once was. When he was drafted in 2006, Griffin was considered a cornerback/safety. Is it time to give the latter a try?

3. Sack totals for Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions defensive tackle: Let's be clear from the top. A defensive tackle can have a fine season without recording a single sack. But lost in the national conversation about whether Suh is a dirty player, and his scheduled meeting Tuesday with NFL officials, has been a noticeable decline in his sack production. Suh has three sacks through eight games, tying him with 22 other players for No. 26 in the NFL. Through eight games of his rookie season, Suh had 6.5 sacks on the way to 10 for the season. As we've discussed many times, good fortune is one of several key factors in running up high sack totals. Sacks are but one measure of an effective defensive tackle. So take the drop-off for what you will.


1. NFC North in prime time: The NFL's top division is preparing for a nice run of national exposure. Three of our four teams will appear on "Monday Night Football" over the next two weeks, first the Bears (at the Philadelphia Eagles) and then the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers (at Lambeau Field). The Packers and Detroit Lions have a pretty meaningful Thanksgiving Day game looming, and the Bears and Packers will stage their second matchup of the year on the night of Christmas. And we're just getting into the flexible portion of the NFL's national schedule!

2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings tailback/receiver: That's right. Peterson caught five passes for a career-high 76 yards in Sunday's victory over the Carolina Panthers. Included in that mix was a 19-yard touchdown on a middle screen. For reasons I don't fully understand, the Panthers' defense was playing deep against the Vikings' receiving corps, leaving Peterson with room to roam underneath. It sounds simple, but quarterback Christian Ponder was smart enough to take advantage. "I will take that all day," Ponder told reporters. Peterson hasn't always been the smoothest of receivers. But screens and checkdowns are an easy way for a young quarterback to deal with pressure, and there is no better player in the open field than Peterson once he gets the ball in his hands.

3. Jason Hanson, Detroit Lions place-kicker: Hanson drilled his fourth field goal of 50 or more yards this season in Sunday's victory at the Denver Broncos, a nice eight-game accomplishment for any kicker but one especially noteworthy for a 20-year veteran. Only two NFL kickers, Sebastian Janikowski and Josh Scobee, have converted more attempts of 50 or more yards. I know we've mentioned Hanson before in Stock Watch. But he continues to excel at an elite pace. Overall, Hanson is tied for first among NFL kickers with 17 field goals. His only miss this season has been from 52 yards.