Tuesday, December 24, 2013

North follies

Forgive me for tooting my own horn a little bit, but I did tweet this out 2 weeks ago:



While the Lions franchise has been one of the more inept outfits for the past half century (exactly one playoff win since 1957), this most recent version may be the most dysfunctional. With all things being equal, the Lions had perhaps the most talented roster in the NFC North division. But since the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers have each been beset by critical injuries (including both being without their respective franchise quarterbacks for extended periods), this was the Lions' division to lose. And lose it they did.

My friend Mark Heuring summed it up best.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Lions are a punk, gutless team. After demolishing the Packers on Thanksgiving, they've been coughing up hairballs ever since and are now out of it. The Giants came into Detroit with nothing to gain and playing a lot of subs, but still beat the Lions, who couldn't get out of their own way. Jim Schwartz is going to be fired, too, and on merit. The Lions were the only team in the division that didn't get destroyed with injuries and they still couldn't win. It's worth remembering that the last time the Lions won anything they were featuring the quarterback duo of Bobby Layne and Tobin Rote. We're approaching 60 years of futility with this crew.
So this Sunday, the NFC North will feature a winner-take-all matchup between one of the NFL's most storied rivalries: Packers-Bears.

For the visiting Pack, there is still question whether QB Aaron Rodgers will be able to return after nearly a two month absence with a broken collarbone. But even if Rodgers is able to play, RB Eddie Lacy is questionable with a bum ankle. On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers' biggest play maker, LB Clay Matthews, is likely out with a bad thumb. That's a huge blow to an already porous defense.

On the Bears side of the ledger, their offensive line has reverted to "swinging gate" status, which doesn't bode well for QB Jay Cutler in only his third game back from injury. Regarding the defense, this is perhaps the worst Bears unit I have seen since Jim Dooley was head coach. They are ranked 29th overall, including dead last against the run where they've allowed a whopping 5.4 yards per carry. So desperate were the Bears to inject life into their defense that last Sunday vs. the Philadelphia Eagles they brought in a one-armed Lance Briggs to try and help (hint: he didn't).

In the nearly 200 games (including playoffs) the Packers and Bears have faced each other, the highest scoring contest in the history of this rivalry took place November 6, 1955 (coincidentally, that was merely one day after Dr. Emmett Brown invented time travel). The Bears won that game 52-31. If my math is correct, that is 83 total points. Given the state of both teams' defenses, there's a fighting chance that record is threatened Sunday.

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