NFC North showing what it's made of
Another person's opinion, this time Jeff Reynolds of Pro Football Weekly.
The old Black-and-Blue Division should be red in the face. All four tenants are chasing the division title as though it were a duck infected with avian flu.
These creatures -- the Lions, Vikings, Bears and Packers -- are appropriately relegated to the shadows, even in the dimly lit NFC, where no team has grabbed the spotlight.
With a combined six wins amongst the whole rotten crew, it's the division no one wants to win. The scary truth is, undeserving as it seems, one of these four sad-sack clubs will earn the right to be called champion, or at least the best of the very worst. It has been said that winning this division is on par with beating Homer Simpson for the Father of the Year award, and even some members of the '85 Bears believe they could win six games in the North. This year.
Six wins -- do the math, six -- might just put the Lions, Vikings, Bears or Packers in the playoffs.
Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on Minnesota to represent the North. With 40-1 odds to win the Super Bowl as of Oct. 11, the Vikings are behind 14 other teams. Division foes Chicago (50-1), Detroit (60-1) and Green Bay (100-1) are the longest of long shots.
Minnesota Vikings (1-4)
The Vikings' poor play might cost Mike Tice his job.
What went wrong: For starters, the theory that the Vikings lack a true leader is gaining some steam. Head coach Mike Tice and QB Daunte Culpepper were perceived as such, but neither appears firmly set in that role. Culpepper reverted to his turnover-happy self without WR Randy Moss. But there are plenty of places to spread the blame for Culpepper's woes.
Losing offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, not having WR Nate Burleson (out since Week Two), a punchless running game and the poor play of the interior offensive line haven't helped. Injuries thinned the defense during the team's disappointing start, and none of the supposed saviors acquired in the offseason -- CB Fred Smoot, DT Pat Williams, LB Napoleon Harris, LB Sam Cowart, FS Darren Sharper -- have lived up to their billing.
Can it be fixed? Tice brought in Jerry Rhome, a former offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, to get Culpepper right and increase the potency of the passing game. Also, ex-Vikings coordinator Foge Fazio now consults on matters related to defensive personnel.
The Vikings expect to be more controlled and disciplined on offense. That has to start with the quarterback, and Culpepper lacked confidence and wasn't healthy in September. Some changes on defense were expected -- Keith Newman took over at strong-side linebacker during the bye week -- but lighting a fire under Pro Bowl DT Kevin Williams might be the best move Tice can make. Williams had offseason knee surgery and hasn't been his disruptive self this season.
He had breakdowns on the other three of the mighty NFC North. If you want to read it, I'll post them also.
"From the fury of the Northmen, O Lord, save us!"
-- From a monestary in Ireland.