The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

NFC North gets interesting

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I can't say I'm entirely shocked by the Vikings' 0-2 start -- their 2009 season was the perfect storm, and everything lined up perfectly until overtime in the NFC Championship game. Brett Favre has the best season for a quarterback in his age group by such a crushingly wide margin, expecting a sequel of similar quality was somewhat foolhardy. Regression is a cruel master. That said, I'm a bit surprised that Favre can't raise his play with average receivers around him -- isn't that what great quarterbacks do? Facing the Lions this Sunday (read below for more on Detroit) won't be the easy time it used to be.

The Bears have pulled out two close games with a dynamic offense based almost entirely on a passing game that has to transcend a horrible offensive line and a nonexistent running game. With Mike Martz in charge of that offense, that isn't too surprising. That team will crash and burn eventually, but the fireworks will be spectacular. And Jay Cutler will lead the NFL in passing yards, sacks, and hospital visits. Facing Green Bay on Monday Night Football will be an interesting reality check -- Packers OLB Clay Matthews is having a ridiculous season with six sacks in just two games.

And then, we have the 0-2 Detroit Lions, the best winless team in football, and a team I'd take over quite a few teams currently at .500. With rookie running back Jahvid Best blowing up defenses and rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh destroying enemy quarterbacks, the Lions have validated a second straight outstanding draft has that team on a serious upswing, even with quarterback Matthew Stafford out with a shoulder injury. The Green Bay Packers are the only team in the NFL North with what we could call an expected result at 2-0.

To me, the Chiefs are the NFL's biggest surprise. In the 2010 Football Outsiders Almanac, we anticipated that Kansas City would see an increase in wins from their football team, but I didn't see 2-0 coming. But the Chiefs have some amazing special teams based on great, young athletes, and a secondary that presents serious challenges. The question there is whether quarterback Matt Cassel can even get to replacement level; he's looked terrible so far. They welcome a battered 49ers team to Arrowhead this Sunday, and that's now a game to watch.

The Cowboys at 0-2? Well, that's emblematic of Jerry Jones' need to spend too much on stats and not enough on fundamentals. In 2010 alone, the 'Boys have put $30 million in guaranteed money on the table for their top three receivers (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Roy Williams), and that doesn't even include tight end Jason Witten. Meanwhile, they're trying to patch the offensive line with band-aids like Alex Barron, who was the NFL's most penalized player over the last five seasons even before his three flags against the Redskins doomed his team's efforts. Meanwhile, in Washington, Mike Shanahan has proven that he understands the value of O-line talent. Until Jerry follows suit, that team is in serious trouble. More trouble will be coming if Dallas loses to the Texans - as the Redskins well know, it's never in the bag against THAT team.

Attention to detail, and a focus on the fundamentals, will always show up in the box score. That's what we're finding out as we do every season.

By Doug Farrar  |  September 21, 2010; 9:02 AM ET  | Category:  Chicago Bears , Dallas Cowboys , Detriot Lions , Doug Farrar , Green Bay Packers , Jerry Jones , Kansas City Chiefs , Minnesota Vikings Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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