Mark Craig's northern intelligence

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • October 27, 2012 - 5:46 PM

We'll start finding out how smart the Lions were for using a second-round pick on Ryan Broyles just six months after the former Oklahoma receiver tore his anterior cruciate ligament. With No. 2 receiver Nate Burleson out for the season with a broken leg, Broyles steps up as the No. 3 receiver behind Calvin Johnson and Titus Young. Broyles, the NCAA leader in career receptions with 349, had his first three NFL catches for 51 yards after Burleson left in the third quarter of Monday night's game against Chicago.

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Former Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot probably remains his favorite individual matchup (loved that rowboat touchdown celebration in 2005), but Panthers receiver Steve Smith's preferred team opposition has to be Chicago. In three games against Lovie Smith-coached Bears teams, Smith has caught 34 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns. But he's been on the winning side only once in those three games. Smith and the 1-5 Panthers are at 5-1 Chicago on Sunday.

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The Packers are the best team in the league in the red zone. They've scored touchdowns in 16 of 21 trips for a 76.2 percent success rate. The Saints are second at 71.4 percent. "It helps when you have the best quarterback in the league," Packers guard T.J. Lang told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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