Around the NFC North, where I wouldn't eliminate the Vikings and crown the Pack just yet ...
IN GREEN BAY:
. Is it me or are the Packers having trouble counting players at each position? They kept two tailbacks and three fullbacks on their 53-man roster. Now, one week into the season, starting tailback Ryan Grant is out this week and probably a lot longer with what coach Mike McCarthy called a "significant" ankle injury involving a ligament in the ankle.
And then there's this story in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about what the Packers would have had to do on Sunday if the Eagles had the brains to use their short-yardage offense on that fourth-and-one stop that sealed the Pack's win.
If the Eagles had brought in extra tight ends and loaded up for the run, the Packers were so depleted on the defensive line that backup offensive guard Josh Sitton would have had to play defensive line in the most important play of the game. Fortunately for the Pack, Andy Reid went with three receivers and Michael Vick in the shotgun. Vick was stopped short of the first down and the Packers had themselves a significant road win.
The Packers activated only four defensive linemen for their 3-4 scheme. Four! Cullen Jenkins broke his hand and playing sparingly with a padded club over his hand. Then, injury-prone former first-round pick Justin Harrell tore his ACL and saw yet another season end early.
The Packers are expected to re-sign 2009 sixth-round pick Jarius Wynn today to bolster their defensive line. They also might activate rookie C.J. Wilson. And they also might want to go with more than four on game day.
Lovie Smith is under fire for not giving cornerback Zack Bowman safety help on Lions receiver Calvin Johnson on the play that was ruled an incompletion in the end zone. There's irony here because Smith is routinely criticized for playing the conservative Cover 2 scheme. On the pass to Johnson, the Bears aggressively blitzed Shaun Hill, leaving Bowman to play Johnson one-on-one.
I'll give Lovie a pass on that one. I would have blitzed Hill, too.
But Lovie doesn't get a pass for plowing a running back into the Lions' improved defensive line four times from the Detroit 1-yard line. When you're playing a low-scoring game against a pitiful offense with a backup QB and you're trailing by a point in the fourth quarter, YOU KICK THE FIELD GOAL!
Not so, says Lovie.
"I went for it because I thought we could get it," Smith said. "Wanted the offense to see that I thought that. Felt good about it going for it then. And feel good about it now. In those situations, probably will do the same thing again."
The Bears won the game. But why do I not feel any better about that team? Heck, I feel better about the Lions after that game. And they lost the game and their starting QB.
I did a story on our old friend Shaun Hill for today's paper. Detroit News columnist John Niyo also takes a closer look at Hill in this column today. Niyo notes the Lions haven't had a backup QB win a game since 2005. Of course, the starters haven't won many since 2005 either.
Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford scoffed at the label "injury prone" when reminded that he's now had three serious injuries in just 11 regular season games. Stafford separated his throwing shoulder on a sack by Julius Peppers and could miss four to eight weeks, ESPN reported.
"I wouldn't call it injury prone," Stafford said. "More like weird, freaky injuries."
In Stafford's defense, he's not missing games for minor aches and pains. He's had a dislocated kneecap, a dislocated left shoulder last year and a dislocated right shoulder this year.
Last year's hit that dislocated his left shoulder was a vicious hit. The Peppers sack didn't look particularly violent. But he's also a very large dude who fell on a relatively small one.
When I see guys like Stafford go out with legitimate, serious injuries, it further amazes me that Brett Favre has avoided something similar happening to him for 310 consecutive games. You want unbreakable records? That one will live forever whenever Favre's done extending it.
AND IN MINNESOTA:
Judd and Chip got ya covered over on Access Vikings. So I'll throw in just one observation:
While reading Sidney Rice's comments about how tough it was to watch his teammates play while he recovers from hip surgery, I had one thought:
"THEN WHY IN THE WORLD DID YOU WAIT SO LONG TO TAKE CARE OF AN INJURY THAT HAPPENED EIGHT MONTHS AGO!"