NFL Midpoint Evaluation: NFC North

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings (6-2) –

Offensive Points per Game (14th) Yards per Game (13th) –

  • Neither are very surprising, they have talented players in the run game and the passing game but they lack true superstars and a healthy, quality QB right now. Dalvin Cook looked pretty good to start his career but he has obviously been sidelined, and will remain that way for the rest of the season, by an ACL tear.  If Bradford or Bridgewater can come back soon and play average football this team will improve on their numbers in the 2nd

Defensive PPG Allowed (4th) YPG Allowed (3rd) –

  • Again, neither number is surprising. This defense was one of the best units in the league last year and returned just about everybody.  The Vikings seem to lack a true weakness defensively and that is why they are 6-2.  Play in the 2nd half should be much like that in the 1st half of the season unless this team is decimated by injury or the plague.

Players above expectations –

  • Adam Thielen, the 5th ranked WR heading into the bye week has been a staple of this offense so far this season. He is another example that WRs this season have been a dime a dozen.  He did break out week 1 to the tune of 9 catches for 157 yards but since then he has scored only once and has not broken 100 yards.  Still surpassing every expectation entering this year.
  • Jerick McKinnon, with the signing of Murray and the drafting of Cook McKinnon found himself near the bottom of the depth chart to start the season. With Cook tearing his ACL and Murray not being used in the way many expected, McKinnon has blossomed in his pass-catching role but has also done very well running the ball approximately 15 times a game.  Last year he was primarily the 3rd down back but has been much better this season.
  • Stefon Diggs, though he has missed 2 weeks, he is still the 13th best WR in fantasy at the moment. Diggs also exploded onto the scene early this season with 93 yards or more in 3 of his first 4 games and 4 touchdowns to boot.  He has showed that big-play ability he flashed in 2015 but was unable to expose in 2016 again.  If he can get healthy his remaining schedule isn’t too daunting and his team could definitely use his services.

Players below expectations –

  • Latavius Murray, when he was signed by the Vikings back in March it was apparent that the team was planning on using him as an every-down back. The drafting of Dalvin Cook changed that.  In the 1st 3 games when Cook was healthy he logged no more than 3 carries a game with a sub 3 YPC average.  He did do well against Baltimore week 7 with a 18/113/1 statline but otherwise returned to a 2.2 YPC average, watching McKinnon do the heavy lifting.

2nd Half Outlook –

  • With Rodgers out for an extended period of time, the Lions not coming from behind to win every single game in the 4th quarter like last year, and the Bears in rebuild mode, the division title is a shoe in in at this point for the Vikes. Case Keenum has done admirably in relief but Bradford seems close to being ready to go and Teddy Bridgewater has come back from the dead and may be ready to play soon.  No worries about this defense and the offense could get even better.

Green Bay Packers (4-3) –

Offensive Points per Game (11th) Yards per Game (22nd) –

  • An Aaron Rodgers-led offense should not be in the bottom half of any offensive statistic except for maybe rushing yards/TDs and sacks because his OL is broken. We are all aware that Rodgers fractured his clavicle back in week 6 and that pretty much fractured the team’s chances of making the playoffs this season.  Injuries have plagued this OL and the WRs on this team are great because of Rodgers, if you don’t believe me, ask Brett Hundley.

Defensive PPG Allowed (T-19th) YPG Allowed (23rd) –

  • About what was expected. This defense is far from great but they definitely aren’t the worst in the NFL.  The injury bug bit them hard last year and has been lurking around their locker room again this season.  They have a few playmakers in Clinton-Dix and of course Clay Mathews but without Rodgers commanding the ball on offense this defense will take a hit moving forward as well.

Players above expectations –

  • Aaron Jones, since Rodgers went down with injury the game plan has obviously changed. The Packers went from the most pass-happy offense in the league to running it 15 times a game with Jones alone.  He has averaged 5.6 YPC since Montgomery got hurt against the Bears and has 3 TDs in only 4 games.  Moving forward it looks like the offense is placed squarely on his shoulders; hopefully he can handle the load until Rodgers comes back.

Players below expectations –

  • TY Montgomery, kind of tough to put him here because his role has changed dramatically with Rodgers’ injury and he was hurt himself. When he and Rodgers both played the entire game (3 instances) he was averaging 17.4 points per game.  The reason he’s here is because there weren’t many other options and because his role may be forever changed with the emergence of Jones.  For fantasy purposes he’s probably unusable moving forward.

2nd Half Outlook –

  • Well, I don’t see them making the playoffs based on the poor performance of Brett Hundley right now (244 yards on 58 pass attempts and 4 picks to go along with only 1 TD pass). The 2 things going for them currently is Aaron Jones running well, and the fact that Rodgers MAY be able to come back week 15.  Unless they can win 5 more games they can kiss their playoff chances goodbye.  That is a daunting task; they finish out the season @ CAR, vs. MIN, and @ DET, not easy to say the least.

Detroit Lions (3-4) –

Offensive Points per Game (9th) Yards per Game (19th) –

  • Looking at these numbers you would expect that the Lions are starting with good field position on many drives and have a good run game. I can’t comment on the former but the latter is definitely not true.  The Lions haven’t had a player rush for over 100 yards in a game since 2013, that running back was Reggie Bush.  The Lions are known for their high-flying passing attack, not their run game (RBs have combined for 3 TDs, only 2 on the ground).

Defensive PPG Allowed (25th) YPG Allowed (21st) –

  • This is pretty standard for the Lions. They do have an up-and-coming defensive unit but their top players are all young and it doesn’t help that every game turns into a shootout since their offense can’t run the ball and is forced to pass every game.  They have put together a surprisingly good fantasy season but not much will change as we move toward the 2nd half of this season.

Players above expectations –

  • Marvin Jones Jr., at the beginning of 2016 it seemed that Golden Tate was the 1A to Jones’s 1B. That did not come to fruition and Jones fell to the wayside.  Jones was drafted very late entering this year, if at all, and now he sits at WR30, in the mid WR3 range.  He had done well as the #2 in this offense and should continue his success moving forward.
  • Lions’ Defense, keeping in mind what I said above, try and figure out how this defense is the 4th best scoring defense in fantasy. They have held 3 teams to 17 points or less and have 5 D/ST TDs on the year which accounts for most of that but they have also been torched for 27 or more points 3 times this season.  In fantasy all we care about are sacks, turnovers, and TDs; they have been doing those things but I doubt they can keep it up.

Players below expectations –

  • Eric Ebron, maybe I’m just beating the proverbial bush here but Ebron has the makings to be a top-tier TE in the NFL but he just hasn’t been able to get it all together. He currently sits at TE 33 in fantasy with Darren Fells edging him out at TE 29.  At this point I’m done with him and I think this Lions team is too.

2nd Half Outlook –

  • At 3-4 this team isn’t out yet but they sure have their work cut out for them. The offense isn’t a worry here and the defense has been fantastic from a fantasy perspective.  This team needs the defense to step it up from an NFL perspective and this offense needs to start scoring points in the red zone (something they have struggled with despite their overall ranking in points scored, much of that is off the leg of Prater).  If they can do that the wild card is possible but I don’t think it’s in the cards for them this season.

Chicago Bears (3-5) –

Offensive Points per Game (28th) Yards per Game (29th) –

  • Surprising to nobody outside of Chicago. The Bears entered the season knowing that they are still in the middle of a rebuild and that they can do only 1 thing moderately well, running the football.  They had a solid year on the ground last year but if you look at the numbers Howard was due for a regression.  Now that they have their future franchise QB Mitch Trubisky calling the huddle they will ease him into action in preparation for years to come.

Defensive PPG Allowed (14th) YPG Allowed (8th) –

  • Both numbers are about as expected. Digging deeper, it is certainly the case of numbers not telling the entire story.  The Bears were 27th in run defense last year and 7th in pass defense, the big key here is that teams were almost always up on them and ran the ball a ton.  The run defense is up to 12th now and the pass defense is down to 10th.  If you watched them at all you’d see that even though the run defense has improved, the pass defense has seen the most improvement this year.  Improvement is definitely what you want if you are rebuilding.

Players above expectations –

  • Jordan Howard, Howard had one hell of a season last year but with a 5.2 YPC average and a 10.3 YPR average you knew regression was coming. He’s currently sitting at a 4.1YPC and 5.6 YPR which is definitely more in line with what you can expect from him and this offense.  Why he’s on this list is because he currently sits at RB 9.  Now, he is a good running back, but I expected less from him so far this season considering they can’t pass the ball at all.
  • Tarik Cohen, huge surprise here. Cohen is a big explosion from a very small package.  He currently sits at RB 19 thanks to opening the season catching 8, 8, 4, and 4 balls over the 1st 4 games.  Since then, however, he has only caught 1 in every game.  It seems with Trubisky that for now they want him handing it off more than throwing it, and even then he’s seen a decline in carries.

Players below expectations –

  • Mike Glennon, the Bears threw a dart in signing Glennon to a 1 year deal in the middle of a rebuild. One could argue that playcalling is to blame instead of his ineptitude but regardless, 17 fantasy points is the best he could muster in a single game over the 1st 4 weeks.  The Bears have already moved on from him and it only took 4 weeks, any Bears fan will tell you that was 3 weeks too much.
  • All Bears WRs, it should be tough to throw an entire group on here but the Bears made it easy for me. This WR core is the WORST in the NFL and it’s not close.  Against the Steelers week 3 the Bears completed ONE pass to a WR, ONE!  Their leading WR has 22/259/1 on the season and as a unit they have 56/677/3.  Antonio Brown currently has 57/835/3 himself.

2nd Half Outlook –

  • The Bears are not trying to win the Super Bowl this season and honestly, every win sets them back a draft pick or 2. They already have 3 wins and more means that John Fox has a chance of coming back.  They should focus on the development of Trubisky and should try to bring in another WR or 2 for him to work with.  No chance of making the playoffs.

 

*Featured image courtesy of thegamehaus.com*