NFC NORTH: The division has become an offensive juggernaut

Posted Oct 4, 2013

Historically known as the 'Black and Blue' division, the North is now made up of four high-octane offenses

Remember when the NFC North was called the "Black and Blue" division? When hard-hitting, smash-mouth football was a staple of midwest football?

Nowadays, the NFC North features some of the best offensive football in the game. Think about it, the division has arguably the best quarterback (Aaron Rodgers), running back (Adrian Peterson) and receiver (Calvin Johnson) in the game.

As a result, the Green Bay Packers (32.0), Chicago Bears (31.8), Detroit Lions (30.5) and Minnesota Vikings (28.8) rank No. 2, 3, 4 and 5, respectively, in scoring per game this season.

Only the Denver Broncos (44.8) score more points per game than the four teams in the NFC North.

Let's take a closer look at why these offenses have been so prolific this year.


The 2013 catalyst: Aaron Rodgers, QB. If it weren't for the ridiculous start to the season for Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Rodgers would be once again getting some early consideration for MVP honors. He's third in the NFL with a 105.1 passer rating and is averaging 352.3 passing yards per game.

I bet you didn't know: The Packers have had a 100-yard rusher in back-to-back games after going the previous 44 without.

Stat pack: Rodgers' combined passer rating of 114.9 from 2011-12 was the best two-season passer rating in NFL history (min. 700 att.).

Twentyman: The Packers, like the Lions, have been searching for ways to get defenses out of the two-deep shell they typically play against them. The best way to do that is run the football effectively. Rodgers is seeing the benefits of that in the play-action pass game and more favorable coverage to throw against early this year.


Matt ForteAP Images

The 2013 catalyst: Matt Forte, RB. Forte ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing with 320 yards through four games. He's also averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Maybe even more impressive is that he's second on the team in receptions (23), trailing only receiver Brandon Marshall (27). He's the epitome of a do-it-all running back in this league.

I bet you didn't know: Forte caught 10 passes for 117 yards in the last meeting vs. this week's opponent, New Orleans.

Stat pack: Forte is tied for fifth in the NFL with 16 first-down runs

Twentyman: The Bears have gone to a quick-strike offense and that's certainly benefitted them so far (3-1 start). Quarterback Jay Cutler is completing a career-high 64 percent of his passes and Forte is averaging about 120 total yards per game. Forte has always been a big part of this offense, but he's being asked to do even more this year, and so far, he's answered the call.


The 2013 catalyst: Reggie Bush, RB. In the two games Bush started and completed, he amassed 191 and 173 total yards, respectively. He's the two-deep shell buster the Lions have been looking for.

I bet you didn't know: Detroit has 625 receiving yards after the catch this year. That's No. 1 in the NFL with a league average of 377. Of those, Reggie Bush has 184 and averages 16.7 yards after the catch per reception.

Stat pack: Bush is second in the NFL averaging 144.3 yards from scrimmage per game.

Twentyman: Bush has been exactly what the Lions hoped he'd be in this offense. Like we talked about above with the Packers, the Lions have been searching for a weapon in the backfield that could make teams pay for playing that two-deep shell. Bush has already made both the Vikings and Bears pay for playing too much of it this season.

He's off to such a good start that teams are going to have to adjust moving forward and receiver Calvin Johnson could start to see favorable coverage. That will open a whole new can of worms on defenses. It's the kind of balance the Lions have been searching for since losing Jahvid Best after five games in 2011.


The 2013 catalyst: Adrian Peterson, RB. AP is having another typical Peterson season. He's currently second in the NFL in rushing (421 yards) and is on pace to finish with 1,684 yards and 20 touchdowns. Ho-hum.

I bet you didn't know: Peterson is averaging a robust 8.9 yards per run this season when he runs to the right side of the Vikings offensive line. He's averaging 3.8 yards when he runs left.

Stat pack: Not surprising, but the Vikings lead the NFL with two runs of 50-plus yards this season.

Twentyman: If the Vikings could ever get consistent quarterback play, they'd be a juggernaut on offense. I mean, the last time they had a really solid quarterback (Brett Favre) they were a play away from the Super Bowl. Peterson has had some postseason success, but I wonder if he'll be one of those great NFL players – like Lions running back Barry Sanders – who never gets to play in a Super Bowl.