NFC NORTH

NFC North: Three preseason games are completed and the 2013 version of each team is becoming clearer

Posted Aug 27, 2013

With one preseason game to go, Tim Twentyman looks at each team in the division to speculate what we can expect during the regular season

Three down and one to go and we can call preseason football a wrap.

Most teams have seen what they want from the majority of their starters and the goal this week is to get out of the game healthy.

There's nothing worse than losing a player for any extended period of time in the fourth preseason game. The Lions know better than most how frustrating that can be (James Stewart's shoulder injury in 2003 and Jeff Garcia's broken fibula in 2005).

Coaches mainly want to see their backups compete for jobs, and above all, stay healthy.

With three preseason games in the books for the Bears, Packers, Lions and Vikings, what do we know about the 2013 version of each team?

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Preseason record: 1-2

Week 1: Arizona 17, Green Bay 0

Week 2: Green Bay 19, St. Louis 7

Week 3: Seattle 17, Green Bay 10

What do we know:

Aaron RodgersQB Aaron Rodgers (Photo: AP Images)

• Green Bay doesn't feel like Aaron Rodgers needs any preseason tune-up work. Last year, the former MVP played in six series and had 41 snaps in the third preseason game. Against the Seahawks this week, Rodgers played just one series. He's now only played five series the entire preseason.

• The Packers are unsettled at kicker. They had three kickers on the roster earlier this week – they cut one Monday – and don't seem real confident in incumbent Mason Crosby, who has looked very shaky in practice, according to Rob Demovsky on ESPN.

• Veteran Vince Young seems to have won the backup quarterback job, which adds another dimension to the Packers offense.

• The Packers may have suffered a significant setback to their secondary. Cornerback Casey Hayward, who led all rookies with six interceptions last year, left the game in the second quarter after re-injuring the same hamstring that forced him start training camp on PUP.

• The return of receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb from injury over the last 24 hours is good news for the Packers. Both players are expected to be ready for Week 1.

What they had to say:

"The dimension of running, that's something we really wanted to see (from Young)," coach Mike McCarthy told the Green Bay Press Gazette of Young. "I think you're just seeing Vince getting more and more comfortable with what we're asking of him, particularly for as much as man-to-man (defense) as we were seeing tonight.

"Very instinctive and made big plays and did very well on his first drive. It was unfortunate the high snap on second down on the second drive. I think Vince is one of the players that definitely took advantage of his opportunities tonight."

CHICAGO BEARS

Preseason record: 2-1

Week 1: Carolina 24, Chicago 17

Week 2: Chicago 33, San Diego 28

Week 3:  Chicago 34, Oakland 26

What do we know:

• Running back Matt Forte likes the Bears' new zone blocking scheme. Over his last four quarters of work in the preseason, Forte has averaged 10.7 yards per attempt. He finished with 76 yards on six attempts vs. Oakland Friday. Forte's performance has been one of the bigger stories out of Bears camp.

• How concerned are Bears fans about the right side of their offensive line? Rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills are expected to start at guard and tackle, respectively, when the regular season begins. Reports out of Chicago are that Jonathan Scott and J'Marcus Webb are competing for the swing tackle spot.

• After a slow start to the preseason, second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery seemed to reaffirm his status as the No. 2 option behind Brandon Marshall for quarterback Jay Cutler. Jeffery had seven catches for 77 yards vs. Oakland and had a key block on a Forte touchdown run.

What they had to say:

"What makes the zone blocking good is those linemen get push off the ball," Forte told ESPNChicago.com. "When they can do that, I can be patient and just sit back and read the blocking. So [while] there's a place where the play is designed to go, you can just use your vision. If I want to, I can cut it all the way back. Or I can just pick a hole. That's what makes it so nice."

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Preseason record: 0-3

Week 1: Houston 27, Minnesota 13

Week 2: Buffalo 20, Minnesota 16

Week 3: San Francisco 34, Minnesota 14

What do we know:

• The Vikings aren't taking any chances when it comes to the health of running back Adrian Peterson. The All Pro running back was on the field for just two plays – both play-action passes – and was then taken off the field in San Francisco. It should be noted that Peterson didn't play in the preseason last year and did all right during the regular season.

• Peterson will be without his Pro Bowl lead blocker, Jerome Felton, for the first two games of the regular season (including opener in Detroit) after the league suspended him Monday for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

• Quarterback Christian Ponder might have eased some fears in Minnesota with a nice game against a good 49ers defense. After a terrible start to the preseason, Ponder was 17-of-23 passing for 116 yards and two touchdowns. A lot of his throws were underneath, though, and he missed some plays down the field, but those aren't bad numbers overall.

• The Vikings didn't need any more injuries along a banged up defensive line, so there has to be concern with the knee injury suffered by defensive tackle Kevin Williams when he was the victim of a cut block in San Fran. He told reporters after the game that he thought he'd be fine. That's a big loss for that defense if it doesn't prove to be the case.

What they had to say:

"We didn't do as well as we would have liked, but we ended on a positive note," Ponder told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after the game in San Francisco. "There are some things we still need to get a lot better at, but I have no worries about the leadership on this team and the maturity on this team that we'll fix it."

DETROIT LIONS

PRESEASON RECORD: 2-1

Week 1: Detroit 26, New York Jets 17

Week 2: Cleveland 24, Detroit 6

Week 3: Detroit 40, New England 9

What do we know:

• The defensive line has the potential to be very dominant if it stays healthy. Jason Jones, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah have brought a toughness and playmaking ability to the front it hasn't had in a number of years. That can really be a special group.

• The Lions are still waiting for an outside receiver not named Calvin Johnson to emerge as a legitimate weapon. Patrick Edwards has four catches for 14 yards in three preseason games, but did separate from a defender on two occasions vs. the Patriots and could have had a couple big plays if quarterback Matthew Stafford hadn't of overshot him. The Lions are looking at ways to improve that unit, but Edwards still has one more shot in Buffalo to take the job.

• Head coach Jim Schwartz is being very careful with Johnson. He gave Johnson the option to play or sit based on his knee last week and he's not likely to play in Buffalo on Thursday, either. No worries, though, Johnson should be ready to roll by the season opener Sept. 8.

• Running back Reggie Bush is who the Lions thought he was when they signed him in free agency. Bush has 10 catches for 147 yards in three preseason games. Right now, he's the No. 2 receiver on this team.

What they had to say:

"I'm not concerned," Stafford said after the Patriots game of the starters on offense scoring only one touchdown through three games this preseason.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We were down a big playmaker in our offense tonight and our defense knew that, showed up and played great. It's about the team, man. It was a team win tonight. Our defense did a great job. Our special teams played great. Pinned them in long field and gave us some short field. It was a team win. It was good."