The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and consistent play at that position usually gives teams the best chance to win on Sunday.
For this week's NFC North column, we take a look at the quarterback play so far in the division for Detroit, Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota.
Last week: Green Bay 30, San Francisco 28
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers
Stat line: 60-of-88 (68.2), 649 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT, 102.9 rating
Key stat: Over the course of Rodgers' career, teams have had to be very careful when deciding to blitz the three-time MVP, but this year his numbers are down significantly against the blitz. Rodgers has just a 59.93 passer rating with one touchdown and one interception when blitzed. His 56 passing yards against an extra rusher are the fewest in the NFL.
Quotable: "I feel good about our team. Week 1 was an anomaly," Rodgers told ESPN of Green Bay's 38-3 dud Week 1 where Rodgers threw two interceptions. "I said that and I believe that. We bounced back Week 2. Played a great team (Sunday) right down to the wire. This plane ride is going to feel incredible."
Twentyman: After a terrible performance all the way around for the Packers Week 1, they've rolled off two straight wins. Rodgers has six touchdowns and no interceptions in those wins. He orchestrated a terrific come-from-behind victory over the 49ers Week 3 in the final minute. Rodgers has looked like his MVP self the last two weeks, and he has the Packers atop the NFC North again. As long as Rodgers is under center, the NFC North title goes through Green Bay.
Last week: Minnesota 30, Seattle 17
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins
Stat line: 88-of-119 (73.9), 918 yards, 8 TD, 0 INT, 118.3 rating
Key stat: Cousins has the No. 1 passer rating in the NFL inside the opponent 30-yard line at 136.2. He's completed 17 of his 21 passes down there for 151 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Quotable: "I told the team that it's the best offensive performance that I've seen in the eight years that I've been here," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told ESPN of Sunday's win vs. Seattle. "(Cousins) played outstanding. I thought (Alexander) Mattison ran the ball well, the offensive line blocked great. Tight ends, receivers blocked great in the run game but also in the passing game. Very, very proud of the way that they performed today."
Twentyman: The Vikings' 1-2 record is certainly no reflection of the way Cousins has played to begin the year. Only Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford have a higher passer rating among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts. Cousins has one of the top receiving duos in the league to throw to, and two running backs in Dalvin Cook and Mattison he can lean on in the run game. Cousins is playing at a Pro Bowl level to begin the 2021 season.
Last week: Cleveland 26, Chicago 6
Quarterback: Andy Dalton
Stat line: 36-of-49 (73.5), 262 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 83.9 rating
Quarterback: Justin Fields
Stat line: 14-of-35, (40.0), 138 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 39.9 rating
Key stat: Chicago ranks last in the NFL with just one completion of 20-plus yards on the season. That's with stud wide receiver Allen Robinson in the lineup. The Bears have been ineffective pushing the ball down the field in the passing game, and that's allowed defenses to move up and key in on the run game and get after the quarterback. Fields, who started in place of the injured Dalton this past week, was sacked nine times. For comparison's sake, Las Vegas leads the NFL with 21 completions of 20-plus yards on the season.
Quotable: "They're all three under consideration right now in regards to where they're at, so we'll just kinda have to see in the next couple days where they're all at," Bears head coach Matt Nagy told the Chicago Sun-Times of Dalton, Fields and Nick Foles all being considered to start Sunday vs. Detroit. "We know where Nick's at, health-wise, but we just want to keep an eye on Justin and Andy. Then, for us to stay on that and make sure that we have a plan for any of those."
Twentyman: The Bears certainly didn't put the rookie Fields in a great position to be successful Sunday vs. Cleveland. He was a sitting duck in the pocket (nine sacks), and dropping back and being a pocket passer isn't his strength. At this point, the veteran Dalton – or even Foles – look like they may give the Bears a better chance to win.
Last week: Baltimore 19, Detroit 17
Quarterback: Jared Goff
Stat line: 86-of-123 (69.9), 801 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 94.3 rating
Key stat: Goff and the Lions have had some issues staying on the field and converting in key third-down situations this season. Detroit is just 11-for-34 on third down (32.4 percent), which ranks 29th in the NFL.
Quotable: "About as big of a gut punch as I've ever been a part of," Goff said after Sunday's loss to Baltimore on an NFL record 66-yard field goal as time expired. "I guess I'll start this off by saying that this team, this city has been through a lot, obviously, in recent years and has had these gut punches. For me personally, it's the hardest one I've been a part of. But I think the resiliency that we've shown in the past amongst this group and then hopefully the new guys as well, the resiliency to push through something like this will remain. All I'm saying is we will remain true, we will remain resilient and the gut punches will stop."
Twentyman: Goff's played well through three weeks, but the Lions still haven't played a consistent 60 minutes of football, which is a big reason why they're 0-3. Goff and the offense have had too many long dry spells. They didn't score a point in the second half Week 2 in Green Bay, and went scoreless in the first half against Baltimore. Limiting the turnovers, which Goff did vs. Baltimore, and being better on third down will help him and this offense have more consistent success.