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Vikings’ NFC North Rivals: News and Notes from Camp

I read up on our division opponents so you don’t have to!

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL Preseason is rolling right along, and when it comes to news and notes from around the NFC North Division, the Daily Norseman has you covered! Week 2 (3 in Chicago) has drawn to a close, and the division had a mixed bag of successes and failures. On Thursday, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers - who started third string quarterback Mason Rudolph - 51-34. On Friday, the Detroit Lions dropped a game to the Eli Manning/Saquon Barkley-less New York Giants 30-17. And on Saturday, the Chicago Bears continued the NFCN dominance against the Denver Broncos, winning by a score of 24-23. With that, let’s walk around the division, with this week’s recap, shall we?

Chicago Bears

Chicago played a game of “Good Mitch”/”Bad Mitch” for most of the first half against Denver. The Bears’ offense on their first drive of the game consisted of Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, Tight End Trey Burton, and not much else. “Good Mitch” hit Burton three times on the drive for 38 yards, while all other offensive players (not counting penalties) totalled just 8 yards and the possession ended with Cody Parkey missing a 51 yard field goal.

Their second drive netted negative 5 yards before “Bad Mitch” took his eyes off a shotgun snap from Cody Whitehair and was sacked in the end zone by Bradley Chubb for a safety.

On the Bears’ next possession, “Good Mitch” hit Trey Burton again, this time for a seven yard touchdown, rekindling Bears’ fans faith in the young signal caller.

Finally, “Bad Mitch” once again reared his ugly head, and tossed an interception to end his evening.

“Good Mitch’s” final stats were 4/4 for 45 yards and a TD to Trey Burton for a 153.3 passer rating (GOOD!), and “Bad Mitch” was 5/9 for 45 yards and an INT to everyone else, for a passer rating of 29.63 (BAD!)

The team escaped the game with only a couple of injuries, as Tight End Adam Shaheen went down with an ankle injury which was described as a low ankle sprain, and is expected to miss a couple of weeks. On the defensive side of the ball, pass rusher Leonard Floyd broke fingers and had surgery, but isn’t expected to miss any time.

The Bears host the Kansas City Chiefs this Saturday.

Detroit Lions

“Bad Matthew” Stafford wasn’t about to let “Bad Mitch” have all the fun, though. After handing the ball off to Ameer Abdullah to start the game, “Bad Matt” then fumbled the ball (check the box score Lions fans… it was credited to “Bad Matt”, not Abdullah), which was recovered by Chanhassen, MN’s own Frank Ragnow, who the Lions selected 20th overall in the 2018 draft. “Bad Matt” wasn’t done, however, as on the very next play, he was sacked for a ten yard loss, forcing a punt.

On the Lions’ next possession, Theo Riddick took a “Good Matt” pass 42 yards to extend a drive which ended in a Matt Prater field goal.

Finally, on “Bad Matt’s” final drive of the game, he took a seven yard loss on second-and-9, pinning the Lions back at their own 5 yard line.

“Good Matt’s” final stats were 1/1 for 42 yards to Theo Riddick. “Bad Matt” went 1-4 passing with two sacks for a net of negative 8 yards.

***Note - I don’t believe Stafford is Bad at all. In fact, I’m only calling him “Bad Matt” to make myself feel better about Kirk Cousins’ not-so-good day against Jacksonville. I am, however, a firm believer that Mitch Trubisky is, in fact, bad.

The Lions backfield situation keeps churning. Ameer Abdullah got the start over rookie Kerryon Johnson, but that may have been due to the fact that Johnson took the opening kickoff. None of the backs looked particularly effective, averaging less than three yards per carry (the exception was Theo Riddick, who rushed once for six yards). LeGarrette Blount had a seven yard run, but managed only 25 yards on his other ten carries. If I had to wager right now, I think the backfield will consist of Johnson, Riddick and Blount. Maybe they keep Zach Zenner as a RB/FB hybrid for depth. Abdullah has had plenty of chances to show what he can do, and really hasn’t shown much.

The Lions travel to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers this Friday.

Green Bay

This week’s game featured “Always Awful Aaron” versus Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-stringer Mason Rudolph, who - on his team’s first offensive play, coughed up a 25 yard pick-six to Tramon Williams. Thirteen seconds in and “Bad Mason” already had his team trailing by seven.

“Always Awful Aaron” finally came in to the game, and proceeded to DO what “Always Awful Aaron” always DO. He marched his team down the field, got them inside the red zone, forced a penalty for too many men on the field, then immediately threw a touchdown. 5 plays, 40 yards, 1:33 off the clock. 14-0 Packers.

But when “Bad Mason” came back to the sidelines, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin replaced him with “Don’t Do Anything Except Hand The Ball Off To James Conner” Mason. He did just that, as Conner rushed the ball three times in the three play drive for 58 yards (and drew a 15 yard facemask penalty) and a touchdown to bring the Steelers to within seven.

DDAEHTBOTJC Mason returned to the sidelines and was replaced by “OK, Go Ahead And Try That Passing Thing Again Mason”, who took just TWO plays this time to get his team into the end zone, hitting “I’ve Already Got Plenty Of Names And This Bit Is Beginning To Get Old JuJu” Smith-Schuster with a beautiful pass in the back of the end zone to tie the game up.

Green Bay would score twice more and add a field goal before halftime, but it was Rodgers’ return from a horrible collarbone injury last season that sent the Lambeau faithful into fits of uncontrollable gyrations, rarely seen outside of the deep south.

“To be back at Lambeau was a thrill and the ovation touched me,” Rodgers said. “I have to kind of wipe away some tears in my eyes.”

Yes. He said that.

“Always Awful Aaron” was his typical dominant self - in his own patented Awful way - albeit in very limited action. He ended his night 2-4 for 35 and a TD.

During the game, Packers Running Back Jamaal Williams was tackled from behind by the Steelers’ Vince Williams. Vince Williams, according to some accounts, seemed to have held on a little longer than necessary and twisted Jamaal Williams’ ankle. Was the play dirty? You be the judge. My own @completely unbiased opinion@ is that maybe Jamaal Williams’ quarterback is rubbing off on him, just a bit. Hard to tell from that angle, I guess.

Jamaal Williams called out the Steelers linebacker in the locker room after the game, saying that “He could’ve stopped and let go of my leg a long time before.” Williams said that in the future, if the it happens, he’ll just kick the defensive player. “If the ref asks why I’m kicking, I’ll be like, `Hey, he’s twisting ankles.’ I’m just going to do what I’ve got to do to survive honestly.”

The Packers did get some good news on the injury front this week. Outside Linebacker Nick Perry has returned from the PUP list, with the goal being a week one return against the Chicago Bears.

The Packers travel to Oakland to match up with the Raiders Friday night.