Thu, 26 Nov 2020

Tim Twentyman

The 2020 NFL season has been dominated by high-flying offenses and terrific quarterback play for the most part. There's been some key injuries at the position, and it was just reported in Miami that rookie Tua Tagovailoa will replace Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback coming out of the bye in two weeks.

This is a quarterback-driven league, and the NFL currently has a terrific mix of young stars and savvy veterans at the position.

With all that's going on league-wide at the position, this week's NFC North column will take a look at the division's four quarterbacks. How are they playing after six weeks?

Let's find out:

CHICAGO (5-1)

Last game: Chicago 23, Carolina 16

Next game: at Los Angeles Rams (4-2)

Quarterback: Nick Foles, 9th season

Stat line: 95-for-152 (62.5%), 878 yards, six touchdowns, four interceptions, 80.4 passer rating

The good: Foles replaced Mitchell Trubisky Week 3 in Atlanta and has been the Bears' starting QB ever since. Foles guided the Bears to a comeback win over the Falcons in Week 3 and is 2-1 in his three starts Weeks 4-6.

The bad: Chicago's gotten one touchdown and one interception from Foles in each of his three starts. Foles is currently on a streak of four straight games throwing at least one interception. He's got to be more careful with the football while finding a way to make a few more plays in the passing game.

Twentyman: Chicago finds ways to win playing great defense, running the football and getting just enough from Foles at the quarterback position. If Chicago is going to keep this thing rolling and challenge for the division title, there are going to be weeks when Foles is going to have to put up better numbers and win them a game.

Quotable: "We know across the board on offense right now there are different things we can get better at," Bears head coach Matt Nagy told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And that's everybody, myself included. I saw what Nick [Foles] said, (Would you rather lose pretty or win ugly?), I think that kind of sums it up there.

"We're 5-1 right now, and we're not playing well offensively. So when we do get this thing up and running - which we will - it's going to be fun. We understand where the warts are on offense. We get that. But we're going to continue to stay positive ... because we know where we're at and where we're going."

GREEN BAY (4-1)

Last game: Tampa Bay 38, Green Bay 10

Next game: at Houston (1-5)

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, 16th season

Stat line: 114-for-174 (65.5%), 1,374 yards, 13 touchdowns, two interceptions, 109.7 passer rating.

The good: Rodgers played at a MVP level the first month of the season during Green Bay's 4-0 start, but it was a rough in Tampa Bay last week. Still, Rodgers' 109.7 rating is the second best in the NFC behind Russell Wilson and top five in the NFL.

The bad: Rodgers is coming off one of the worst performances of his career in Tampa Bay last week that saw him complete just 45.7 percent of his passes and go 0-for-5 on throws over 20 yards. He was sacked four times. His passer rating of 35.4 is the third lowest of his career in a single game. How does he respond to that performance this week?

Twentyman: Despite the hiccup last week, Rodgers is still one of the best in the business, and the Packers have the best shot to win the division with him under center playing at an MVP-caliber level into his 16th season.

Quotable: "I think that we just need to take a good look at our practice habits," Rodgers told ESPN about the Tampa Bay game. "A lot of times, you know, we talk about how practice and preparation equals game reality. That's something that Matt's (head coach Matt LaFleur) talked about since the first day he got here. And I don't think our week of practice was that great.

"Offensively, I didn't feel like we had a good rhythm. You know, we went outside, it was windy, it was colder and, you know, I don't think we practiced our best this week and obviously didn't play our best (Sunday)."

10 takeaways from Bevell, Undlin & Coombs O'HARA: What we learned from Week 6 KEY QUESTIONS: How can Lions build off positive defensive performance?

DETROIT (2-3)

Last game: Detroit 34, Jacksonville 16

Next game: at Atlanta (1-5)

Quarterback: Matthew Stafford, 12th season

Stat line: 102-for-168 (60.7%), 1,240 yards, nine touchdowns, four interceptions, 91.4 passer rating.

The good: Stafford's numbers are down from his pace through five games last season, but two areas where he's been better so far in 2020 is lowering his bad-throw percentage (20.6 percentage) and raising his on-target percentage (77 percent). His bad-throw percentage is down from last season (20.8), and on-target-throws percentage is up from a year ago (70.8 percent).

The bad: Stafford's fourth-quarter passer rating of 79.9 ranks 32nd in the NFL. His 78.2 rating on third down is 19th.

Twentyman: Stafford's been solid. He's by no means the biggest problem in Detroit's 2-3 start. He was good in Jacksonville outside of the one interception, his fourth on the year. The run game chugging along like it is (117.4 yards per game) will lead to more opportunities to make big plays down the field, and that's where Stafford is usually at his best.

Quotable: "You want to take what we were able to do (Sunday) and build on that," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of the total team effort in the win in Jacksonville. "I think that's good for everybody just to have a little bit of confidence in some of the things we were doing and be able to see it - and honestly see what I would call 'two weeks of work' really show up in a game. I thought that was really great."

MINNESOTA (1-5)

Last game: Atlanta 40, Minnesota 23

Next game: Bye week

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins, 9th season

Stat line: 113-for-175 (64.6%), 1,475 yards, 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 88.2 passer rating.

The good: There hasn't been a lot of good from the Vikings' passing game in their 1-5 start to the season, but one of the bright spots has been Cousins' play in the fourth quarter. He's got six touchdowns and one pick in the fourth quarter, and his passer rating of 140.3 is the second best in the league. Now it's just about cleaning up the first three quarters.

The bad: Interceptions have plagued Cousins through the first six games. His 10 interceptions are the most in the NFL this season. Subsequently, the Vikings' minus-seven turnover differential is second worst in the league.

Twentyman: The Vikings have a terrific run game when Dalvin Cook is on the field. They need Cousins and the passing game to be a complementary piece that takes advantage of play action and deep shots and doesn't turn the ball over. Turnovers are the key stat in football, and they're killing the Vikings early on this season.

Quotable: "The first one was the worst one, if you will," Cousins told the Minneapolis Star Tribune after the Vikings' 40-23 loss in Atlanta where Cousins threw three first-half interceptions. "First play of the game, and the coverage was not confusing. It was just a zone drop, and I simply forced the football into coverage, tried to do too much. That's a mistake I may have made in Year 1, but I'm disappointed that I would do that now."

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