About the Author
Recent posts by Dan Arkush
Each week throughout the season, PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush hooks up with a personality who has connections with the Packers and asks him five team-related questions. This week, Dan connects with his brother, Hub Arkush, PFW's editor-publisher and co-host along with Packers play-by-play man Wayne Larrivee on PFW's syndicated weekly radio show. Hub is also a sideline commentator for Westwood One.
1. How many Packers players would you make starters on your personal All-NFL Midseason team?
Arkush: Believe it or not, just three — Aaron Rodgers, Scott Wells and Charles Woodson. Rodgers is a slam-dunk, and Wells has been the one constant on the O-iine for the best offense in football with all kinds of lineup moves due to injury around him, and it hasn't been a great year for centers. Woodson is still one of the biggest difference makers in football. Clay Matthews may be having an even better year than last year in spite of his sack numbers being down, but how impressive is it being the second-most important player on the league's 27th-ranked defense (31st against the pass)? B. J. Raji is close but not there yet. I really, really would like to vote for Greg Jennings, but how do you put him ahead of Calvin Johnson or Wes Welker? And I think Jermichael Finley may get there eventually, but not in this incredible year for tight ends.
2. Do you think Green Bay might be starting to separate itself from the NFC North pack just a bit with the Lions suddenly losing two in a row?
Arkush: They've gained some separation in the standings the last two weeks, but in reality, it's been there since Week Three, when they proved in Chicago how much better they were than the Bears without playing their best game. The best way to describe it is that the Packers are the best team in the NFL right now and figure to get better if they stay healthy because you know the defense can player better in the second half. The Lions and Bears, on the other hand, may or may not be wild cards in the NFC, and right now that's no slam dunk for either of them. The best I can see for Chicago or Detroit is 10 wins, and I'm hard-pressed to see how the Pack doesn't win at least 12 and probably 13 or 14.
3. Can you offer a little bit more in-depth take on the Lions right now?
Arkush: The Lions are proving to be exactly what I thought they were: a very talented young team that is learning how to win but still has a lot more to learn. The winning will get easier as they also fill a few talent gaps that still remain at running back, wide receiver, weak-side linebacker, nickel back, strong safety and across their special teams. Supertalents like Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh and Pro Bowl-type vets like Kyle Vanden Bosch and Steven Tulloch can help fill a lot of holes, but at the midway point, we're left asking some of the same questions — Can Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best stay healthy? Will the O-line hold up? And can they win big games like the ones they let get away to San Francisco and Atlanta and tried to give away to Chicago? The Lions are a year away from competing with the Packers, but if they can be impressive in a trip to Denver this Sunday and then beat the Bears in Chicago on Nov. 13 coming off their bye, they will claim a wild-card spot even if they struggle down the stretch to get to 10-6.
4. What do you make of the Bears moving forward?
Arkush: The Bears are one of the hardest teams in the NFL to gauge. Jay Cutler has Aaron Rodgers-like talent but never plays up to it more than a week or two in a row because he has a Ryan Leaf or Jeff George-type head. Matt Forté is clearly a lot better than anyone, including yours truly, believed and right now is one of the top three or four RBs in the game. Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher continue to play at an All-Pro level, Lance Briggs will probably go to his seventh Pro Bowl, Charles "Peanut" Tillman is one of the most underrated players in the league and Devin Hester is the greatest punt-kickoff returner in NFL history. But the Bears also have one of the worst offensive lines in football, the wide receivers and tight ends are almost as bad, they have nothing at defensive tackle, the safeties are terrible in pass coverage, they have two "Dime" backs as their second starter at cornerback and the nickel and Hester is easy to nullify if you commit to just not kicking to him. It all adds up to a 7-9 to 9-7 team. But with a much easier remaining schedule than Detroit, they could find a way to get to 10-6 and be part of the wild-card conversation as well, even if they do lose that Nov. 13 game to the Lions.
5. Finally, how do you size up the Vikings the rest of the season?
Arkush: I was stunned by how bad the Vikings were against Chicago two weeks ago, but then I was very impressed that Les Frazier had them ready to go against the Pack last week. After Chicago, I thought they were in the Andrew Luck derby, but now I'm not so sure. And while Christian Ponder wasn't horrible vs. the Packers, if the Vikes did end up with the pick for Luck it wouldn't take more than two seconds to grab him. Adrian Peterson is still the best non-quarterback on offense in the NFL, and that's about it for the Vikes on that side of the ball. Percy Harvin is a nice player, but he's a No. 2 and not a No. 1 at WR. What I can't understand is why they're so bad on defense. Sure, they lost Ray Edwards and Pat Williams, but there's more than enough talent left for them to be at least middle-of-the-road and certainly not 26th in points allowed. Les Frazier is a good football coach and as fine a man as you'll ever meet, but it's fair to speculate about his job security if the Vikes can't win close to half of the games left on the schedule.