Green Bay Packers
The Packers offense might be new, but for the first time under Matt LaFleur in Week 7, their fans were treated to 60 minutes of vintage Aaron Rodgers.
In career game No. 189, Rodgers registered his first perfect passer rating, tallying six total touchdowns en route to perfection as the Packers pasted the Oakland Raiders, 42-24.
Wonder what he'll do when he gets WR1 Davante Adams (inactive the past three games with turf toe) back and he's actually seeing eye to eye with LaFleur (we're only serious about the first part, if clarification is needed here) ...
Indeed, the Packers offense — one of three new schemes in the NFC North firing on all cylinders while the Bears continue to regress in Year 2 under Matt Nagy — at least vs. the Raiders 'D' that dominated Chicago, appears to be back. And before facing their two tough remaining out-of-division defenses (vs. Carolina in Week 9 and at San Francisco the following week), they'll welcome the Pat Mahomes-less Chiefs and the Chargers, who have been gashed consistently by run games that commit to the rush and sporadically by explosive plays through the air.
Still, the Packers aren't likely to kick it into cruise control until their defense can stop the opposition on the ground, now ceding 4.9 yards per carry, after Raiders rookie Josh Jacobs went nuts in a second consecutive game. So while the popular opinion might be that GM Brian Gutekunst may covet WR reinforcements before the trade deadline, we're not sure additional help up front isn't more likely.
Easily lost — or ignored — in Kirk Cousins' Week 4 Soldier Field swoon was that his O-line and run game failed as miserably as he did that day. It's probably no coincidence, then, that the NFL's hottest quarterback during the Vikings' three-game ascent has enjoyed the return of a dominant Dalvin Cook and continued development of that new-look O-line.
In other words, Cousins probably isn't as bad as he often is dogged for being nor as spectacular as the stats suggest when he and the Vikings are going well.
What's not debatable is that Minnesota is clearly going well again, up to No. 6 in the NFL in total offense and third in yards per play. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen once again are happy — though Thielen suffered a hamstring injury Sunday in the Vikes' first divisional win, 42-30 in Detroit — and their bid to return to the playoffs following last year's 8-7-1 plummet is healthy again.
But not so healthy that their spirits can't be lifted further by some good old revenge, which Cousins will get a shot at Thursday night in his first reunion with Washington. Of course, it'll cut both ways with Washington's 34-year-old Adrian Peterson returning to Minnesota for the first time as another team's lead back, and Case Keenum back in the state for the first time since the Minneapolis Miracle.
While Peterson is still doing his thing, following up his first 100-yard performance of the season in Washington's first win two weeks ago with a hard-fought 20-81 rushing line in the muck vs. super-stout San Francisco Sunday, it seems unlikely either he or Keenum will have enough support against a Vikings 'D' that needed every bit of help it could get from the offense last week.
Well, that escalated quickly.
Within a few hours Tuesday — two days after their home loss to Minnesota sent them to 2-3-1 — the Lions for the second time in as many seasons placed RB1 Kerryon Johnson on IR with a knee injury and shook up their fan base with a stunning trade of one of its favorites, S Quandre Diggs, who was dealt to Seattle in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick.
Remember, the Lions were perceived to be waving the white flag at this time last season when they traded Golden Tate to the conference rival Eagles, and Detroit subsequently dropped six of its final nine games, albeit with Kenny Golladay seizing his chance as the team's new No. 1 wideout.
The next man up following the injury to Johnson, whom Matt Patricia expressed optimism may be able to return this season when first eligible in Week 16, is undrafted rookie Ty Johnson; fellow rookie, third-rounder Will Harris, will replace Diggs.
Unlike Johnson's promotion, Harris' is essentially a decision controlled by the Lions, and Patricia indicated the Virginia product's vast skill set now can start being maximized after he'd flashed his size and physicality in a part-time role on 'D.' Vets Myles Killebrew and Tavon Wilson are additional candidates to take on more responsibility defensively, but it's Harris and fellow starter Tracy Walker who represent the future of the position.
Kerryon Johnson, of course, remains the future of Detroit's run game, but Ty, the rookie from Maryland, should get his first NFL start Sunday vs. a susceptible Big Blue run 'D.'
Whether Detroit can get back in the playoff hunt with a soft schedule remaining will be determined as much if not more by the health status of key starters on their inconsistent 'D,' Darius Slay (hamstring) and Damon Harrison (groin), both of whom left Sunday's loss early.