NFL roundup column.
Quarterback used to be the biggest reason the rest of the NFC North had a chance to beat out the favored Vikings. Now Tarvaris Jackson makes Minnesota the biggest wild card in the NFL playoffs.
The Vikings beat the NFC’s top two seeds, the Giants and Panthers, during the season, and Jackson has a 115.4 passer rating since retaking his role of starting quarterback 3 ½ games ago. He can fall apart at any moment. But he also has a cannon arm, quick feet (he ran for 76 yards against Arizona), a deep threat to throw to (Bernard Berrian) and the NFL’s most explosive back to hand off to. If Jackson and Adrian Peterson (five fumbles in the last four games) hold onto the ball, Minnesota could beat anyone in the NFC.
Marinelli could replace Babich
Defensive coordinator Bob Babich has been the most popular scapegoat for Chicago’s defensive fall from grace. If he becomes the fall guy this year, there is an obvious replacement. The Lions fired head coach Rod Marinelli on Monday. Marinelli, a former defensive coordinator, is a long-time friend of Bears coach Lovie Smith. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Marinelli was Smith’s first choice when he was hired in 2004.
"Rod Marinelli is an excellent football coach. I’ve known him for a long time," Smith said. "I worked with him. But, again, that doesn’t have anything to do with what we’re doing right now. I was just sad to see an excellent football coach not be the coach for Detroit anymore."
Smith could hire Marinelli if he wants to.
"The coaching staff is my call," Smith said but added he and GM Jerry Angelo discuss all major decisions. "We’re in a partnership."
Bears running game overrated
Matt Forte was clearly the Bears’ MVP this year, but for all those who think the Bears discovered a superstar running back but need a new quarterback, consider this: Chicago ranked higher in passing yards (21st) than rushing (24th).
Benson most valuable Bengal
The Bengals (4-11-1) finished undefeated when Cedric Benson ran for at least 70 yards and winless when he didn’t. Benson averaged 115 yards in the Bengals’ four wins and finished with more yards in 12 games in Cincinnati (747) than he ever had in three seasons with the Bears. Also, receivers Berrian (964 yards), Muhsin Muhammad (923), Justin Gage (651), Bobby Wade (645) and Mark Bradley (380) had more yards with other teams this year than they ever had with the Bears.
Turner, Manning most valuable
The NFL MVP race should come down to Michael Turner and Peyton Manning. Turner ran for 1,699 yards, second to Adrian Peterson by 61 yards, but had seven more touchdowns and one-third as many fumbles. Manning had his lowest passer rating since 2002 (95.0), but topped 4,000 yards for a record ninth year in a row and helped the injury-ravaged Colts hit 12 wins for a record sixth year in a row.
Rockford Register Star assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge’s NFL Quick Shots appear Mondays. He can be reached at 815-987-1383 or email@example.com.