NFC North News and Notes: Nov. 17

Is Matthew Stafford doomed to be the just another Joey Harrington? Will Aaron Kampman ever make the transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 system? How much better has Brett Favre made Minnesota?

Detroit Lions

Before the Lions drafted Matthew Stafford first overall in April, Detroit fans worried he would be like their last high-pick quarterback.

QB Matthew Stafford
Getty Images: Gregory Shamus

Joey Harrington, the No. 3 pick in 2002, didn't click with his teammates and went 18-37 as a starter. He has said he was handed the starting job too quickly and lost his confidence in the negative Detroit environment.

But the Lions drafted Stafford and started him immediately partly because they liked his makeup, and they feel he has validated that so far.

"It's a tough business, and you have to be physically and mentally tough to play quarterback in this league," coach Jim Schwartz said. "There's a lot of attention at the position, and the physical nature of the position is demanding.

"And it's not just on the field, what you see on Sunday. It's practice and getting through things like that and going out and practicing on a Wednesday and a Thursday after an experience like this.

"I think he's shown a lot of signs that he can deal with this."

While playing through a right knee injury, Stafford was harassed, hurried and hit the whole game Sunday at Minnesota. But he escaped some potential sacks, taking only three, and avoided interceptions, after throwing five last week at Seattle.

"Thank goodness he did, because it would have looked a lot worse," Schwartz said. "Matt did a really good job of getting away from some of those situations. He did take care of the ball.

"But it's hard to be proud of somebody when that happens. Did he show resilience? Yeah, he did. He's a tough player. He battled like crazy in that game, as did the whole team. Battling is not enough. It's about production. It's about the score on the scoreboard. I don't want to give any gold stars for somebody playing tough."

Green Bay Packers

All systems seem to be a go for linebacker Aaron Kampman to be back on the field Wednesday, when the Packers begin on-field preparations for their next game against the San Francisco 49ers.

LB Aaron Kampman
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

A concussion kept Kampman from playing in the Packers' 17-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the first game he has missed for an injury-related reason since October 2003.

Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Kampman would regain his starting job at left outside linebacker if he's cleared to play against the 49ers, but apparently nothing is guaranteed after that.

McCarthy commended rookie Brad Jones on his performance against the Cowboys as a first-time starter. Jones, a seventh-round draft pick, filled Kampman's spot by making seven tackles, including one for a loss.

"I thought he played very well for a young man [starting] in his first game, against that opponent, and [with] the number of defensive calls that were called in the game, particularly the multiple pressure schemes and everything," McCarthy said.

Was it good enough to get Jones involved even after the return of Kampman, who hasn't been an impact player this season in his conversion from defensive end to linebacker in the team's new 3-4 scheme?

"I'll let you know after the 49er game, but that's definitely an option," McCarthy said. "I think he's warranted an opportunity to play. I was very pleased with his performance, his ability to get off blocks, some of the plays he made."

The Packers have another rookie, Clay Matthews, entrenched as the starter at right outside linebacker.

Matthews had one of Green Bay's five sacks of the Cowboys' Tony Romo on Sunday to take over the team lead with four. Matthews also recovered two fumbles in the game.

Green Bay's linebackers flourished Sunday – Nick Barnett tied a career high with two sacks – despite not having Kampman and Brady Poppinga (thigh injury) available. Brandon Chillar, who was thrust into the role of nickel linebacker earlier in the season, was activated for the game but didn't play because of a broken right hand that kept him out of the previous game.

Chillar will get accustomed to wearing a big, club-like cast on the hand in practice this week and is expected to be ready to contribute in the next game.

Minnesota Vikings

How far has the Vikings' offense come with Brett Favre at quarterback? The team's two victories over Detroit this season pretty much spell it out.

WR Sidney Rice
Getty Images: Scott Boehm

In a 27-13 victory in Week 2 at Ford Field, Favre threw for 155 yards (23 of 27) with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Vikings did not have an explosive play, which the team measures as a run of 12 or more yards and a pass of 16 or more.

On Sunday, the Vikings beat the Lions by a similar score, 27-10, at the Metrodome. Only this time, Favre completed 20 of 29 passes for 344 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. The offense turned out 11 explosive plays, including seven through the air.

Favre hit Sidney Rice on two 43-yard passes and one that went for 56. Percy Harvin also had a short catch that turned into a 40-yard reception.

"I think it's just continuing to evolve," coach Brad Childress said of his offense. "I think everybody, every play, there are things that stick with you. ... I just think that we can continue to hammer out some better execution. We were better in the three-and-out phase then we had been."

Entering Monday, the Vikings were ranked seventh in the NFL in total offense with an average of 369.1 yards per game. Minnesota was 10th in rushing and 12th in passing.

The balance is a vast improvement on how things were before Favre arrived. Last year, for instance, the Vikings were fifth in rushing but 25th in passing.

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