NFC North
Photo Credit: USA today

Tomorrow you should go to a fortune-teller. You should ask them who is going to win the NFC North, and whoever they pick, put your life savings down on them to win it all.

First of all, that’s stupid because I don’t believe in witchcraft outside of New England. But also, your guess is as good as theirs. Despite the division looking to be a three-man-race at the start of the season, it’s looking more and more likely that Detroit will be hanging around for the remainder of the season despite falling short.

You know, unless Trey Flowers ruined life somehow for every referee in America. The 2-2-1 Lions still could be in contention thanks to that tie. At worse, they’ll be the top last-place team in football if they continue to play this way.

The Chicago Bears might be the odd team out for the moment. A season ago, Matt Nagy and Co. surprised the conference under the direction of Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Whatever magic he had last season probably was all used up as he’s looking more like a bust each day. Still, the Bears have relied on their defense both years to make them contenders.

Khalil Mack is still one of the top defenders in football, but last week’s loss to the Oakland Raiders had to leave a horrible taste in the team’s mouth. The unit as a whole is still one of the best in football, ranking 6th in total units. The problem will continue to be on offense thanks to Trubisky trouble and the lack of a consistent run game.

Can anyone guess what Minnesota is doing in the NFC North? Seriously, what is the deal with the team relying on the run game one week and then seeing Kirk Cousins get revenge on his old teammate calling him a “weak link”? Whatever it is, the job is working.

A win against the New York Giants came behind the legs of Dalvin Cook and the hands of Adam Thielen. Just weeks after feeling like the odd man out, Cousins became best buds with Stefon Diggs, connecting for 167 yards and three touchdowns against the “talented” Eagles. Imagine if the offense could do both every week?

The defense is looking better each week, finishing in the top 10 of every ranking according to ESPN’s stats. Should Cousins continue to find ways to work in the pocket, extend drives and find open targets, who is going to stop them?

Monday brought us a close matchup in the NFC North between Green Bay and Detroit. So close, the Lions could have sent this game to overtime if it was for Flowers somehow pissing off the right people.

Seriously, this play? Like we’re really going to call this play a penalty. In the end, that would be all it took for a Mason Crosby chip shot to keep Green Bay with a single loss on their record.

Detroit could be sitting with at 3-2 if not a blown lead against Arizona. The offense has shined in moments while the defense is starting to make plays under hairy Bill Belichick lite Matt Patricia. Matthew Stafford has the Lions as a top-10 offense, and the team finally has a potential franchise running back in Kerryon Johnson.

Meanwhile, Green Bay is playing short-handed without the likes of DeVante Adams on offense. Outside of a few catches from Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Packers are using running backs as third receiver options. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have potential, but they’ve been inconsistent at times and injured.

 

The defense has lived up to expectations. That’s likely due to the whopping contracts thrown free agent’s ways this offseason. The Super Smith Bros. have combined for 10.5 sacks, and Adrian Amos has been productive in coverage. Throw in the development of Blake Martinez, Kevin Kings, Jaire Alexander, and Darnell Savage; Green Bay has been one of the more balanced teams in football.

That could lead to problems down the line come closer to the postseason. A loss to Detroit likely would eliminate one chance, or a big win from Minnesota could mean nothing. All four NFC North teams have impressed, knocking each other off the pedestal little by little.

The NFC East has been hard to watch, and the AFC is bad in general. Expect New Orleans to win the NFC South while maybe Carolina sneaks in as a wild card. But there’s a legitimate chance three teams from the NFC North division could be postseason bound. All four have impressed, making their games usual TV come Sunday afternoons.

If you had to pick the top six teams from the NFC thus far, who would you leave out from this division?

None of them? Exactly.

Like I’ve told you in the past, the Two Minute Warning is on a slow-burn right now. My work with the Astros was extended thanks to the freight train that is Gerrit Cole, which is why I’m barely here right now. Still, I promised you all 2MW weekly and dammed; if not, you’re not going to get it.

Sam Darnold caught the kissing disease and potentially passed along the kiss of death to Jason Garrett. Maybe Minshew Mania is just a phase, but Kyle Allen might be here to stay. Speaking of staying, a west coast roster is going to be a contender this season, while perhaps the other quarterback from the 2017 NFL Draft will be the league MVP.

Let’s dive into this week’s Two Minute Warning sports nerds.

Darnold dang decapitated Dallas

The New York Jets are 1-5 to begin the season. They should be 0-6, but Sam Darnold decided to come back early after missing over a month with mononucleosis. The sickness usually forces the subject to lose weight, weaken their immune system, and ultimately wear them down. So maybe that one interception was the virus wearing down Darnold because that was his only mistake Sunday afternoon.

Darnold finished 23 of 32 for 338 yards. He’d connect with Robby Anderson for a 92-yard touchdown, hitting him in stride against Dallas’ secondary, which helped New York pick up their first victory on the season. Let’s take nothing away from Darnold’s long-awaited return, but this seems more concerning for Dallas.

It feels like every season. The Cowboys are just “that” team, and no, not “America’s” since if you’ve checked the bandwagon, New England’s looking pretty packed around the country. Instead, they’re the roster that starts hot, blows leads, comes back for the postseason only to be an early exit. This sums up how Dallas fans probably feel heading into the remainder of the season.

Even with a healthy Darnold connecting with Le’Veon Bell, the Jets are still at the bottom of the NFL rankings. Yet Sunday, Dallas was embarrassed up at MetLife and by the team that has been the laughing stock of that stadium for a decade(s) (more if you include The Meadowlands). Sure, Dak Prescott is without Amari Cooper, but shouldn’t that be a warning sign?

Congrats to the second-year quarterback on getting the girl and “W’, but Dallas has some concerns. At 3-3, they have a ton of concerns.

Muffling the Minshew Mania

It’s clear if you’ve checked my Twitter bio, I like Garnder Minshew. In fact, we’re the best of friends. I remember the first time we met; he was such a sweet fellow who invited me kite surfing at Candyland Dune Park while chugging Mountain Dew Code Red.

Oh, that was just a dream? Still, I like the guy. It’s impossible not to like Minshew, the person. All mustache jokes, he’s literally a buff Uncle Rico mixed with Officer Dangle from Reno 911. It is easy to start worrying about Minshew, the quarterback, however, after Sunday’s game.

With both teams on their backups, the New Orleans Saints had a chance to struggle with Teddy Bridgewater. Give some credit to the former first-round quarterback as he threw for 240 yards and a touchdown. The reason Jacksonville lost though is on Minshew, who threw for 163 yards and an interception.

Teams are starting to figure out how to defend the rookie. So far, he’s yet to make any jaw-dropping plays during his early campaigns such as players like Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, or Lamar Jackson. He’s serviceable, but time is starting to run out on the mustache monster masquerading as a franchise player.

The Jaguars already dealt with Blake Bortles playing slightly, marginally, somewhat above average before paying him a three-year, $52 million extension. Maybe Nick Foles isn’t their long-term. Perhaps Minshew is? Who is to say as of now. The reality is Minshew was a sixth-round pick for a reason.

Hopefully, a win against Cincinnati keeps the magic going a little longer, but that clock is ticking. Once Midnight strikes, Minshew could go back to being the guy you refuse to let your kids talk to out in public.

Allen’s actually it?

Remember when Kyle Allen was a five-star recruit heading to Texas A&M with hopes to become the next great quarterback prospect? Remember when none of that happened, and he found himself leaving two schools without a chance of getting drafted? Four games into his starting NFL career as a backup, and Allen has found success with the Carolina Panthers.

It’s almost like he was a five-star quarterback prospect or som…oh….oh!

Allen hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been a reliable option under center. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the former benchwarmer went 20 of 32 for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Then again, Jameis Winston did have six turnovers, giving the Panthers a nice cushion to build off.

The problem with players like Allen is the media hype them up to be the next superstar or worse; Dak Prescott. Not to say that Cowboys quarterback isn’t good, it’s just there are ones who are better. To say this is “Allen’s Team” over a Cam Newton is insane, and to hear “who should trade for Newton” is even worse.

Should the Panther’s flatline and Ron Rivera gets canned, maybe the new head coach wants a contract-friendly player like Allen over an injury-plagued Newton? That’s all down the line. For now, Allen is like Bridgewater, good for the moment, but only the moment.

Allen’s exceeded expectations, but you’d be crazy to think New Orleans would bench Drew Brees for Bridgewater. Why would Carolina double down and do the same?

Wowing Watson to MVP status?

Sunday brought fans a glimpse of the next great NFL rivalry between signal-callers. In the 80s, we had Marino vs. Montana. The 90s brought Farve vs. Elway. Both the 2000s and 2010s gave us Manning vs. Brady. The 2020 era will provide us with Watson vs. Mahomes.

And while Patrick took the hardware home last season, perhaps Deshaun can do it this year. After all, he did hand Kansas City their second consecutive loss. Despite leading 17-3 following the first quarter, the former Clemson gunslinger, along with Carlos Hyde, shut the critics up just before dusk.

The game could have been a blowout if not multiple Will Fuller touchdown drops or Kaimi Fairbairn missed kicks. Instead, Houston relied on Watson (and only Watson) to keep the ball rolling in their favor. It helps that the offensive line did not allow a sack throughout the wait a minute, really? Not a single sack? Okay, offensive line, the jokes go away for the next week.

Watson threw for 280 yards and scored three total touchdowns. Transitioning into one of the top overall quarterbacks in the league, the third-year starter has Houston sitting comfortably at the top of the AFC South. With the race to first place now looking like it has two contenders, Houston will try to continue their success, predominantly on offense.

Last season, Mahomes battled with Brees for the MVP honors. Watson could be going up against Russell Wilson, another veteran quarterback who deserves more respect this season. The Texans are looking to be contenders this year, and that’s because of their quarterback.

And by contenders, I mean the team that will play New England in the AFC Championship and eventually be blown out. Houston, Kansas City, and the Buffalo Bills aren’t even in spitting difference of them.

The 49ers ain’t faking

Richard Sherman has fair warned me that I could not take back my thoughts on the team. Earlier this month, I told fans in California to not get their hopes up that San Francisco was going to be a contender. I also in the same breath that Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons should be able to turn it around.

How I am paid to write about sports will forever be a mystery.

San Francisco kept to their winning ways against Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon. Although Jimmy Garoppolo looked more like a chef than a quarterback, he concocted a winning recipe to keep the 49ers undefeated following their bye week.

Jared Goff collapsed under the weight of his $100 million contract, throwing for 78 yards. The run game that didn’t feature Todd Gurley collected 109 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, 49ers relied on their run game to punch it in at the red zone and continue their success.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense isn’t impressive, but they’re doing enough to stay in the win column. Garoppolo could be the heaviest paperweight quarterback we’ve ever seen, yet somehow he’s only lost once as the 49ers starting quarterback. John Lynch made sure to build around him, adding to the run game and making the front seven near impossible to defend.

Arizona is going to put up numbers, but their defense is a mess. Not even the girl who once made Sean McVay his All-22, pumpkin flip, hazelnut slant, soy curl latte could tell you what’s happening in Los Angeles. Seattle is a contender, but they could slip should anything happen to Wilson.

Let’s get this out of the way; San Francisco is the real deal. Let’s just accept it because it’s going to happen.

Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.