Can Rodgers hold off Lions, Bears, Vikings in the NFC North?


In the Talk of Fame Network’s final installment of its eight-part preview of the NFL’s divisional races, we get a vision of the NFC North through the eyes of Green Bay Packers’ All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Detroit Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell and the greatest linebacker in Lions’ history, Hall-of0Famer Joe Schmidt.

Not surprisinglym each has his own view of the NFC North race, as well as today’s game, with Schmidt declaring flatly, “football is deteriorating. You can’t hit the quarterback because he’s making $25 million. If I was making $25 million, they could hang me up and just hit me any time they wanted.’’

The 85-year-old Schmidt cited among the game’s problems “poor tackling all over the place, the secondary especially. Football was designed to physically outdo the other guy. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case now. The old guys like me can remember the days when you could hit the quarterback, and nobody would say anything about it.’’

If there’s one guy with reason to be glad that’s changed it is Rodgers, who led the Packers to five divisional titles in the last six years, as well as a Super Bowl championship. Meanwhile, Schmidt’s Lions haven’t won the NFL title in 60 years, not since the days Schmidt helped Detroit win two titles while he was going to 10 consecutive Pro Bowls and named to the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.

At one point last year, it looked as if the Packers were fading, and it might be Caldwell’s turn to lead Detroit to the top of the division. Then Rodgers told everyone to “relax’’ and launched Green Bay on a remarkable comeback to another division championship.

How “relaxed’’ was Rodgers at the time?

“I was, for sure,’’ Rodgers said. “I’m a pretty laid-back guy. It was a reminder. It wasn’t contrived…When I said we would run the table I knew what I was doing. I was putting extra pressure on myself. I’ve always enjoyed putting the pressure on myself. It was a situation where you have to exude that confidence when even maybe your team isn’t so sure.’’

One guy who is sure what his team, as well as the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, are up against is Caldwell. But, with star quarterback Matthew Stafford, he believes he can compete and  insisted he relished the challenge of coming up with some way to beat Aaron Rodgers.

“If you’re worth your salt, you embrace it,’’ Caldwell said. “He brings the best out of you. Our guys are excited about the opportunity.’’

One team that may not be is the Bears. They paid Mike Glennon, a backup in Tampa Bay, $45 million after releasing quarterback Jay Cutler and then traded up to draft North Carolina’s untested quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who started only 13 games for the Tar Heels. So what’s up with that?

To get an answer, our Talk of Fame co-hosts Rick Gosselin and Ron Borges visit with long-time Bears’ beat writer John Mullin for his take on all things Bears. He likes Trubisky, and he also likes head coach John Fox’s chances of survival this season.

“Foxy didn’t get all together stupid in two years,’’ Mullin said. “Maybe the marvel is that they won three games last year.’’

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