Chicago's Jeremy Langford (left) and Green Bay's Eddie Lacy are two NFC North running backs trending in opposite directions.
The NFL regular season is more volatile on a week-to-week basis than the Stock Market. A team that lost by several touchdowns one week can follow up with a blowout victory the next. Players who are responsible for the blame one week could be responsible for a game-winning play the next.
With Week 9 in the books, let’s take a look at three NFC North players who saw their stock rise, and three NFC North players who saw it fall as we look ahead to Week 10.
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Adrian Peterson, running back, Minnesota Vikings
After a second straight 100-yard performance, Adrian Peterson is once again leading the league in rushing with 758 yards on the season. He’s averaging 94.8 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry. His 125-yard outing on Sunday — which included a six-yard scoring sprint — was particularly huge, since quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out of the game with a concussion during the fourth quarter of Minnesota’s 21-18 win over the St. Louis Rams. With the Vikings still fielding one of the league’s least productive passing offenses (188.9 yards per game, 30th in NFL), Peterson’s contributions on the ground will continue to be key.
Linval Joseph, defensive tackle, Vikings
The Vikings were able to shut down a hot, young running back on Sunday, thanks in large part to the efforts of Linval Joseph. The 329-pound defensive tackle consistently threw blockers out of his way to get to Rams running back Todd Gurley, who was held under 100 rushing yards. Joseph finished the game tied for the team lead with 10 tackles (seven solo, three for losses). He also registered half a sack, as his other-worldly efforts helped lift a Minnesota defense that didn’t have starting middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (ribs) and fellow defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (foot) in the lineup on Sunday.
Jeremy Langford, running back, Chicago Bears
The Bears saw an unexpected blast of offense during their 22-19 win over the San Diego Chargers on Monday night. Jeremy Langford pulled off a pretty convincing Matt Forte impression, as the backup ball-carrier shined while Chicago’s starting running back nursed a knee injury. Langford, a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, led the team with 72 rushing yards on 18 carries. He also caught three passes for 70 yards, including a diving grab for a long gain of 31 yards. The Bears were not afraid to give the ball to their rookie in the game’s biggest moments; Langford scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter to help his team claim a win on the road.
Eddie Lacy, running back, Green Bay Packers
The sky isn’t falling in Green Bay just yet, but stocks sure are. Eddie Lacy is plummeting for the Packers, as the third-year running back rushed just five times for 10 yards during the team’s 29-37 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. It was the third time this season that Lacy has been limited to 10 yards or fewer in a game. Lacy has averaged 2.4 yards per carry over the last four weeks, as backup James Starks appears to have supplanted him as the hot hand in Green Bay’s offensive backfield. Lacy must now overcome a pulled groin, after dealing with an ankle injury earlier in the season.
Julius Peppers, outside linebacker, Packers
Another Packer who has gone completely cold is Julius Peppers, who had a sack in five of Green Bay’s six wins to start the season. Since then, the veteran pass-rusher has not recorded a single sack. Peppers hasn’t been much of a factor lately, with a total of three tackles in back-to-back losses. As a result, the Packers have given up 927 yards and 66 points to opponents over the past two weeks. While Peppers isn’t entirely to blame for this utter defensive meltdown, the 35-year-old outside linebacker has made few valuable contributions since the skid began.
Josh Sitton, left guard, Packers
Green Bay’s two-game slump has affected everyone, even the players who are usually stalwart performers. Take a look at Pro Bowl left guard Josh Sitton, for example. He has allowed a sack in both losses. Before that, Sitton had not allowed a sack in 42 consecutive outings. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been sacked eight times over the last two weeks, bringing his season-long total up to 19. Rodgers isn’t as comfortable as he once was in the pocket, as evidenced by his uncharacteristic, late-game interception on Sunday to seal the victory for Carolina.