The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


November 6, 2013

NFC North tied at top


Then there are the Vikings, who have turned 2013 into essentially an open quarterback tryout. Christian Ponder has the job back for now, after Josh Freeman wasn’t ready for it, but Ponder has played more like the rookie he was two years ago. Adrian Peterson’s storybook MVP season has given way to a 1-7 mess.

“It’s a terrible feeling. But we’ve got eight more. That’s something to look forward to,” Peterson said.

So, the Packers are hoping for quick healing, the Bears and Lions are salivating at the opportunity to pull ahead of the two-time defending division champion, and Vikings fans are poring over top-of-the-draft quarterback prospects for 2014.

What a year!

Here are five things to know about the NFC North at the halfway point:

ON THE LINE: Stafford’s connection with Johnson is the best asset the Lions have, and the addition of Reggie Bush has provided more balance, but this is a more productive offense because of the blockers up front. New starters Riley Reiff of Iowa and Larry Warford have helped strengthen a line that’s allowed a league-low 10 sacks.

IMPROVEMENT NEEDED: Rookie Eddie Lacy has established himself as a powerful alternative to the pass for the Packers, but their primary responsibility with Rodgers out is to play more consistent defense. The return of star linebacker Clay Matthews will help the pass rush, but this group has forced a total of two turnovers over the past five games.

RUSH RESTORATION: The Bears have 14 sacks, more than only four other teams in the league, and five came Monday in victory over the Packers. Shea McClellin had three, including the fateful takedown of Rodgers in the first quarter. Contributions from recently signed defensive tackle Jay Ratliff are welcome on this injury-affected front four.

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    The 6-foot-5 Clinton High grad who had committed to play for Nebraska-Omaha, has left the program, and according to his Facebook page, has enrolled at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.
    The enrollment office at the community college confirmed that Jones was registered for classes this fall at Kirkwood. Kirkwood coach Bryan Petersen, a Clinton High graduate, declined to comment and gave no indication that Jones would play basketball for the Eagles this winter.
    "College basketball isn't for everybody," Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said. "A little time away might do him some good."
    Jones came home to Clinton after spending just a few days with the Mavericks, and enrolled to Kirkwood shortly thereafter.
    Jones, the Herald's Player of the Year, averaged 19 points a game for the River Kings in his senior season and finished with the second-most rebounds with 160.
    He shot 41 percent on the floor and 28 percent from 3-point territory. He committed to Omaha before last season started in October.

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