LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Former cornerback Charles Tillman, accompanied by his wife and four kids, showed up at Halas Hall on Friday to sign a one-day contract and officially retire as a member of the Chicago Bears, the organization he called home for 12 of his 13 seasons in the NFL.
“I was kind of against [having] the whole press conference [thing],” Tillman said. “I told everybody I just literally wanted to sign the one-day contract, meet with George McCaskey and Cliff Stein and sign it and just be done. But I'm thankful that -- after seeking advisement -- everybody said you should do a press conference, so I'm glad. There was a tremendous outpouring of support when I made my announcement, and I have to say that I've had 13 amazing years of playing football, 12 of which that were in Chicago and one great year in Carolina. I'm thankful to the fans that have supported me on and off the field, my teammates and my coaches.”
Chicago’s second-round draft choice in 2003, Tillman is the Bears all-time leader in defensive touchdowns (nine), interception return touchdowns (eight) and interception return yards (675). Tillman’s 36 interceptions are third in team history.
The 6-foot-2 defensive back burst onto the scene when as a rookie he stole the ball away in the end zone from All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss that clinched a late-season Bears’ victory over division rival Minnesota at Soldier Field.
“I think one of my best memories is the Minnesota Vikings game,” Tillman said. “That was kind of like the play that put me on the map, if you’d call it that.
"I think it just showed the world that I could play with anybody. I know when I came from Louisiana-Lafayette when I got drafted, there were a lot people who were like, 'Who the hell is Charles Tillman? What school is that?' And I had a chip on my shoulder because I was this young kid who no one knew about.”
Tillman played a pivotal role on three NFC North championship teams and helped key Chicago’s run to Super Bowl XLI.
“The 2006 season, I think that was a very special season,” Tillman said. “The coaches, the players, the building, everyone that worked in the building, from equipment to trainers to media to community relations to tickets to everybody. I think someone said it best: It was lightning in a bottle. We had everything from top to bottom. And more importantly, the culture of the team ... the players, we had this camaraderie with each other. There wasn’t a lot of talking. We joked all the time. All types of games, having fun. Yeah, very special season. Very similar to what we had in Charlotte this year in the 2015 season.”
The creator of the “Peanut Punch,” Tillman forced 42 fumbles for the Bears (and two more for the Panthers), including a career-high 10 in 2012.
“I think the move is fine, it’s cool,” Tillman said. “A lot of people ask me how I came up with it, how I developed it. And, I was a guy who — I’m not Brian Urlacher, I’m not Lance Briggs, I’m not Thomas Davis or Luke Kuechly — I don’t hit that hard. I don’t hit like those four guys. I like to think of myself as a little guy, so I’m just going to separate the man from the ball the best way I know how and that’s not with my shoulder pads, that’s with my fist. And, you know, I did it a few times, I did it a couple times in college, it kind of carried over into the league and 44 forced fumbles later, it was a patented move. I don’t know who coined the name Peanut Punch. I wish I had gotten into some of that stock so I could have reserved the right to use that for myself.
"But it worked out and I’m very blessed that people recognize that, and that I was able to leave my mark on the game of football. Because you see a lot of people doing it now.”
CHICAGO -- Charles Tillman is expected to sign a ceremonial one-day contract Friday and retire as a member of the Chicago Bears, the club confirmed.
Team chairman George McCaskey wants to give Tillman a proper send-off, but as of Thursday afternoon the Bears had yet to finalize the details of how they plan to honor Tillman, who spent 12 seasons in Chicago (2003-14).
Tillman announced his retirement Monday. He played for the Carolina Panthers last year, appearing in 12 games and recording two interceptions.
Drafted by the Bears in the second round in 2003, Tillman departed last offseason as the club's all-time leader in defensive touchdowns (nine), interception return touchdowns (eight) and interception return yards (675).
Tillman's 36 interceptions are third in team history, behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).
The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback also forced 42 fumbles for the Bears, including a career-high 10 in 2012. Tillman won the prestigious NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2013 for his community service activities and excellence on the field.
The Chicago Bears open training camp on July 28 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Here's a starting lineup projection:
Quarterback (Jay Cutler): Chicago’s all-time leading passer had a career best 92.3 quarterback rating in 2015.
Running back (Jeremy Langford): Former fourth-round pick ranked eighth in rookie yards from scrimmage with 816.
Receiver (Alshon Jeffery): Led team with 89.7 receiving yards per game despite missing seven weeks due to injuries, earning him the one-year franchise tag tender worth $14.599 million.
Receiver (Kevin White): Seventh overall choice of 2015 NFL draft sat out entire rookie year because of a stress fracture but stayed healthy throughout the entire offseason program.
Receiver (Eddie Royal): Eight-year veteran had a disappointing first season in Chicago but caught 62 passes for San Diego just two years ago.
Left tackle (Charles Leno): Former late-round selection has made 14 starts over two seasons.
Right tackle (Bobby Massie): Started 46 of 54 regular season games in Arizona before signing a three-year, $18 million contract with Bears.
Right guard (Kyle Long): Three-time Pro Bowler who started at right tackle last year.
Center (Hroniss Grasu): Second-year offensive lineman started eight games as a rookie but battled neck and knee injuries. Grasu is expected to face fierce competition for his job.
Defensive end (Akiem Hicks): Signed in the offseason following a successful 13-game stint in New England (after being traded from New Orleans) where he had 21 tackles and three sacks.
Outside linebacker (Pernell McPhee): One of only seven players in the NFL to have at least six sacks and one interception during 2015 season, but dealt with knee issues much of the year.
Outside linebacker (Lamarr Houston): Recorded seven sacks over the final nine weeks of the regular season, which tied for sixth most in the NFL over that span.
Inside linebacker (Danny Trevathan): Helped Denver win Super Bowl 50 with 109 tackles and two interceptions in the regular season and was the Bears' most expensive offseason acquisition at $12 million guaranteed.
Inside linebacker (Jerrell Freeman): Spent the previous four years in Indianapolis where he tallied 478 regular-season stops and 12 sacks.
Cornerback (Kyle Fuller): Topped Bears with two interceptions in 2015 after tying for the team lead with four picks in 2014.
Cornerback (Tracy Porter): Tied career high with 12 passes defended, 10 of those PBUs occurred over the final 10 games of the regular season, including four pass break-ups versus Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field.
Safety (Adrian Amos): Credited with 67 tackles according to “press box” statistics, seventh most among NFL rookies last year.
Kicker (Robbie Gould): Ninth most accurate kicker in NFL history holds the franchise record for career points with 1,207.
Punter (Pat O’Donnell): Finished with a 39.7 net punting average in 2015, second highest in single-season franchise history since 1966.
Long snapper (Aaron Brewer): Experienced long snapper with 64 career regular season appearances who played under Bears coach John Fox in Denver from 2012-14.
Silatolu joins the Bears after appearing in 34 games with 28 starts over four years (2012-15) in Carolina. The Panthers originally selected Silatolu in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft out of Midwestern State.
The interior of Chicago’s offensive line remains fluid with one week left until players report to training camp. A host of players will compete in the preseason for the starting left guard and center positions, including 2016 second-round choice Cody Whitehair, Ted Larsen, Hroniss Grasu and Silatolu.
The Bears held Larsen out of mandatory minicamp for precautionary reasons, but he is expected to be ready when the club arrives in Bourbonnais.
An undrafted rookie out of Dartmouth, Williams participated in Chicago’s 2016 rookie minicamp before signing a contract in June. The Bears now have four quarterbacks on the 90-man offseason roster following Williams' release.
Over the last 13 NFL seasons, Charles Tillman forced more fumbles than any defensive back in the league. In fact, Tillman's 44 forced fumbles (a ridiculous number) almost doubled that of the next guy in line over the same period -- Charles Woodson, with 23. So, how did he do it? Tillman is famous for the "Peanut Punch," which became a part of our game-day vocabulary during his career. With Tillman calling it a career earlier this week, let's break down the technique that is now on teaching tapes at every level of the game.
Square up the ball carrier in the open field. That sounds simple -- and it's taught every day on high school practice fields -- but Tillman always put himself in a position to secure the tackle first and foremost. That's technique -- consistent technique. And it allowed Tillman to load up and punch the ball out. Take a look at Tillman here versus the Detroit Lions during the 2012 season on Monday Night Football.
With tight end Brandon Pettigrew working up the field after a reception, Tillman drives downhill, comes to balance (squares his shoulders/feet) and sucks up the distance to the ball carrier. Put that guy in a phone booth, right? Now Tillman is in a position to take on the stiff-arm from a much bigger player in the open field while loading his arm to punch the ball.
The Chicago Bears open training camp on July 28 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Here's a closer look at the Bears' camp, which wraps up Aug. 9.
Top storyline: Everything in Chicago revolves around Jay Cutler. Following a successful 2015 campaign in which he posted a career-best 92.3 quarterback rating, Cutler, 33, said goodbye to talented offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who moved to Miami to coach the Dolphins. The Bears' new playcaller, Dowell Loggains, is Cutler's sixth coordinator since he joined Chicago in 2009. While Loggains, who previously called plays in Tennessee, served as Cutler's quarterbacks coach last year, there is no guarantee the transition will be seamless. The Bears can ill afford for Cutler to regress after he displayed such poise and promise under Gase. Chicago's passionate fan base has learned the hard way over seven seasons that the organization will only go as far as Cutler takes it. So far, Cutler has reached the playoffs just once in 10 NFL seasons.
If Jay Cutler : strings together another quality and turnover-free year, the Bears have a realistic shot to win eight or nine games. That might not be good enough to earn a postseason berth, but it certainly would constitute progress following Chicago's six wins in head coach John Fox's first year on the job. If Cutler plays poorly, the Bears have no shot. Brian Hoyer is a good veteran backup, but it's unlikely he can sustain the kind of success necessary to overtake Green Bay or Minnesota in the NFC North standings.
Player who will have fans buzzing: Wide receiver Kevin White. The 2015 first-round draft pick missed his entire rookie year because of a stress fracture in his left shin that required surgery, but White looked like a beast in the offseason program. He is big, strong and fast and should tear up Chicago's suspect secondary in training camp. It remains to be seen how White fares in the regular season, but on paper, he looks the part.
Positon battle worth watching: Running back. Second-year tailback Jeremy Langford (816 yards from scrimmage in 2015) is the favorite to succeed Matt Forte, but Chicago is not simply going to hand him the job. A Michigan State product, Langford needs to be mentally sharp and stop dropping so many passes out of the backfield. Ka'Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jordan Howard are expected to push Langford. Fox favors the running-back-by-committee approach, so the positon is wide open. This is a good one to monitor throughout the preseason.
That rookie should start: Left guard Cody Whitehair. Veteran Ted Larsen, who skipped mandatory minicamp because of an undisclosed injury, is scheduled to compete against Whitehair in camp. But Whitehair is a second-round pick and is expected to contribute immediately. That's just how it goes in the NFL. In the meantime, safety Deon Bush is another candidate to start in Week 1. Third-rounder Jonathan Bullard also projects to play right away on the defensive line. Top pick Leonard Floyd could begin the year in a situational role.
Veteran whose job is in jeopardy: Marc Mariani. There is a logjam at receiver. Mariani, who made some impressive catches in 2015, is vulnerable after the additions of receiver/return men Deonte Thompson, who joined the Bears last year, and Daniel Braverman, a seventh-round choice. Marquess Wilson's latest injury opens the door for another receiver to make the 53-man roster, but a good player still probably ends up getting cut. Mariani is a former Pro Bowler and can still play. The numbers, however, could work against him.
Contract year: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who is playing under the franchise tag, is looking for a big deal somewhere next offseason. Jeffery is supremely motivated to have a monster year. He is capable of reeling off big numbers when healthy. But health is the key. Jeffery, who missed seven games last year because of a variety of ailments, stayed away from the voluntary offseason program to train in South Florida. Jeffery and the Bears hope the gamble pays off. Without Jeffery, opponents can focus on White, who is essentially redoing his rookie year. Along with Cutler, Jeffery is vital to the success of Chicago's offense.
Big shoes to fill: Veteran Zach Miller steps in as the No. 1 tight end, after Martellus Bennett was traded to New England. Say what you want about Bennett's colorful personality, which irritated many in the building, he is an upper-echelon NFL tight end. The Bears believe Miller can pick up where Bennett left off. Miller stayed healthy last year and flashed on numerous occasions, catching 34 balls for 439 yards and five touchdowns, including a spectacular one-handed game-winner versus San Diego on Monday Night Football. Only time will tell how Miller adjusts to the main role.
What fans will be saying after camp: That the second year under Fox will be better than the first one. The Bears should not finish 6-10 for a second consecutive season. The club upgraded on defense with inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. However, Chicago still needs more impact players on that side of the ball. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is a proven playmaker, but McPhee battled knee problems almost all of last year. On offense, the losses of Forte and Bennett will not be easy to overcome, but Jeffery is playing for big money in 2017. If Cutler and Loggains can keep it together, the Bears should be in most games. Fans understand this. That's why cautious optimism surrounds the Bears in 2016.
For daily updates at camp, check out the Chicago Bears clubhouse page.
Tillman’s talent transcended schemes. Over 12 years in Chicago, Tillman proved to be one of the NFL’s most well-rounded defenders.
Drafted by the Bears in the second round in 2003, Tillman originally thrived in Greg Blache’s attack style of defense before settling in to Lovie Smith’s zone-oriented Cover 2.
Aided by a ferocious pass rush in 2005 and 2006, Tillman played his part to near perfection, helping Chicago build the league’s top-rated defense en route to back-to-back NFC North titles and a trip to Super Bowl XLI. Years later, Tillman tied for the team lead with five interceptions as the Bears advanced to the 2010 NFC Championship Game.
But Tillman also possessed the rare skill set to be a lock-down, one-on-one cornerback when necessary.
Chicago’s loyal fan base vividly remembers Tillman’s rookie-season matchup against All-Pro receiver Randy Moss, when Tillman stole the ball away from Moss in the end zone late in the fourth quarter to seal a Bears' victory.
Later on, Tillman would be charged with the unenviable task of shadowing future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson. Over the years, Tillman more than held his own versus Johnson, who had a three-inch height advantage.
What really separated Tillman from his peers, though, was the staggering rate at which he forced turnovers.
The creator of the famed “Peanut Punch,” Tillman tormented opponents. No one was immune from Tillman’s uncanny knack for punching out the football. NFL teams practiced and stressed ball security all week in advance of playing Tillman, but the savvy cornerback still found a way to strip the football. Tillman, who was voted to Pro Bowls in 2010 and 2012, forced an astounding 43 fumbles for the Bears, including a career-high 10 in 2012.
Drafted by the Bears in the second round in 2003, Tillman rewrote Chicago’s record book over 12 seasons. He departed the Bears last offseason as the club’s all-time leader in defensive touchdowns (nine), interception return touchdowns (eight), and interception return yards (675).
Tillman’s 36 interceptions are third in team history, behind only safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).
Tillman is a generational talent.
While he never received the accolades given to teammates Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs, Tillman was a major reason why the Bears' defense soared to such impressive heights from 2005-12.
The Bears could spend the next 20 years searching for the next Charles Tillman.
He was truly one of a kind.
Cornerback Charles Tillman announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday, tweeting the news with an amusing video.
In the video, he uses his signature "Peanut Punch" to knock everyday items out of the hands of his family members and friends before hanging up his cleats at a time clock that's below a sign that reads: "Best Day Ever."
The video ends with a message from Tillman: "Thanks for all the love and support on and off the field."
That is followed by a screen that includes four hashtags (#BestDayEver, #PeanutPunch, #KeepPounding and #BearDown), one in each corner.
The video ends with a screen that reads: "Peanut Out!"
"I've had 13 amazing years on two great teams and I'm just thankful for the love and support that I got from my teammates, the fans and my coaches," Tillman told ChicagoBears.com. "I'm thankful to everyone who has helped me get to where I am right now because I definitely didn't do it by myself."
The Panthers and Bears tweeted congratulations to Tillman.
Tillman was a two-time Pro Bowl selection. He forced 42 fumbles with his "Peanut Punch" during his first 12 seasons, more than any defensive back since the statistic began being recorded in 1984.
He forced two more fumbles and had two interceptions last season, giving him 44 career forced fumbles and 38 interceptions.
Robots are invading NFL training camps.
Actually, they are the love children of robots and tackling dummies, and they are not technological fads.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Ravens have placed orders for a batch of Mobile Virtual Players for their camps later this month, according to MVP president John Currier. Each robot, costing about $8,000, weighs between 160 and 180 pounds, runs a 5-second 40-yard dash and cuts in the open field.
In May, the Steelers showcased their experiment with the MVPs on their website, while the rival Ravens tested theirs in secret. The Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears also have inquired about using them in the future.
What started as an experiment at Dartmouth College football practices to promote safe tackling is now a full-fledged business that is penetrating the highest levels of football.
The NFL's flirtation with technology can be fickle. Remember the drone experiment? Exactly.
This seems different, though. At the least, teams see functionality and the chance to rest players.
"They have a future," said one NFL assistant coach whose team has tested the robots. "A few kinks to be worked out, but you can find ways to make them work for you."
To separate gimmick from game-changer, let's dive into some questions about the robots and their viability at the NFL level. For guidance, we consulted the people from the MVP company and a few NFL observers who have tested the product.
The disconnect between the two sides is obvious.
Jeffery, 26, wants to be compensated as a top-five receiver, which is understandable when Chicago committed to paying him $14.599 million guaranteed for one year under the franchise tag. So, of course, Jeffery is looking for a deal on par with A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and T.Y. Hilton – one that averages $13 million to $15 million per year.
The Bears obviously feel differently.
For one, Jeffery has a history of injuries. The former Pro Bowl wideout missed seven games last season due to multiple soft tissue ailments that originated in training camp. Can Jeffery stay healthy? He did play in all 16 games in 2013 and 2014, but last year clearly left a bad taste in the team's mouth. Plus, Jeffery decided to skip the voluntary portion of Chicago’s offseason program to train in South Florida, further ramping up the pressure on him to avoid injuries in the fall.
The bigger holdup, however, is how the Bears seemingly view Jeffery. While Bears players and coaches publicly praise Jeffery at every turn, it’s unclear whether the organization considers him a true No. 1 receiver. Chicago’s approach in negotiations suggests they view Jeffery more as a “1A” or elite No. 2 wideout. The Bears also have depth at the position in the form of former first-round pick Kevin White, whom Chicago expects to carve out a large role on offense.
Perhaps the Bears think Jeffery is expendable.
The good news for Jeffery is that there are 31 other teams in the NFL.
Entering the prime of his career, Jeffery tied a Bears franchise record in 2015 with three straight 100-yard receiving games against Detroit, Minnesota and San Diego.
Jeffery currently has a dozen 100-yard receiving games in his four seasons with the Bears, tied for fifth-most in franchise history. He set career highs with 89 catches for 1,421 yards in 2013. Jeffery also hauled in 10 touchdowns in 2014.
Jeffery is talented enough to finish the year with 80 catches for 1,300 or 1,400 receiving yards -- barring another health setback -- which could lead to a huge payday if the Bears decline to franchise-tag him again.
At that point, Chicago may be out of luck.
Jeffery received the Bears' non-exclusive franchise tag and signed the tender, worth $14,599,000, on March 8.
Despite signing the tender, Jeffery skipped the Bears' organized team activities, choosing instead to work out on his own in South Florida. He ended his absence during the Bears' mandatory minicamp and indicated he would be OK playing under the one-year franchise tender if he couldn't agree to a long-term contract by the deadline.
Jeffery appeared in just nine games last season due to a variety of ailments that began in training camp, when he suffered a calf strain in a closed walk-through practice prior to Chicago's preseason opener.
He missed all four exhibition games, then was shut down in December with a hamstring injury.
When healthy, Jeffery is one of the Bears' top players on offense. He caught 54 passes for 807 yards and four touchdowns last season. He also tied a franchise record with three straight 100-yard receiving games against Detroit, Minnesota and San Diego.
Jeffery, 26, currently has a dozen 100-yard receiving games in his four seasons with the Bears, tied for fifth-most in franchise history. He set career highs with 89 catches for 1,421 yards in 2013. The second-round pick out of South Carolina also hauled in 10 touchdown catches in 2014.
ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson contributed to this report.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and every NFL team does something well. Even the worst team has certain plays and tendencies in which the players are productive.
We've gone through Football Outsiders' extensive stat databases to point out one specific strength of each offense in 2015. Some of these splits are significant for illuminating the strengths and weaknesses of each team's personnel. Other splits tend to oscillate wildly from year to year, and a great performance in 2015 may not indicate that a team will be equally strong in the same ways in 2016. Either way, the numbers provide an interesting window into what each team's offense did right last season. (We did the same thing for every defense here.)
Football Outsiders' advanced metrics are explained here. The most important is DVOA, which measures success on each play compared to the league average adjusted for situation and opponent. Because it is measured on a per-play basis, it can easily be separated to measure specific splits. You'll see a lot of those ratings below.
Charting stats such as frequency of blitzes, pass pressure and play-action come from research by ESPN Stats & Information. Other charting metrics including cornerback coverage stats and broken tackles come from Sports Information Solutions. You'll be able to find many more of these stats in our book "Football Outsiders Almanac 2016," which will be released online on Aug. 1.
Buffalo had a league-high 72.3 percent DVOA when using play-action on passes, and their 9.9 yards per play ranked third behind only Arizona and Washington. Only the Rams had a bigger gap between performance in play-action passes and other passes.
Miami's offense struggled overall but was pretty good on second downs, especially second-and-short situations, which present the most freedom for an offensive playcaller. The Dolphins were 21st in offensive DVOA on first downs and 31st on third downs. But on second downs, the Dolphins ranked 12th in offensive DVOA, and only Cincinnati was better on second-and-short (1-2 yards to go).
Today's question: Who will win the NFC North, and how many of the division's teams will make the playoffs?
Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Packers reporter: This isn't 2001, when the old NFC Central sent three teams to the playoffs: Chicago at 13-3, Green Bay at 12-4 and Tampa Bay at 9-7. Nor is it 2012, when the Packers (11-5), Vikings (10-6) and Bears (10-6) all had double-digit wins. This looks like a two-team race again. Last season, the Vikings ended the Packers' run of division titles at four straight, but the Packers still seem like the team to beat. Even the Las Vegas oddsmakers agree. The Packers will take back control of the NFC North, but the Vikings will join them in the postseason.
Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears reporter: Green Bay wins the division. The road to the NFC North crown still goes through northern Wisconsin because of Aaron Rodgers. But Minnesota is a close second. The Vikings have the NFC North's best defense, and of course, Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 1,485 yards in 2015. I still question the rest of Minnesota's offense, but Teddy Bridgewater is a steady, if not spectacular, quarterback. The Bears will win more than six games. But Chicago's defense still lacks enough playmakers to hang with the NFL's elite. And Jay Cutler is the ultimate wild card. Cutler thrived under former offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who is now the coach of the Dolphins. Can he play as well for new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains? That's tough to say. Chicago looks like a team destined to be .500. And the Lions, who lost Calvin Johnson, did not make enough offseason moves to challenge Green Bay or Minnesota. I think both the Packers and Vikings qualify for the postseason.
Ben Goessling, Minnesota Vikings reporter: I believe there are only two teams from the NFC North that are good enough to make the playoffs, and I think both of them will: The Packers and the Vikings will both be back in the NFC field come January, and they'll once again battle for the division title. Who wins it? I'm going to go with the Packers, based on a belief they'll be somewhat healthier than they were last year -- which could be wrong, given how often they seem to be among the league's most injury-ravaged teams -- and a schedule that rated as the league's easiest before the season. But I think the division will once again come down to a battle between the Packers and Vikings, and I see both teams going north of 10 wins to reach the playoffs. It could be one of the two high-profile matchups between the teams -- the Week 2 Sunday night tilt to open U.S. Bank Stadium or the Christmas Eve matchup at Lambeau Field -- that tips the division.
Michael Rothstein, Detroit Lions reporter: I'm higher than most on the Vikings, as I believe they are the best team in the NFC. The Vikings' defense should be the best in the division. Minnesota has the best running back in the league and a potential star in Bridgewater. The makeup of the Vikings is strong, and as long as Peterson continues to play at a level close to what he's reached in the past, the Vikings have a good shot of going back-to-back in the division. Two teams will make the playoffs from the NFC North: the Vikings and Packers. It will come down to the final two weeks of the season to decide which team wins the division and which ends up on the road in the first round. They are two of the top five teams in the NFC, so both should be positioned well for the playoffs. Detroit and Chicago could have paths to the playoffs as well, but both franchises would need things to break right for them.
With the deadline looming large over players currently under the franchise tag, it appears as though several teams and tagged players won't be finding common ground before 4 p.m. on Friday.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, several big-time players are expected to hit the deadline without coming to long-term extensions with their respective teams.
Absent unlikely change, no extensions expected for franchise players K. Cousins, Eric Berry, Alshon Jeffery, Mo Wilkerson, Trumaine Johnson.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 14, 2016
As ESPN's Dan Graziano wrote last month, "Players who don't have long-term deals by that deadline must play the whole 2016 season on the franchise tender and can't talk about a long-term contract again until 2017."
If each of these players doesn't agree to a long-term deal, this is what they will make during the 2016 season: