Week 9 NFC North Breakdown


For the most part it was a good week for the Black and Blue Division, the NFC North. The Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings eeked out wins and the Detroit Lions were on their bye (that’s a plus for a 1-7 team), leaving the Green Bay Packers as the lone team suffering a loss.

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The Bears, of course, rallied from a 16-7 fourth-quarter deficit for a 22-19 win against the lowly San Diego Chargers. Quarterback Jay Cutler overcame a pair of early turnovers to throw for 345 yards and two touchdowns, including a 25-yard zinger to second-string tight end Zach Miller, who made a fantastic one-handed snare. The defense stuffed San Diego on the ensuing drive, guaranteeing the win.

Nov 9, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Bears receiver Jeremy Langford (33) is defended by San Diego Chargers safety Jimmy Wilson (27) on a 31-yard reception in the third quarter in a NFL football game at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie running back Jeremy Langford, picking up most of the playing time available due to Matt Forte’s absence because of a knee injury, showed he’s more than capable of contributing on offense. He totaled 72 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while catching three passes for 70 yards. Alshon Jeffery, overcoming a rough start to the game, also ended up with 151 yards on 10 catches and 16 targets.

The Bears were fortunate that San Diego was playing without top wide receiver Keenan Allen, and second wide receiver Malcolm Floyd left the game with an injury. If even one of those two played a full game against a very vulnerable Bears defense, the result may have gone the other way.

The defense, though, played well against the depleted Chargers, holding them to 13 points (six San Diego points came on an interception return). Lamarr Houston showed signs of life with two sacks on San Diego’s final drive, and the Bears held an admittedly weak Chargers running game to 77 yards.

Nov 8, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh (3) kicks the game-winning field goal during overtime against the St. Louis Rams at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Rams 21-18. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings, meanwhile, squeaked past the St. Louis Rams 21-18 in overtime, with kicker Blair Walsh nailing a 40-yard field goal for the win.

The big story, though, was Lamarcus Joyner’s hit on a sliding Teddy Bridgewater late in the game, with Bridgewater leaving the contest and Shaun Hill taking over for the rest of the game. The hit wasn’t called a penalty, but it certainly could have been and looked at best questionable, at worst a malicious attack on Bridgewater.

Bridgewater passed the first step in the league’s concussion protocol on Monday and had limited participation in practice, according to ESPN, and could play Sunday against the Raiders.

The star for Minnesota was – again – Adrian Peterson, who picked up 125 yards on 29 carries, including a crucial 11-yard run on a third-and-one in overtime, getting the Vikings in field goal range.

Nov 8, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is tackled near the goal line by Carolina Panthers strong safety Roman Harper (41) in the fourth quarter. The Panthers defeated the Packers 37-29 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers were the lone NFC North team to taste defeat Sunday, as they fell way behind against the undefeated Carolina Panthers and saw their comeback bid stopped late in the fourth quarter when Aaron Rodgers threw a fourth-down interception in the endzone. The final margin was 37-29.

Aug 29, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. Philadelphia won 39-26. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t like to say anything nice about the Packers, but it was an impressive comeback from a 27-7 halftime deficit and a 37-14 score early in the fourth quarter.

Facing two tough defenses in back-to-back weeks – Denver and then Carolina – the Packers clearly are missing receiver Jordy Nelson and need to find a way to get their offense in gear against playoff-caliber teams without the top-notch receiver. The running game is nothing special — James Starks and Eddie Lacy combine for 642 yards on 161 carries, good for about 3.99 yards per carry – and the Packers are ranked 15th in rushing yards.

The Packers will need to find a way to make the offense hum against playoff-caliber teams with Randall Cobb, James Jones and Davante Adams. As long as Superman Aaron Rodgers is there, I’m sure they will, unfortunately for us Bears fans.

At the halfway point of the season, then, the NFC North standings are:

  1. Vikings, 6-2
  2. Packers, 6-2
  3. Bears, 3-5
  4. Lions, 1-7

Oct 18, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears head coach John Fox during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Lions won 37-34 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the opponents left for each team (each team has four home and four away games left):

Vikings: at Oakland (4-4), vs. Green Bay (6-2), at Atlanta (6-3), vs. Seattle (4-4), at Arizona (6-2), vs. Chicago (3-5), vs. New York Giants (5-4), at Green Bay (6-2).

Packers: vs. Detroit (1-7), at Minnesota (6-2), vs. Chicago (3-5), at Detroit (1-7), vs. Dallas (2-6), at Oakland (4-4), at Arizona (6-2), vs. Minnesota (6-2).

Chicago: at St. Louis (4-4), vs. Denver (7-1), at Green Bay (6-2), vs. San Francisco (3-6), vs. Washington (3-5), at Minnesota (6-2), at Tampa Bay (3-5), vs. Detroit (1-7).

Detroit: at Green Bay (6-2), vs. Oakland (4-4), vs. Philadelphia (4-4), vs. Green Bay (6-2), at St. Louis (4-4), at New Orleans (4-5), vs. San Francisco (3-6), at Chicago (3-5).

Looking at the above records — and using my very amateur math skills – the Vikings have by far the hardest schedule, with their opponents having a combined 40-26 record. The Lions’ remaining opponents are 34-32, Chicago’s 33-32 and the Packers a lowly 29-35.

Green Bay and Minnesota still have to play twice, and the Bears have a chance to knock off each of the two division playoff contenders later this year, so it should be an exciting finish to the season.

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