Chicago Bears star, Packers stumble for NFC North in Week 10


It was a banner stanza for the NFC North in Week 10, as three teams picked up road wins, including the Chicago Bears’ emphatic victory over a respectable St. Louis Rams team by a 37-13 margin.

Easily their most complete victory of the season, the Bears’ win in St. Louis was highlighted by a pair of 80-plus yard touchdowns by Zach Miller and Jeremy Langford, who continues to shine for the Bears while Matt Forte is out with a knee injury.

The defense, after a disconcerting opening drive against the Rams, buckled down and allowed only six points the rest of the game and forced two turnovers. Jay Cutler played turnover-free football, and the offense put up 397 yards of offense without Eddie Royal and with a limited Alshon Jeffery.

But it wasn’t only the Bears who tallied an impressive win.

November 15, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata (44) congratulates running back Adrian Peterson (28) for scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum. The Vikings defeated the Raiders 30-14. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings traveled to California and pounded the Oakland Raiders into submission by a 30-14 margin, featuring an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter by Adrian Peterson.

Peterson collected more than 200 yards on the ground against the Raiders, Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Minnesota played turnover-free football. The Vikings defense harried Derek Carr into two interceptions and held the Raiders to fewer than 90 rushing yards in the win, which moves the Vikings’ record to 7-2 on the season.

The win, coupled with the loss by the Green Bay Packers, pushed the Vikings into sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

Nov 15, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Lions beat the Packers 18-16. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

But it was the Detroit Lions – yes, they of the 2-7 record – who tallied the best win of the weekend for the NFC North, though.

Heading to Green Bay with little shot of victory, the Detroit Lions somehow managed to stun the stumbling Packers, who have now lost three straight.

The Lions are still an incredibly limited team – their top rusher for the game, Joique Bell, had 17 yards on 14 carries, and the team had 45 yards on 26 carries – but their defense suddenly reverted to 2014 form, and it got them their second win of the season.

Nov 15, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Detroit won 18-16. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As for Green Bay, I’m not sure what to think. They’ve lost three straight, but two of those losses were against great, if flawed, teams (Denver, Carolina), and the third was to a division rival. Both their defense and offense have struggled in two of the past three games. They make no effort to run the ball, putting all the pressure on an out-gunned Aaron Rodgers, who must be feeling the loss of star wide receiver Jordy Nelson more than ever.

Early in the season, the Packers were able to overcome Nelson’s absence, putting up almost 100 points in the first three games, but they’ve scored only 113 points over the next six games, four of which were at home. Defenses have figured out those early adjustments the Packers made without Nelson, and Green Bay hasn’t been able to come up with successful new schemes over the past three games.

I don’t think it’s completely time for the Packers to panic – they’d make the playoffs as a wild card team if the playoffs started today – but their upcoming schedule should give them cause for concern and hope.

Their next three contests are against divisional foes, and the Vikings’ next four games are brutal, with Atlanta, Seattle, Arizona and Chicago comprising the schedule following Sunday’s contest against Green Bay.

If Green Bay can get past Minnesota – thereby retaking the divisional lead – they could build themselves a comfy cushion in the division, as while the Vikings are tangling with Atlanta and Seattle, the Packers will play Chicago and Detroit, two divisional foes who are sub-.500 squads as of this writing.

On the other hand, the Packers could lose two of those three games and find themselves at least two games behind Minnesota with only three of four games left to play.

Nov 15, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Bears head coach John Fox looks on as his team plays the St. Louis Rams during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. Chicago defeated St. Louis 37-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Looking forward, all eyes in the NFL will be on the NFC North in Week 11 (with the exception of the Oakland-Detroit game).

The beloved Bears are hosting Denver, a game with inumberable storylines. John Fox and Adam Gase and Jay Cutler against their old teams. Denver against their old head coach and offensive coordinator. The further struggles and benching of Peyton Manning and the first start of Brock Osweiler. The looming knowledge for the Bears that this is an almost must-win if they want to maintain their thin hopes of making the playoffs.

And that’s just the game that features only one NFC North team.

Nov 23, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) greets Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) following the game at TCF Bank Stadium. The Packers defeated the Vikings 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The keynote game is the Packers-Vikings matchup in Minnesota, where the Packers will seek to get on track against a Vikings team that’s won five straight. There are countless storylines to this game, too, but the biggest one is this: the Vikings appear to be a long-term threat to the Packers.

In past seasons, the Lions seemed to be the likely threat, but with a quarterback prone to making mistakes and a lack of a running game, the Lions weren’t built to last, and now their defense has fallen apart.

The Vikings have a great running back and a great defense. Their passing game is weak – 31st in the league – but they have an emerging quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who should get better as the season goes on, and a good young receiver in Stefon Diggs.

All in all, it should be an exciting week for the NFC North. Stay tuned.

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