Chicago Bears among NFC North winners in Week 16
Three NFC North teams won in Week 16, but it was probably the team that lost – the Green Bay Packers – who caused the biggest stir.
Losing to the Arizona Cardinals – in the desert especially – is no disgrace, but the 38-8 disaster most of the country was treated to at 4:30 p.m. EST on Sunday was … stunning, I guess. And that’s not close to a strong enough word.
The Cardinals didn’t even need to bring their offense, as the defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers eight times, abused him on countless other plays and scored two touchdowns on fumble returns.
Dec 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) loses his helmet while being sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Alex Okafor (57) and cornerback Jerraud Powers (25) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
For safety’s sake, and with the game out of reach, Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy actually pulled Rodgers, bringing in the immortal Scott Tolzien, who was also sacked once.
Rodgers, obviously under enormous pressure all game, completed only 15 of 28 passes for 151 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Meanwhile, the Green Bay running game tallied only 101 yards on 26 carries.
Defensively, the Packers sacked Carson Palmer twice and intercepted one pass, but Palmer still threw for 265 yards, two touchdowns and completed 67 percent of his passes. Plus, Arizona ran for 121 yards on 26 carries.
Clearly, nothing went well for the Packers, who slipped back into a first-place tie at 10-5 with the Minnesota Vikings.
Dec 27, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon (31) rushes for a 68 yard touchdown against the New York Giants in the fourth quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 49-17. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking of those Vikings, they enjoyed a Sunday night slaughter of the Giants, ratcheting up almost 50 points and moving into a tie with Green Bay, whom they play in Week 17 in Lambeau.
Everything went well for the Vikings on Sunday in their 49-17 win. They intercepted Eli Manning three times, sacked him four times and held the Giants to fewer than 100 rushing yards.
Dec 27, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) throws during the first quarter against the New York Giants at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Offensively, Teddy Bridgewater was efficient, going 15 of 25 for 168 yards with no picks or touchdowns. That didn’t really matter, though, as the Vikings ran for more than 200 yards on 40 carries, led by Adrian Peterson’s 104 yards and Jerick McKinnon’s 89 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run.
That sets up a fantastic finish to the regular season for the NFC North, with the Vikings traveling to Green Bay, with the winner taking home the division title and finding themselves as the third seed in the playoffs.
Earlier this season, the Vikings fell 30-13 to Green Bay in Minnesota. Rodgers, since becoming a starter in the league, is 10-4 against the Vikings.
The Vikings, due to that loss, are currently the five seed in the playoffs, a game ahead of Seattle (9-6), who travels to Arizona for the final week of the regular season.
Let’s run through some playoff scenarios here for Green Bay and Minnesota before moving on:
- If the Packers win and Seattle wins, then Green Bay is the three seed and the Vikings would be the sixth seed (due to their loss to Seattle);
- If the Packers win and Seattle loses, then Green Bay is the three seed and Minnesota is the fifth seed;
- If the Vikings win, then the Vikings are the three seed and Green Bay is the five seed (due to their win against Seattle, who could win or lose in this scenario and still end up the six seed).
Outside of those teams whose fans will enjoy the playoffs, the Bears and Lions both picked up victories in Week 16, setting up the two teams for a Week 17 showdown to see who avoids the division basement.
Dec 27, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) runs with the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Chicago Bears defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26-21. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Bears looked solid against Tampa Bay, coming away with a 26-21 win against former coach Lovie Smith. Quarterback Jay Cutler was efficient, going 20 of 27 for 156 yards and a touchdown, while the Bears ran for 174 yards on 39 carries.
The Bears did allow a blocked punt – special teams have been terrible for most of the year – setting up an easy Bucs touchdown, but the defense played well for most of the game, allowing seven points on the short drive following the blocked punt and on a Hail Mary when the game was locked up. They forced three turnovers – a rarity this season – and held Doug Martin, second in the league in rushing, to fewer than 50 yards.
In Detroit, the Lions put away San Francisco 32-17 on the strength of Matthew Stafford’s 300 passing yards. The Lions’ running game is still nothing special – 87 yards on 28 carries – but the defense is playing solid football, forcing one turnover and holding the 49ers scoreless in the second half.
The Lions won a wild overtime game against the Bears earlier this season by a 37-34 margin, and the final game of the season should be close, too. The Lions have won their past two games and five of their past seven, while the Bears broke a three-game losing streak with the win in Tampa Bay.
Next: Takeaways from the Bears win over the Bucs