Category Archives: Around the NFC North

25

December

Around the NFC North: Week 17

Around the NFC North

The Packers and Bears meet for the NFC North division title on Sunday

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate.  And Happy Wednesday to those who don’t.

We are down to just one game left in the 2013 season and the NFL gets its way again.  In the NFC North, the matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will determine the division winner on Sunday.

Both the Packers and Bears lost their games to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.  Chicago could have clinched the division with a win.  Instead, they will host the Packers for another late-season game with major playoff implications.

In the other divisional matchup, the Detroit Lions will face the Minnesota Vikings for the last time at Mall of America Field.  The Lions, who just one week ago were in the driver’s seat for the division title, lost to the New York Giants late and were eliminated from postseason contention.  The Vikings dropped their meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals and have likely begun making offseason tee times already.

Let’s look into each matchup a bit closer in this final edition of Around the NFC North.

Detroit Lions (7-8) at Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1)

One thing that can be said about this matchup is that I’m sure both the Bears and Packers are glad they don’t need to rely on the Vikings anymore this season.

Minnesota did come up with a big win over the Eagles in week 15 but returned to form in getting blown out by the Bengals last week.  After reaching the postseason last year, they will end this season with no more than five wins and double-digit losses.  Rumors are already swirling that Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is likely to be let go as soon as the season ends.

The Lions saw their season’s hopes fade to black in a matter of six days, with their loss to the Giants being the exclamation point on a season that turned disappointing in a hurry.  Despite being the third-ranked offense in the league, the Lions weren’t able to muster enough when it mattered.  Much like Frazier, there is a chance that Lions head coach Jim Schwartz could be shown the door soon after the regular season is over.

18

December

Around the NFC North: Week 16

Around the NFC North

This week’s slate of NFC North games could set up a huge finish to the 2013 regular season

Week 15 brought about some major fireworks around the NFC North, culminating with the Monday night game between the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens.  The Lions scored a late touchdown to take the lead but allowed the Ravens to drive and give kicker Justin Tucker a shot at a game winning 61-yard field goal.  He made it and suddenly, the Lions find themselves in third place behind the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

On Sunday, the Bears were able to hang on and pick up a valuable road win against the Cleveland Browns.  It was Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s first game back in over a month and while he was admittedly a bit rusty, he was able to create enough to get Chicago the win.  The Bears are now alone in first place in the North.

The Minnesota Vikings spanked the visiting Philadelphia Eagles and brought the birds back down to earth a bit, ending Phily’s five-game winning streak.  What is more impressive is that Minnesota did so without the services of their best player in that of running back Adrian Peterson.  They were also without running back Toby Gerhart but they did manage to get three rushing touchdowns from. . Matt Asiata?  While the Vikings are playing for pride, at this point, they certainly showed plenty on Sunday.

Benefiting from the Eagles’ loss, albeit ever so slightly, was the Dallas Cowboys.  In Sunday’s late game and America’s “Game of the Week”, the Cowboys hosted the Packers.  Green Bay had not won in nine previous trips (including playoffs) to Dallas and had lost 11 of their last 12 there, spanning over a 24-year period.  That record, however, was at the old Texas Stadium in Irving.  This game would be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, where the Packers won their most recent Super Bowl in February of 2011.

After heading in the halftime locker room down 26-3, the Packers seemed all but done for the day.  Many suggested that they just board the bus and head home.  I know because I was among them.  After watching this team flail through the past five games, it seemed highly unlikely that they could overcome such a deficit.  They did just that, however, capitalizing on two huge interceptions late in the fourth quarter to seal the comeback victory over the Cowboys, 37-36.  No team or fan base was more elated by the Lions loss to the Ravens than the Packers, as they remain in contention for a division title and can secure it on their own and without help.

11

December

Around the NFC North: Week 15

Around the NFC North

Last week did little to clear up the NFC north divisional race

A snow-filled weekend brought about three very entertaining games in the NFC north.  The Detroit Lions visited the Philadelphia Eagles in a scene right out of any backyard in the Midwest or East Coast on a snowy day.  Just before game time, snow piled on Lincoln Financial Field.  The sidelines and yard markers had to be shoveled clean so players and officials could determine where the boundaries were.  Detroit seemed to have an early handle on how to play in the white stuff but in the end, the Eagles came back and pulled away for their fifth straight win.

The Minnesota Vikings went to Baltimore to face the Ravens in another snow globe game.  Vikings running back Adrian Peterson suffered what is being reported as a foot sprain early on, but Minnesota hung with Baltimore all day long.  The game saw five lead changes in the final two minutes, which is a new NFL league record.  In the end, the Ravens scored a game-winning touchdown on an acrobatic catch by Marlon Brown to seal the win.

The Green Bay Packers hosted the Atlanta Falcons and earned a 22-21 victory, sealed in the last seconds by an interception by Jarrett Bush.  Yes, you read that correctly, Jarrett Bush.  The Packers also benefited from the Falcons tripping over themselves as sure-handed receiver Harry Douglas dropped what would have been a first down conversion to help move Atlanta into realistic position to kick a game-winning field goal.  The win stopped a five-game winless streak.

Lastly, the Chicago Bears hosted the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night football, although they were not very gracious hosts.  Freezing temperatures coupled with a lights-out offensive output by the Bears led to an easy 48-25 win over Dallas.  The win evened Chicago with the Lions for first place in the north while the loss put the Cowboys one game behind the division-leading Eagles in the east.

Chicago Bears (7-6) at Cleveland Browns (4-9)

The Browns nearly defeated the New England Patriots in New England.  It would have been the first time the Browns beat the Patriots in New England since 1992.  The irony there is that the Browns head coach at the time was Bill Belichick, current Patriots head coach.  Cleveland fell to 4-9 and all but eliminated themselves from playoff contention, although they are still mathematically alive.

4

December

Around the NFC North: Week 14

Around the NFC North

With only four games left, the Lions are in sole possession of first place with the Bears and Packers still in contention

Last week brought about two divisional games, one of which went into overtime and nearly ended in yet another tie.

The Green Bay Packers faced the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day and in the end, the only thing Packers fans were thankful for was that the game was over.  The Lions thumped the Packers to the tune of a 40-10 beat down that epitomized just how low the Packers have sunk since losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The Minnesota Vikings came back and scored an overtime win against the Chicago Bears, who had what seemed like a solid lead heading into the fourth quarter.  Minnesota tied the game on a Blair Walsh field goal to force overtime.  In the overtime, the Bears drove down and set up their usually-reliable place kicker, Robbie Gould, for a 47-yard attempt for the win.  Gould’s kick sailed right and on the ensuing possession, the Vikings rode Adrian Peterson down field and set up the eventual game winner by Walsh.

The Lions now have sole possession of first place in the North with a record of 7-5 and a one-game lead over the Bears.  The Packers fell to 5-6-1 and are two games back.  With the Carolina Panthers (9-3) and San Francisco 49ers (8-4) rolling, the only way a NFC North team is getting into the playoffs is likely by winning the division.

This week’s slate features four separate games.  The Packers will host the Atlanta Falcons in a game that was originally slated for Sunday night.  It was flexed out a few weeks back due to the decline in both teams’ level of play.  The Panthers and New Orleans Saints will now play in the Sunday night slot.

The Detroit Lions will head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, who have suddenly remembered how to win at home.  The Minnesota Vikings will take to the road to face the Baltimore Ravens and the week culminates with the Bears hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

With that, let’s take a quick look at each matchup and the implications for this week.

26

November

Around the NFC North: Week 13

Around the NFC North

The Bears and Lions remain in first place with Detroit hosting the Packers on Thanksgiving.

The NFC North had a lackluster showing in week 12 with none of the four teams winning their respective games.  As such, the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears remained tied atop the division with matching 6-5 records.

The Green Bay Packers moved to within a half game of the division lead with a tie against the Minnesota Vikings.  And the Vikings?  Their biggest remaining question mark is how badly they want to finish this season and in preparation for next year’s draft.

The Packers and Vikings tie was Green Bay’s first such result since 1987.  If nothing else, it ended the Packers’ three-game losing streak and also gave the Vikings a moral victory.  Win-win, right?  Not really, but just trying to find some good in it all.

I am not a fan of a tie game and wish the NFL would allow teams to play until there is a winner.  But I digress.

This week, there are two divisional matchups to look at, starting the Thanksgiving Day matchup between the Packers and Lions.

Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) at Detroit Lions (6-5)

I have long wondered how I would react to a Packers tie game.  I can now cross that off of my “life’s mysteries” list and gladly so.  Green Bay was able to mount a comeback against the Vikings after entering the fourth quarter down 23-7.  The Packers, looking for a spark, benched starting quarterback Scott Tolzien in favor of backup Matt Flynn.  Many had been clamoring for Flynn after watching Tolzien struggle to move the ball most of the day.

It was Flynn’s first action since returning to the Packers two weeks ago.  In his last appearance at Lambeau Field in 2011, Flynn started a week 17 game against the Lions and set a Packers franchise record with 480 passing yards and six touchdown passes.  While Flynn’s performance against the Vikings fell way short of those totals, he was able to rally Green Bay to even up the game and with a chance to win.

20

November

Around the NFC North: Week 12

Around the NFC North

Just one game separates the top three teams in the NFC North heading into week 12.

Despite the recent slide that the Green Bay Packers have gone through, they are just one game out of first place in the NFC North at 5-5.  The Packers dropped their third straight this past week to the New York Giants.  It was also Green Bay’s third straight loss to the Giants, including playoffs.

The Minnesota Vikings were no match for the NFC-leading Seattle Seahawks and fell to 2-8.  This week, the Vikings will head to Lambeau Field to round off their season series with the Packers.  For Green Bay, Scott Tolzien has already been named the starting quarterback.  The Vikings have announced that Christian Ponder will get the start for them.

The Detroit Lions were on the losing side of a wet n’ wild one in Pittsburgh as the Steelers thwarted some of Detroit’s trickery to preserve the win.  This week, the Lions host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have won two straight after losing their first eight.

The Chicago Bears weathered the storm and squeaked by the Baltimore Ravens in overtime.  That game was delayed due to weather shortly after kickoff.  The Bears will travel to St. Louis and face the Rams this week.

Chicago Bears (6-4) at St. Louis Rams (4-6)

The Bears get another “battle of the backups” this week as Josh McCown will start the Chicago and face backup Kellen Clemems for the Rams.  McCown will be making his third start of the season and in relief of Jay Cutler, who is now nursing an ankle injury.  McCown is 2-0 in his previous two starts.  Clemens came on at quarterback for the Rams when starter Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending ACL injury last month.

St. Louis is coming off of their bye week and after upsetting the Indianapolis Colts the week prior.  That win snapped a three-game losing streak and was Clemens’ first win as a starter.  Clemens needed only 16 passing attempts and nine completions, two for touchdowns, to defeat the Colts.

Both the Bears and Rams have running backs who have been playing well this season.  St. Louis’ Zac Stacy has three touchdown runs in the last two games.  Chicago’s Matt Forte has averaged just over five yards per carry and has three touchdowns against the Rams in three career matchups.  Forte ranks sixth in overall rushing with 774 yards and nine touchdowns on the year.

13

November

Around the NFC North: Week 11

Around the NFC North

The Lions are alone atop the NFC North with just a one-game lead over the Bears and Packers

The NFC North continues to be one of the more intriguing divisions in football with the ever-changing landscape from week to week.  The Detroit Lions are now alone in first place after completing a sweep of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.  The Bears and Green Bay Packers now have matching 5-4 records with the Bears holding the tie-breaker with a head-to-head win.

The Packers fell to the Philadelphia Eagles and had more quarterback issues as they lost their second straight game.  The Minnesota Vikings won their Thursday night matchup against the Washington Redskins and improved to 2-7 on the season.

Each of the four North teams have already had their bye so each will face a busy back half of the schedule.  The Packers and Giants matchup was flexed out of the Sunday night primetime slot a few weeks back and that will now be an afternoon contest that starts at 4pm EDT.

The Lions visit the Pittsburgh Steelers while the Bears host the Baltimore Ravens.  The Vikings head to the great Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks and the 12th man.

Let’s take a look at each matchup and the implications it could have on the rest of the season.

Minnesota Vikings (2-7) at Seattle Seahawks (9-1)

Both teams are coming off of victories this past week but that’s about where the similarities between these two teams end.  The Seahawks have found countless ways to win games this year.  Low scoring, high scoring, and defensive battles, they have seen it all and done most of it.  With the San Francisco 49ers struggling with some consistency, the NFC West is all but Seattle’s for the taking.

This week’s matchup has them hosting the Vikings, who have struggled through mediocre quarterback play and dealt the injuries on defense that have all but derailed their season.  Minnesota is 0-4 on the road and couldn’t be coming to a more unfriendly road environment this week.  Seattle’s CenturyLink Field boasts one of the loudest crowds in the NFL.