Category Archives: Around the NFC North

6

November

Around the NFC North: Week 10

Around the NFC North

A three-way tie at the top of the NFC North sets the tone for a second half showdown between the Bears, Lions and Packers

The back half of the 2013 NFL schedule is officially underway.  In the NFC North, there is currently a three-way tie for first place with the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers all knotted up at 5-3.  The Minnesota Vikings still have only one win to seven losses.

The big news out of the division was the Bears’ 27-20 win over the Packers on Monday night.  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hurt early in that game and did not return.  On Monday, it was confirmed that Rodgers has a broken collarbone, but will not require surgery.  He will miss some time and that exact timetable is unknown.  Normally one player’s injury isn’t as noteworthy, but this is one that could very well shift power within the division.

Green Bay appeared to be in the driver’s seat to win the North with upcoming games against the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Detroit Lions.  Now, they just need to find a way to survive and hope that Rodgers misses minimal time.  The Packers aren’t the same team without Rodgers, regardless of who is backing him up.  With Seneca Wallace, their offense didn’t even resemble a shell of itself on Monday night.

Let’s take a look at this week’s games, which features another good divisional matchup between the Lions and Bears.

Washington Redskins (3-5) at Minnesota Vikings (1-7)

This is a tale of two playoff teams from a year ago who are disappointing this year.  The Vikings have managed just one win all season and that was a “home” game in London.  Their own fans still have not enjoyed a win in what will be the last season at Mall of America Field (Metrodome).  This one is the Thursday night matchup and will be Minnesota’s second primetime game in their last three.

During Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Vikings lost tight end Kyle Rudolph, who will miss time with a broken foot.  Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was already struggling and will now be without one of his favorite targets.  John Carlson will assume the tight end duties, but expect some drop-off there.

30

October

Around The NFC North: Week 9

Around the NFC North

A big divisional matchup pits the Bears vs. Packers on Monday Night football in Week 9

At the halfway point in the NFL schedule, the divisional races are starting to legitimize themselves.  The Green Bay Packers earned a road victory over the division rival Minnesota Vikings last week and maintained their lead in the NFC North.  The Detroit Lions eeked out a last-second win at home over the Dallas Cowboys after some heroics by quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The Chicago Bears had a bye last week and now look forward to preparing for a Monday night showdown against the Packers at Lambeau Field.  The Vikings will head to Dallas to take on the Cowboys and the Lions have their bye this week.  That leaves just two games within the Black n’ Blue division to review.

Minnesota Vikings (1-6) at Dallas Cowboys (4-4)

The Cowboys have to be reeling after suffering a heart-breaking loss on the game’s final play in Detroit.  Dallas now holds a very modest one-game lead in the NFC East and with just two games separating them and last place (New York Giants).  On paper, this looks like a good opportunity for the Cowboys to get back on track.

The Vikings continue to struggle in nearly every phase of the game, save for special teams.  With lingering quarterback issues, Minnesota’s season is quickly going down the drain and there were serious trade rumors floating around about top defensive end Jared Allen prior to the deadline this week.  Christian Ponder was re-inserted as the starter last week against the Packers and was just 14 of 21 in passing with no touchdowns.  On several of his throws, NBC analyst Chris Collinsworth was pointing out obvious reads that Ponder flat-out missed.  When Josh Freeman is cleared to play again, I would assume he will take over the starting duties.

In Dallas, they have some problems of their own.  Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was very animated towards his coaches and teammates during Sunday’s game.  While most have come forward and said that it was a healthy display of passion and desire to win by Bryant, the facial expressions and body language suggested sheer frustration.

A loss to Minnesota would be a huge setback to the Cowboys quest to win the East.  The following week, Dallas plays at New Orleans on Monday night.  After that, the Cowboys have their bye and then games at the Giants and home against the Raiders.  Dallas should win three of their next four, but “should” and “will” are not always friends.

23

October

Around the NFC North: Week 8

Around the NFC North

The Bears have a much needed bye and the Packers face the Vikings on Sunday night in prime time

The Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings all lost their games while the Green Bay Packers were victorious.  That puts the Packers in first place in the North and heading into their first of two straight Prime Time games this season.  They will be in Minnesota for a Sunday night tilt against the Vikings with a home game against the Bears the following week.

The Lions will host the Dallas Cowboys and look to get back on track after dropping a close one to the Cincinnati Bengals at the end of regulation.

The Bears have a bye week and it could not have come at a better time.  During their loss to the Washington Redskins, the Bears lost quarterback Jay Cutler to a torn groin that will sideline him at least a month.  They also lost veteran linebacker Lance Briggs for up to four weeks.  This seems to be the story with the Bears each year after a hot start.  Coming out of the bye, the Bears draw a road game in Green Bay so things don’t get any easier for them.

With the Bears on a bye and a divisional matchup, there are only two games this week.  Let’s dive into each.

Dallas Cowboys (4-3) at Detroit Lions (4-3)

The first-place Cowboys are coming off of two straight wins and face a Lions team that is reeling a bit from a nail-biting loss to the Bengals.  The Cowboys won their first road game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Lions are now one game behind the division-leading Packers and can gain some ground on the Bears, who are idle this week.

Offensively, these two teams are very even in terms of their production.  The quarterback play has been close, with an edge going to the Lions in the running game.  Each team features a top-flight wide receiver in that of Calvin Johnson for the Lions and Dez Bryant for the Cowboys.  The Cowboys rely heavily on their running back DeMarco Murray while the Lions mix it up with both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.

16

October

Around the NFC North: Week 7

Around the NFC North

One game separates three teams in the NFC North in week 7

Another week is in the books and the divisional races are starting to take shape.  In the NFC North, the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions all won their games while the Minnesota Vikings fell to the Carolina Panthers.

That puts the Lions and Bears atop the division with 4-2 records and with Detroit having a tiebreaker with a win over Chicago.  Green Bay is in second place at 3-2 and is above the .500 mark for the first time this season.  Minnesota dropped to 1-4 and are cellar-dwelling.

In looking ahead to this week’s schedule in the North, there are two more NFC/AFC matchups and two road games.  The Lions will host the Cincinnati Bengals while the Packers will welcome the Cleveland Browns to Lambeau Field.  The Bears travel to Washington to take on the Redskins and the Vikings will head to New York and square off with the reeling New York Giants.

With four games to look at, let’s jump in and see what is in store for each.

Chicago Bears (4-2) at Washington Redskins (1-4)

The Bears last played on Thursday night of last week and will have a few extra days to prepare for the Redskins.  Washington, on the other hand, played in Sunday night’s game and on the road against the Dallas Cowboys so their week is slightly shortened.

Chicago comes off of a victory over the winless Giants and ended the Bears’ two-game losing skid.  After this week’s game at Washington, the Bears have their bye week and then face a tough stretch with a road game in Green Bay against the Packers followed by home games against the Lions and Baltimore Ravens.  Afterwards are road games at the St. Louis Rams and in Minnesota.  While the Vikings are struggling this year, divisional matchups are never easy.

The Redskins are coming off of a road loss to division rival Dallas Cowboys.  Washington had their chances to make a game of it but a fourth quarter fumble by quarterback Robert Griffin III was recovered by the Cowboys and Dallas never looked back from there.  This has been a disappointing season for the Redskins, both in their record and in the playing abilities of Griffin.  He just is not the same quarterback that he was last season as he continues to work his way back from offseason ACL surgery.

9

October

Around the NFC North: Week 6

Around the NFC North

All four teams play this week and are separated by just two games

The race in the NFC North got a bit tighter in week five.  The division-leading Detroit Lions fell to the Green Bay Packers, who evened their record to 2-2.  Both the Lions and Chicago Bears, who lost to the New Orleans Saints, are tied atop the North at 3-2 with Detroit having a slight edge due to their head-to-head win over Chicago in week four.  The Minnesota Vikings had a bye and enter this week at 1-3.

With a full slate of games this week that kicks off with the Bears hosting the New York Giants on Thursday night, let’s dive into the matchups and storylines of each.

New York Giants (0-5) at Chicago Bears (3-2)

Before this season started, there were more than a handful of fans and experts who had the Giants pegged to lose five games all season, let alone their first five.  The Giants were victimized by the visiting Philadelphia Eagles and remain winless on the year.  They now face a short week and a road game to boot.

As with any team that is dealing with a losing streak, there is building tension in New York over the lack of success.  That this was a Super Bowl championship team just two seasons ago is more cause for concern.  If you need another example of some of the disarray that exists in New York, here’s one.  The Giants elected not to re-sign linebacker Chase Blackburn after this season and he signed with the Carolina Panthers.  Just last week, Blackburn replaced veteran Jon Beason when Beason’s productivity was suffering due to various injuries.  At the same time, the Giants, desperate for help at linebacker, traded a late-round draft pick for Beason.  Digest that one.  Even if he gets healthy and contributes, the Giants are definitely doing things the hard way this season.

New York has dealt with injuries and have not been as formidable on defense as they once were.  They are also averaging just 56 rushing yards/game.  This year’s team is not the Giants that anyone is used to seeing.

The Bears dropped their second game in a row, this one at home to the Saints.  After an impressive start and winning their first three games, the Bears have come back down to earth a bit.  Two of those three wins came against the Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers, who are both struggling early on this year.  The opinions on just how good the Bears are remain divided at this point.

3

October

Around the NFC North: Week 5

Around the NFC North

The Packers return from their bye week and look to keep the Detroit Lions winless at Lambeau Field since 1991

The Minnesota Vikings were the last team in the NFC North to notch their first win, besting the Pittsburgh Steelers across the pond in London last week.  This week, the Vikings have their bye, as is customary for teams having just played in London.

That leaves two matchups throughout the division to look at.  The 3-1 Detroit Lions bring their 22-game losing streak at Lambeau Field to town to face the Green Bay Packers.  The Chicago Bears play host to the undefeated New Orleans Saints.  Let’s take a look at each.

New Orleans Saints (4-0) at Chicago Bears (3-1)

Something’s gotta give this week, as the Saints bring their perfect record and a three-game losing streak at Soldier Field to Chicago.  Saints quarterback Drew Brees has started out hot with over 1,400 passing yards and 10 touchdowns to just four interceptions.  At Soldier Field, however, Brees is completing just over 50% of his passes and has seven touchdown passes to six interceptions.

While the players change every year, the Bears surely know that Brees has had his struggles in their house.  Chicago will look to bring pressure and disrupt the timing and rhythm of the Saints passing attack.  Brees has been sacked 12 times this season.  Under pressure, the Bears will look to continue their ball-hawking ways in the secondary and hope to force a bad throw or two into a valuable turnover against New Orleans’ high-octane offense.

The Bears lost their first game of the season last week to the Lions.  Quarterback Jay Cutler threw three interceptions and the Bears had four total turnovers in the loss.  He was also sacked three times.  It is no secret that Cutler has struggled when under pressure in the pocket and the Saints will look to keep him uncomfortable all day long.  Much like the Bears, the Saints have an opportunistic secondary that was able to nab three interceptions in this past Monday Night’s win over the Miami Dolphins.  This is one of those games that could get ugly if Cutler isn’t careful with the football.

With a win, New Orleans takes firm command of the NFC South and jumps into the conversation of legitimate contenders for the NFC this year.  Should the Bears emerge victorious, they make a statement that they should at least be in that same conversation.

27

September

Around the NFC North: Week 4

Around the NFC North

This week features a Packers bye, a divisional matchup and a trip to London

As is usually the case, we find ourselves looking back at the past three weeks and realizing how quickly the NFL season seems to fly by.  After this week, a quarter of the 2013 season will be done.

With the Green Bay Packers on the early bye week and a divisional matchup between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, there are only two games to take a look at this week.  The other features the Minnesota Vikings hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers in London and Wembley Stadium.

This marks the second time in the last three seasons that a NFC North team has traveled to London.  In 2011, the Bears defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in front of over 80,000 fans.

It is always worth noting that a team that his “hosting” a game in the UK is foregoing a game at their home stadium as well as dealing with a longer travel week.  This remains one of the reasons that we are not likely to see the Packers appear in this game anytime soon.

Imagine giving up one of the eight Sunday experiences in Green Bay.  It could happen in the future as the league pushes to grow their brand and urge more popular teams to appear at this venue, but for now, the Packers will be in Green Bay for all eight of their home games.

Let’s dive into this week’s matchups around the NFC North.

Chicago Bears (3-0) at Detroit Lions (2-1)

The Bears are looking to start off 4-0 for the first time in seven years and appear to be inspired by their new head coach Marc “Willy Wonka” Trestman.  The Bears offense has been more productive and quarterback Jay Cutler looks to be benefiting from having an offensive-minded guy at the helm.  Cutler has six touchdown passes to three interceptions on the season and his quarterback rating (94.2) is up above his career average (84.4).

Chicago barely got by the Bengals in week one and division-rival Vikings in week two before hitting the road and beating the Steelers this past week.  Still, wins are what matter and Chicago leads the North with three.