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.

27

December

Around the NFC North in Week 17

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 17

In week 17, The NFL is getting what it always hopes for when they create the schedule each spring.  Each of this week’s NFC North matchups have playoff implications and there is another NFL record in jeopardy.

After the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving yardage record last week, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has the single-season rushing record in his sights.  Peterson needs just 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards.

Peterson’s Vikings host the Green Bay Packers and that game has been flexed by the NFL to the 3pm CDT time slot.  It is setting up to be one of the better matchups around the league.  Green Bay can secure the second seed with a victory or both a San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks loss.  For the Vikings, it’s simple:  win and they’re in.

The Chicago Bears are still alive in the wild card race after beating the Arizona Cardinals.  Chicago travels to Detroit and must win to keep any hopes alive of securing the last wild card spot.  The Bears also are in the precarious position of having to cheer for their arch enemy Packers.  Should Bears win and the Packers beat the Vikings, the Bears would claim the sixth and final seed in the NFC.

Let’s look at the matchups and playoff scenarios a bit more closely.

Chicago Bears (9-6) at Detroit Lions (4-11)

The Lions got pounded by the Atlanta Falcons this past Saturday to make official what we already knew:  Detroit is horrible.  The only bright spot in the game, and really their entire season, was Johnson  surpassing Rice’s previous total.  Rice established the record of 1,848 yards with the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.

Johnson and the Lions can deliver a huge jab to the gut of Chicago by pulling off the upset this week.  A Chicago loss would eliminate the Bears from playoff contention.  While it’s not likely given the recently level of play by both teams, crazy things have happened this season and Detroit has at least an outside shot of pulling off the win.