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.

7

December

Around the NFC North in Week 14

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 14

For the first time this season, there are two divisional matchups in the NFC North.  The Chicago Bears travel to Minnesota to round out their season series against the Vikings.  Both of those teams are coming off of tough losses last week and cannot afford another in this game.

The Detroit Lions come to Lambeau Field where they haven’t logged a victory in over 20 years to take on the Green Bay Packers in the Sunday night football matchup.  Detroit suffered a gut-wrenching and last-second defeat at the hands of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.  The Packers were the only victorious team in the North this past week.  The win helped them reclaim sole possession of first place in the divsion.

Here’s a sneak peak at each matchup and some storylines heading into the games.

Chicago Bears (8-4) at Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

The Bears are starting to feel the effects of their hard-fought season.  They learned that they will be without long-time veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher for at least the next three weeks due to a hamstring injury.  While Urlacher has been hampered by some bumps and bruises this season, there is no question the Bears defense is better with him on the field.

Chicago’s starting cornerback Tim Jennings was also injured in last week’s game vs. the Seattle Seahawks when he collided with another player and hurt his shoulder.  As of Tuesday, it was still not known how serious the injury was and more tests were expected later in the week to determine if there is any structural damage.  Any such news would mean Jennings will miss some time which would be a huge blow to the Bears’ secondary.  Jennings has been the team’s top defender this season and leads the team with eight interceptions.

The Vikings are also awaiting some news on the health of one of their star players, wide receiver Percy Harvin.  Harvin has missed the team’s last four games with an ankle injury and has battled health issues since coming into the league as a rookie in 2009.

Minnesota and Chicago are both in need of a win to make a strong run at the postseason.  The Bears and Packers have the same record at 8-4 but Green Bay holds the tie-breaker, having beaten Chicago head-to-head earlier this season.  The Vikings dropped to .500 and are trying to stay alive in the Wild Card race with an outside chance at a division win.