For a while, it looked like the NFC North might send the Packers, Bears and Lions to the playoffs. There’s a chance that still could happen, but it’s a longshot. With the Packers cruising, the Bears and Lions have some work to do if they want to grab a wild card slot.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings are holding down the bottom of the division while trying to get a new stadium.
It’s time for a trip around the NFC North.
Remaining schedule: Chiefs, at Broncos, Seahawks, at Packers, at Vikings.
Biggest issue: Making adjustments. Jay Cutler is out for at least the rest of the regular season, leaving Caleb Hanie to try and lead the Bears to the playoffs.
Analysis: The challenge the Bears face is actually twofold: Is Hanie capable of taking the Bears to the playoffs and is offensive coordinator Mike Martz capable of adjusting his gameplan to maximize Hanie’s strengths and mask his weaknesses?
Hanie was bad last Sunday against the Raiders, but Martz’s gameplan was worse. You know how Mike McCarthy refuses to adjust his gameplan when an offensive lineman goes down, even if the backup lineman is struggling? Martz is the same way, only he is refusing to adjust to a backup quarterback. There’s a big difference between a backup offensive lineman and a backup quarterback.
The Bears have Matt Forte, a great defense and dangerous special teams. They’re more than capable of making the playoffs if Martz does a better job adjusting his offense to the reality of having a backup quarterback instead of Cutler.
Prediction: 10-6. Even if Martz keeps his head buried in the sand, the soft schedule and the aforementioned defense, special teams and Forte result in another playoff berth for the Bears.
Remaining schedule: at Saints, Vikings, at Raiders, Chargers, at Packers.
Biggest issue: Attitude. It’s not often you want a football team to relax a little bit, but head coach Jim Schwartz and the Lions need to chill out.
Analysis: When the Lions were rolling early this season, their swagger and bravado appeared to represent a new era of toughness in Motown. No longer were the Lions the doormat of the NFL.