After a week on top, the Green Bay Packers loss and Chicago Bears win enabled Chicago to take over undisputed first place of the NFC North. Both teams were 7-4 entering Sunday’s contests with the Packers owning the tiebreaker. The Detroit Lions lost on Thanksgiving to fall to 4-7, while the Vikings were on the wrong end of the lopsided game in Chicago.
After witnessing last week’s Monday night defeat to the San Francisco 49ers from the sidelines, Jay Cutler was able to return to the lineup and lead the Bears over Minnesota. The importance of Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears cannot be understated. The Vikings are without a doubt several notches below the 49ers, but despite that discrepancy it was like night and day for the Bears’ offense. Cutler provided mobility in the pocket that lead-footed Jason Campbell lacked, and the impact on the offense was evident after Cutler made several excellent plays scrambling. Minnesota gave Cutler time to throw on several occasions and he was able to capitalize. If Cutler ever has to miss an extended period of time the Bears will be in serious trouble.
As for the Vikings, their outing was definitely disappointing. Their reliance on Peterson was exposed when the offense struggled to move the ball consistently with the running game failing to click. It is a testament to Adrian Peterson’s beastliness that an 18 carry, 108-yard performance with an added 30 yards receiving felt like total containment. Peterson had only one gain of 20 yards or more, and with a pedestrian 159-yard day for QB Christian Ponder the Vikings never really had a chance. Peterson’s two lost fumbles helped seal the game in Chicago’s favor. Ponder’s 22 of 43 completion day may be a troubling sign for a quarterback who has been good at times yet dreadful at others.
The Green Bay Packers went into MetLife Stadium and provided the New York Giants with a must-needed victory. It was, of course, the time of year where the national sports media hit the panic button for the defending Super Bowl champions. Eli Manning tied Phil Simms’s New York Giants record for franchise touchdown passes shortly after Simms publicly questioned Manning’s ‘elite’ status. No doubt Eli basked in the irony of the situation, or more likely, continued not caring what Phil Simms had to say. The Packers offensive line was manhandled, sending Aaron Rodgers scrambling all night as the MVP had a mediocre 14/25 219-yard performance. Green Bay’s defense has been far from resilient this season, but the sketchy offensive play spells trouble for the Packers.
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The Detroit Lions reportedly consulted Matt Millen about potential top-5 draft picks if the team fails to win another game. Not really, but between a brutal schedule down the stretch and the current three-game losing streak the Lions are fading into November obscurity as they have done so many times. It’s almost that time to look at the incoming 2013 draft class and decide which receiver would make a great 1st round pick.