After eight weeks the NFC North is far from decided, with the Chicago Bears currently sitting atop one of the most contentious divisions in the NFL.
Minnesota got slapped around by Tampa Bay two Thursdays ago and look to rebound this week on the road against the Seahawks. The Vikings have seen a drastic decline in defense over the last three weeks as they have been torched by Washington, Arizona, and the Buccaneers in successive outings. They came out victorious over the Arizona Cardinals 21-14, but just barely defeating the offensive juggernaut led by John Skelton and LaRod Stephens-Howling was far from encouraging.
The Vikings had big early season wins against San Francisco, Detroit, and Tennessee, and they will look to get back to that level over the second half of the schedule. If they can get it together defensively, they will remain in the playoff picture with an offense that has several big playmakers.
As for Chicago, they narrowly avoided a bad loss at home against the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers thanks to a last second 41-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. Chicago showed late resiliency with Jay Cutler making several good plays on the game-winning drive. Chicago is led by the league’s number 1 defense, but they have yet to defeat a winning team this year. It will be interesting to see how the Bears fare against Houston, San Francisco, and another go-round with all divisional foes.
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The Packers had a much-too-close game against the lowly Jaguars on the road but managed to come out with a 24-14 victory. Aaron Rodgers had an off day in throwing for only 186 yards, but this can be chalked up to a lackluster performance by the offense as a whole. Green Bay has 5 of 8 remaining games against divisional opponents, and these matchups with the Lions, Bears, and Vikings will prove to be critical in outcome of the NFC North.
Finally, the Lions eked out a victory at home against Seattle in a game that I evaluated in Friday’s column. Five of seven Lions’ games this season have been decided by four or less points, in some part due to inconsistency throughout games. Detroit put together a more complete game than previous weeks (like that is saying much) and will need to improve on that front if they want to have a shot at making the playoffs in a highly competitive NFC.
There will be divisional games in all but one week for the remainder of the season so every team in this division controls their own destiny. It’s gonna be an interesting one, folks.