NFC North Breakdown: Week 7

(Dan Zinski writes for The Viking Age, which is FSB’s Minnesota Vikings blog. Representing the rest of the NFC North are Bear Goggles On, Lombardi Ave. and SideLion Report.)

A division showdown in Chicago turned into a wild shootout.  The Bears scored more points and gave up more points than they have in years, but managed to squeak out a victory and hold onto a share of first.  The Packers, meanwhile, flexed their muscles against a formidable AFC opponent.

Chicago Bears (4-3):

Looking Back: A wild 48-41 home win over the Vikings.  The Bears have made a habit of winning on special teams and this game was no exception.  A blocked punt for a TD, a recovery of a muffed fumble for a TD – everything but a Devin Hester return.  Speaking of Mr. Hester – he injured a quad and was out most of the second half.  This did little to slow down the Bears air attack which took advantage of soft Vikings coverage, mostly with tight ends over the middle.  Kyle Orton has put to rest any doubts about his real-dealness.  Unfortunately, the Bears had to look at their defensive effort in this game and wonder how they escaped it.  41 to the previously punchless Vikings?  Those injuries in the secondary are making life difficult.

Looking Forward:  The Bears get a bye week to get healthy and prepare for the second half of the season.  They may be in first but they have some issues, mostly on defense.  I’m certain that, when Lovie Smith drew up his plans for the season, they didn’t include winning games 48-41 against mediocre offensive teams.  The lack of production from the running backs also has to be causing consternation.  Is it too late to bring Cedric Benson back?

Detroit Lions (0-6):

Looking Back:  Another disappointing defeat, this time in Houston.  Are things looking up for the Lions or aren’t they?  Yes they lost to the Texans, but consider this:  Dan Orlovsky played pretty well (265 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT), Kevin Smith is starting to look like a player and the defense has shown flashes.  Unfortunately, the Lions have this terrible habit of falling way behind early and it got them again in Houston.  They were behind 21-0 before they even knew what hit them and had to play catch-up all day.  To their credit, they never gave up, and wound up only losing by 7.  They’ve put together two laudable performances since jettisoning Matt Millen.  Maybe one of these days they’ll actually get a win for their troubles.

Looking Forward:  The Lions are the only NFC North team in action Week 8.  They host the Redskins who know a little bit about being upset by lower-tier teams after the Rams got them.  That experience should mean the Redskins won’t overlook Detroit.  The Lions have edged closer to respectability the last couple of weeks but still have a lot of work to do before they get over the hump.  The good news is that the players don’t seem to have given up on Rod Marinelli (except maybe Jon Kitna who won’t be playing anymore this year anyway).  It would behoove Detroit to not fall behind early like they did against Houston.  Who knows?  This could at last be their week.

Green Bay Packers (4-3):

Looking Back:  An easy home victory over Indianapolis.  Wins over the Colts are never supposed to be easy but the Packers brushed them off like they were the pre-Manning incarnation.  Isn’t the Packers defense supposed to be full of holes this year?  Manning and his weapons were unable to find these alleged holes.  Meanwhile, the Packers had no problem picking apart a Colts defense that looks soft as Jello-O again.  Aaron Rodgers outplayed Peyton, missing on only 7 of 28 passes while throwing 1 TD.  And Ryan Grant got the running game cranked up for once.  Maybe Indy should’ve gone to Brett Favre for some pointers on how to attack the Packers D, cause they looked clueless.  The Packers have been up-and-down this year, but now they’re on a two-game winning streak and are tied for first in the division.  Most importantly, they have a better record than Brett and the Jets.

Looking Forward:  The Packers also have their bye week.  They’d probably prefer to keep playing and build more momentum into the second half, but then again, they have their injuries too.  A tough stretch of games awaits them after the bye including their annual visit to the Metrodome.  Whatever happens, they need to develop more consistency.

Minnesota Vikings (3-4):

Looking Back:  The Vikings went to Chicago for a grinding defensive affair and a shoot-out broke out.  Special teams mistakes doomed Minnesota this time and there were no bad calls to bail them out.  Gus Frerotte threw it all over the place – unfortunately, the Bears’ defenders caught four of his passes, which was too many.  The secondary was picked apart by Kyle Orton, reminding Viking fans of the Wasswa Serwanga days.  The Vikes won two straight games they should’ve lost and then lost one they probably should’ve won.  That’s the kind of season it’s been.  Still, they’re only a game out.

Looking Forward:  The Vikings get their bye at just the right time.  Their recent games have all been crazy affairs and they surely need to catch their breath.  The coaching staff needs to work hard at shoring up the special teams which have killed them so far.  Brad Childress is probably just glad he survived to the bye, considering the heat that has been on him almost from the start of the season.  Their second half schedule was supposed to be the softer part – but those games against Atlanta and Arizona don’t look so easy all of a sudden, do they?

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  • AustinVike

    I think there are a few things our fellow Vikings fans have to realize, if we want to have a successful season (in general):

    Firing Brad Childress today will not help our situation.

    It doesn’t seem like anyone has considered who would replace him, and what the outcome would be.  If something were to happen, it would happen during the offseason – right after our final game of the season.

    Firing Gus Frerotte is a bad idea.

    Gus is 7th in the NFL for YPG, and has still thrown fewer INTs than Mr. Brett Favre (and a laundry list of other, much higher profile QBs).  It’s insane that a guy can have one atrocious game (granted – throwing four picks), still throw 298yds for 2tds, and his fans want him gone.

    Chris Kluwe’s brain needs a new body (and vice versa).

    It’s like “the hands work, but the brain doesn’t” or “the brain works, but the leg doesn’t” with this guy.

    Our special teams are either incredible or awful (inconsistent).

    What else is there to say except one week our special teams are running one in for a TD, and the next week they’re practically running one in for the opposing team.  Bonehead mistakes are costing us – turning blowouts by the Vikings into close games.

    We still have the potential to go 12-4 this season.

    It’s a longshot, but if you look at our schedule.

    Houston (currently 2-4)
    Green f#%king Bay (4-3)
    Tampa Bay (5-2)
    Jacksonville (3-3)
    Chicago (4-3)
    Detroit (0-6)
    Arizona (4-2)
    Atlanta (4-2)
    NY Giants (5-1)

    It’s not totally unimaginable that our Vikings pull off some big wins against teams with injury problems/suspensions.  I would say realistically that we’ll be a wild card team (at best), or possibly better if we can shore up our pass defense.  Most of these teams have a pretty negligible run offense, and we seem to be able to defend the run – which will keep games close if we can keep them from running away with the pass as well.

  • danzinski

    I’d love to sip some of your delicious looking Kool Aid AustinVike, but unfortunately, this team is too wildly inconsistent.  There’s no such thing as a sure win for them right now.  They barely beat Detroit at home for gosh sakes.  Sure they could pick off a couple of those good teams but they could just as easily go belly-up.  8-8 looks like the record right now.

  • AustinVike

    I’m staying optimistic mainly because our offensive stats keep improving from week to week, not Kool-Aid (although I prefer grape).

    Unfortunately, our defensive stats / special teams are not holding steady – they’re getting worse.

    I think 10-6 is possible, although 9-7 is more probable.

    I still can’t get over the fact that the Vikes play well against teams that should destroy them, but fall flat against teams that they should destroy.  It’s just about the weirdest thing ever…

    Question:  Any suggestions for possible future head coach?

  • danzinski

    I’m a Billick guy.  I love the crazy bastard.  I want him here.

  • jeege

    Shaun Alexander was signed last week by the Redskins.

    He had something like…8 yards this week…on 6 carries I think.

    haha

    AustinVike, I love your optimism. It sure beats alot of the incredible pessimism I see from the home fanbase…but honestly, 12-4 is a  bit of a stretch. Even if only because the Vikings could just as easily get hit with the injury bug as any of those teams that you listed. And you did notice that only 2 of them have losing records, right?

    The NFL is a crazy place right now, but I think it is very safe to say that the Vikings have one HELL of a long road ahead.

  • jeege

    P.S. Brian Billick was fired for having the EXACT same kind of offensive playcalling woes as your hated Childress, Danzinski. And he wasn’t calling a bad offense for 3 years like Childress, he did it for 9. Tell me, where is the logic in trading one offensively inept coach because of his bad offensive play calling for another offensively inept coach who was fired for the same thing?

  • VannodaVike

    I want to remain optomistic but the Vikes have to pull together a compete set of wins in all parts of their game-offense,defense and special teams. I have yet to see that.
    Jeez, even two out of the 3 would work most days.
    Can a wild card be achieved? Only if this tem starts playing with some resemblance of consistancy. I still ahve hope.
    My fear is that getting the wild card will have the brass patting Chiily on the back after the fact. Cripe, this team should be easily 4-3(dare I even say 5-2) if it were not for the stupid decisions and poor coaching.I agree with Austin Vike. It is nice to see something coming together with the offense. Despite his INT’s I have to credit Gus for taking the wheel and putting a spark in the offense.

  • DallasBear

    Whoever wrote this article is a bonehead… Forte was held to 56 yards last game, true… but he blocks better than Benson, catches better than Benson, and doesn’t get tackled in the backfield like Benson. Benson was no better for the Bengals this week. Benson is a bust, always has been a bust, and will always be a bust. He’s soft, he doesn’t play with heart, and he doesn’t have the talent, nor the drive, to push the pile and gain that extra yard.

    Give me Forte’s dedication and work ethic over Benson’s mouth any day of the week. His hard work will pay off once the Bears O-line remembers how to run block.

  • danzinski

    The Benson thing was a joke dude.  Joke.  Relax.

  • http://kavastrip.com Kaitlyn

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Thx for the post