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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