NFC North Breakdown: Week 8

(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.)

Three of the four teams took the week off, leaving the Lions alone to represent the division. They of course lost.

Chicago Bears (4-3):

Looking Back: The Bears have been solid throughout the season, but a couple of late-game meltdowns kept their record from being better. They’ve discovered a passing game – which is good news because Devin Hester is no longer Mr. Electric in the return game and the defense is starting to look old and slow. The bye week gave them a chance to heal up.

Looking Forward: The 0-7 Lions pay a visit to Chi-town. The Bears had an extra week to prepare for Detroit – not that one needs extra time to prepare for Detroit. Perhaps the Bears used some of their off-week to hunt down their missing pass rush? Kyle Orton’s arm is rested now too; bad news for a Lions pass defense that ranks second-to-last in the league. The Bears have a really tough stretch of games coming up, including a three-game roadie, so they need to polish off this weak opponent at home. They would prefer to do so without late-game drama, I imagine.

Detroit Lions (0-7):

Looking Back: A 25-17 loss to Washington. The Redskins were on trap game alert after getting ambushed by the Rams. The Lions managed to put up a good fight but Santana Moss gave them more than they could handle in the second half, scoring on a long TD pass and a punt return to sink hopes of a first Detroit win. Detroit’s pass defense was ripped apart by Jason Campbell who hit on 23 of 28 passes for 328 yards. The eternal search for moral victories goes on in Lionsland. Hmm…well, Dan Orlovsky played okay again (223 yards, 1 TD, O INT). The running game? Best we not mention that. The most positive thing you can say about the Lions is that they’re probably not as bad as the Bengals.

Looking Forward: A road trip to Soldier Field. Okay Lions, here’s where you take your destiny into your own hands. The Bears have shown they can be had. They gave up 41 to that sputtering mess the Vikings call an offense. They can’t get a pass-rush going to save their lives. Devin Hester is probably not going to be on the field so you don’t have that to worry about. All you have to do is slow down the most surprisingly effective pass offense in the league, led by the suddenly-outstanding Kyle Orton. Yes I realize it’s a tall order, but you can do it. Now’s the time for hope and optimism. Maybe the Lions should bring Barack Obama in for a nice pre-game speech?

Green Bay Packers (4-3):

Looking Back: A bye week for the Packers. Luckily the Jets were playing so the fans had something to watch. Favre had a spotty game but pulled it out in typical Favre fashion. The Jets are only 4-3 so Packer fans needn’t feel they’re really missing anything. Aaron Rodgers looks just about as good as Favre right now and he’s lots younger. A playoff berth might just win back the diehard #4 freaks who swore they’d never root for the green and gold again (I know such people exist; I’m related to one).

Looking Forward: A trip into Tennessee to face the Titans. This could be the best test the Packers and Aaron Rodgers have had all year. If they pass it, they could ride the momentum straight into the post-season (helped by the fact that they’re in a mediocre division). Winning will mean overcoming a Titans defense that ranks in the top 10 against both the run and pass. It will mean slowing down a rush offense that ranks 3rd in the league. The Pack should have loads of confidence coming off their undressing of the Colts two weeks ago at home.

Minnesota Vikings (3-4):

Looking Back: Ah the bye week. A time to rest and relax. Enjoy your family. Get in some golf or fishing. Let the tension of the season melt away. That’s for regular teams. For the Vikings? The bye week is a time to find out your Pro Bowl defensive tackles are both about to get suspended four games for taking a banned diuretic. Did they know the stuff was banned? Isn’t there a list of bad stuff? Is Brad Childress about to blow a head gasket? Could this season get anymore messed up?

Looking Forward: The Vikings host Houston. The Texans have won three straight after starting 0-4. They have a player caught up in Waterpillgate too but it’s only their long-snapper. The Vikes are still trying to figure out what happened in that Chicago game. Which offense will show up: The one that laid 41 on the Bears, or the one that only managed 10 against the Lions (the other 2 having come on a safety)? Will the special teams again prove troublesome? This should feel like an easy win for the Purple at home, but this team’s proven once and for all that there are no easy wins.

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