NFC North Breakdown: Week 10

(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.)

The featured game pitted Green Bay against Minnesota, and turned into The Adrian Peterson Show.  Meanwhile, the Bears tried to end the Titans’ domination of the NFC North.  And the Lions debuted a new quarterback who has plenty of experience in the former Black and Blue division.

Chicago Bears (5-4):

Looking Back:  The Titans made it 3-for-3 on the season against the NFC North with the Lions still on their schedule (I think we know how that one will turn out).  The Bears hung tough in this one.  Their run defense completely stifled Tennessee, holding them to just 20 yards on 29 carries.  But Kerry Collins picked up the slack, throwing for 289 yards and 2 TDs and proving that, yes, he is more than a mere game manager.  Still, the Bears gave themselves a chance to win – and might have, had Kyle Orton not gone down with injury two weeks ago, leaving victory in the hands of Rex Grossman, who was not particularly impressive.  The Titans have taken over for the Bears as the masters of winning ugly.

Looking Forward:  The Bears kick off a tough three game road trip with a visit to Lambeau Field, where the Packers will be looking to rebound from their own tough loss.  Kyle Orton wants to get back as soon as possible and I’m sure the Bears would love to have him back.  The NFC North is basically up for grabs at this point, so every division game takes on even greater significance (unless the Lions are involved).  The Bears could really put the Packers in a hole by beating them – and then it’s on to St. Louis and – dun-dun-dun-duuuuun – Minnesota.

Detroit Lions (0-9):

Looking Back:  Daunte Culpepper made his first start as a Lion at home against a middling Jacksonville squad.  He was able to drive the Lions down for an early scoring chance, but had to come out for Drew Stanton because he didn’t know the goal line plays.  Stanton threw a TD pass to take a 7-3 first quarter lead – and then Jacksonville proceeded to ring up 35 unanswered points, finishing with a 38-14 win.  Daunte’s numbers?  5/10, 104 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT.  Nothing to crow about.  But Daunte’s still learning the offense and maybe next week things will be better.  There’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true.  I learned that from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Looking Forward:  The Lions are now on serious 0-16 watch.  They next face 7-2 Carolina on the road.  Talk about ill-omens:  That’s where Daunte suffered the big knee injury that derailed his career several years ago.  Even the most optimistic Lions supporter can’t see much hope of a victory there.  So, Detroit will likely be 0-10 when they begin their three-game homestand – against Tampa Bay, Tennessee on Thanksgiving and then the Vikings.  Can you say 0-13?  It doesn’t get much easier after that:  at Indianapolis, home against New Orleans and at the Packers.  Yup, the Lions have a legitimate chance to run the table.  Somewhere, Matt Millen is smiling.

Green Bay Packers (4-5):

Looking Back:  The Packers went to the Metrodome looking for their third straight season sweep of the Vikings – and they damn near got it.  Their offense couldn’t do diddly-poo, but this seemed irrelevant when Nick Collins ran back an interception for a TD and then Will Blackmon returned a punt for at TD, and they were suddenly up 24-21 on a shellshocked Vikings squad.  Unfortunately, the Packers couldn’t stop Adrian Peterson in crunch-time.  The thing that’s plagued them all year, shoddy run defense, jumped up and bit them again.  And Aaron Rodgers had probably his worst game of the year – of course it didn’t help that he was wearing Jared Allen for most of the contest.

Looking Forward:  The up-and-down Packers will look to avoid their second three-game losing streak of the year when they host the Bears.  The Packers are 4-5 and a game out in the division – this makes for a must-win situation against Chicago.  The Packers secondary, which may be the best in the league, will be licking its chops at the thought of all those big, fat, juicy Rex Grossman throws coming their way.  Unless Kyle Orton plays, in which case things could be tougher.  The main concern for the Pack should be shoring up their run defense, and after that, trying to reduce their penalties.  And Aaron Rodgers needs to get back on track after a pair of sub-par performances.

Minnesota Vikings (5-4):

Looking Back:  Brad Childress was 0-5 against the Packers and didn’t want to fall to 0-6.  The Vikings weathered a horrible game by Gus Frerotte and more terrible special teams play to nip their rivals from the east and get that cheese-eating monkey off their coach’s back.  Childress can thank Adrian Peterson who picked the offense up and carried it home (after fumbling on a fourth down rush attempt he personally talked the coach into trying when the prudent move was to punt).  The Vikings now find themselves tied for first with a game left against the Bears.  The season’s taken plenty of twists and turns for Minnesota, but despite it all, they’re still in the thick of it.

Looking Forward:  The Vikes now face a tough two-game Florida swing against Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.  It may mean nothing, but the Vikes are 2-0 this year against the NFC South.  Tampa Bay has been shaky the last couple of weeks (they almost got beat by the Chiefs for gosh sakes), but we all know what kind of thorn they’ve traditionally been in the Vikings’ sides (just ask the ’98 Vikes who would’ve been 16-0 if not for the Bucs).  Minnesota may have won 4 of 5, but they’re still not the most consistent team in the world.  Gus Frerotte seems to be getting worse with each passing game, and there’s still that big possible suspension issue hovering over The Williams Wall.  Adrian Peterson may need to put the team on his back a few more times if they hope to get into the playoffs.

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