The Lions and Packers both lost, clearing the stage for the Vikings and Bears whose Sunday Night showdown turned into a prime-time coming-out party for Adrian Peterson’s MVP prospects. The Purple now lead the North by one game with four to play.
Looking Back: They entered Metrodome with the division lead on the line. They had a chance to go up 14-3 after a bonehead penalty kept a drive alive but couldn’t punch through the Vikings’ D-Line despite having four cracks from the one. Then Gus Frerotte hit Bernard Berrian for 99 and a TD, and the Vikings started pounding them with a jackhammer known as Adrian Peterson, and the Bears seemed to fold up their tent. Kyle Orton did his best Rex Grossman impression in the 4th, getting picked off 3 times. It was a smash-mouth game punctuated by big plays – in other words, a Bears sort of game – except this time the Bears were beaten at their game.
Looking Forward: The division is a long way from being decided. The Bears are only a game back and their schedule down the stretch is markedly easier than Minnesota’s. They get a stumbling Jacksonville squad next, then the fading Saints, then the faster-fading Packers, and finally the Texans. They have a legitimate shot at going 3-1 in those games, and if they do, they will still likely end up winning the division. First they have to recover from all the bruises left on them by AD and the Vikings’ defense.
Looking Back: Thanksgiving turkeys again, beaten 47-10 by the Titans. Daunte Culpepper is not helping – in fact, he may be making matters worse. He’s out-of-shape and even when he was younger and better he wasn’t the world’s most proficient reader of defenses. Calvin Johnson was supposed to be his new Randy Moss but Johnson’s stats have taken a dive since Culpepper was inserted. I would say something about the defense but I’m not certain Detroit has one. LenDale White got happy real quick against them, is all I know.
Looking Forward: The prognosticators all think the Lions have a fair shot at beating the Vikings this Sunday at Ford Field. Indeed, this does have all the makings of a trap game for Minnesota: They’re coming off a big win, and it’s on the road, and Detroit damn near beat them in Metrodome earlier this year. Unfortunately, these are the Lions, so it’s just as possible that Minnesota will obliterate them by 30. And if you’re looking for Daunte Culpepper to rise to the occasion against his old team – need I point out that he already faced them once, last year with the Raiders, and lost?
Looking Back: It was bad enough being stomped by the Saints two weeks ago, but losing a game at home against Carolina the way they did? Looking like they had control of it late in the fourth only to have Steve Smith break their hearts like he broke Ken Lucas’s customized schnoz? That’s the sort of back-to-back floppola that can completely ruin your season. Their problem was supposed to be tackling, not covering, but against the Panthers in the second half, they couldn’t do either. Say this though – very little of this is Aaron Rodgers’s fault. The Packers have their QB. Now they just need a running game and a defense.
Looking Forward: You take a gander at the schedule and say to yourself, “Yeah, the Packers still have an outside shot.” Home games against Houston and Detroit and roadies at Jacksonville and Chicago. Then you look at the way they’ve played this season – more up-and-down than Britney Spears off her meds – and figure there’s no way they can do better than 2-2. That would make them 7-9, and even the NFC North isn’t bad enough for a team to win it at 7-9. If they win 3 of 4…maybe.
Minnesota Vikings (7-5):
Looking Back: The Vikes enter the stretch run a game up in the division after thumping the Bears. And by thumping I mean thumping – they beat the tar out of the Bears, both on offense and defense. Adrian Peterson delivers as much of a beating on defenders as they try to put on him, maybe more of one, and Jared Allen justified the huge cash lay-out by accumulating 3 sacks and stuffing Matt Forte on 4th down at the goalline. It was the most complete game the Vikes have played since Brad Childress took over, and for a moment at least, they are clearly the best in the division (for what that’s worth).
Looking Forward: Now all they have to do is finish the deal. The Detroit trip smells like trap game, but it’s possible the Lions have packed it in emotionally after getting mauled by Tennessee on Turkey Day. And after that…just Arizona, Atlanta and the Giants. It’s a tough stretch…and they may have to navigate it without Pat and Kevin Williams, who look to get suspended for the rest of the regular season (unless they can get an injunction against the league). The best thing they have going for them is the tiebreaker situation over the Bears, which they would have a stranglehold on if they can just beat Detroit. 8-8 might still win this thing – and they’d get the Williamses back for the playoffs.