NFC North Breakdown: Week 14


(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 Vikings avoided playing the chumps in Detroit.  Meanwhile, the Bears got back on the ball against the Jags, keeping pace with first-place Minnesota.  And in Green Bay…the nightmare continued.

Chicago Bears (7-6):

Looking Back: Bounced back nicely from that disappointment at the Metrodome by throttling the pitiful Jaguars.  Kyle Orton got back on his horse a bit and Matt Forte continued his steady march toward Rookie of the Year honors.  The defense didn’t do anything spectacular but, when you’re playing the Jags, spectacular isn’t really required.

Looking Forward: They’re in some trouble tiebreaker-wise against the Vikings but they’ve definitely got the advantage in terms of schedule.  While the Vikes tangle with a trio of playoff contenders, the Bears host the hot-and-cold Saints and the hideous Packers and then travel to Houston.  The Packer game is gigantic in terms of tiebreaker scenarios.  The Bears’ big problem is that their pass defense hasn’t always been there for them this year and they’ll be facing some teams that can light it up through the air.  They themselves should be able to score pretty readily on all three teams.  Of course those division rivalry games are always wild cards.

Detroit Lions (0-13):

Looking Back: The Lions showed against the Vikings why they’re 0-13.  They were at home and playing pretty decent, and the Vikings weren’t playing all that well, and still Detroit was only able to go up 6-3 by the half.  And then in the second half the Vikes woke up and took the game away.  The effort was there for Detroit but the coaching decisions were shaky and the redzone execution was abysmal.  It would’ve been even worse if not for Calvin Johnson’s big touchdown catch.  Johnson is a great player but he’s the only one Detroit has.

Looking Forward: 0-16 would seem inevitable at this point.  Unless the Lions can find a way to beat either Indianapolis, New Orleans or Green Bay.  How about that Green Bay game?  Yeah it’s at Lambeau, but the Packers are not exactly invincible at Lambeau (as evidenced by their loss to the Texans).  The Packers might just pack it in that final week and hand the Kitties a cheap one.  Or maybe Packer pride will take over and prevent their becoming a footnote.  I think Detroit will keep fighting.  Rod Marinelli doesn’t seem to have lost the team, which is good for him, but won’t save his job once the season ends.

Green Bay Packers (5-8):

Looking Back:  Three straight bad losses now and that third one at home against Houston might have been the worst.  I know Matt Schaub is good but…414 yards, outdoors in Green Bay in December?  Isn’t the wind supposed to be a factor?  Wasn’t the Packer secondary awesome earlier in the season?  Then they got gashed by the Saints and sliced up by Steve Smith, and now it looks like their confidence is shot.  Still, if you’re the Packers, you should find a way to beat a mediocre team at home.  Brett Favre probably would’ve.  Aaron Rodgers is solid but doesn’t have the magic touch.

Looking Forward:  They travel to Jacksonville for a match-up of stumbling former playoff contenders.  It’s a toss-up as to which team has been more hapless the last few weeks.  The main difference is that Mike McCarthy isn’t in danger of losing his job like Jack Del Rio.  And the Packers still have at least a glimmer of hope – if they win out and the Vikings and Bears both bellyflop…  Well, it’s not called a “glimmer” for nothing.

Minnesota Vikings (8-5):

Looking Back:  It must’ve annoyed them that all the pundits were saying the Lions were going to beat them.  It kind of looked like it might happen too…when Jared Allen got his knee taken out and Gus Frerotte crumpled like a paper cup and had to leave.  But the pundits underestimated the crappiness of the Lions.  The Vikes were able to get their act together in the second half, led by Tarvaris Jackson of all people, and even a semi-decent effort was enough to get past Detroit.

Looking Forward:  The Vikes can now look forward to another week of Williams Wall legal updates…and a probable quarterback controversy if Gus Frerotte is even physically able to take the field Sunday against Arizona.  I personally don’t like the Vikings’ pass D against Kurt Warner and those receivers and I really don’t like their defensive line without Fat Pat and K-Will.  But if they can somehow manage to squeak out a win in their last three and finish 9-7?  They should make the playoffs.