NFC North Week 10 Review

The NFC North is getting more interesting and more competitive with every Sunday. Now obviously the Bears are not the best 4-5 team in the NFL, but they are that and with it comes the distinction of being just two games back of the Falcons for an NFC Wild Card spot. What’s most interesting about this 4-5 Bears team is both the play of Jay Cutler who has been awesome all season, and the now rather opportunistic schedule that Chicago’s facing the rest of the way. We’ll get into that later but first we must look at the way the rest of the NFC North played on Sunday.

The Minnesota Vikings are now the number two seed in the conference and after easily defeating the Raiders in Oakland yesterday, Minnesota has set themselves up for a huge game this weekend at home against the now reeling Packers who’ve lost three in a row and managed to score just 16 points at home against the Lions. Minnesota saw the old Adrian Peterson come out yesterday as he destroyed the Raiders on the ground with a 200+ yard performance capped off by an 80-yard run that gave the Vikings an easy 16 point victory out west.

Teddy Bridgewater played the role of game manager to perfection once again completing 14/22 for 140 yards with a touchdown throw to Rhett Ellison. Most importantly Bridgewater didn’t turn the ball over and let his ground game and defense control the outcome. The defense was stout much like it’s been throughout this now five game winning streak. The defense combined for two sacks, two interceptions by Terence Newman, and three tackles for loss. Next week the Vikings host Green Bay for first place in the NFC North, a game most of the country will watch at 3:25CST on Fox.

Speaking of the now 6-3 Packers, it seems very much apparent that the loss of Jordy Nelson is starting to hurt Green Bay more than it did earlier in the season. Teams are starting to jam Randall Cobb at the line of scrimmage and not allow him to get through his route. The Packers were without their bell cow back in Eddie Lacy as he was sidelined with a growing injury. Perhaps Green Bay thought the game was winnable even without Lacy and decided to give him an extra week off before the high game in Minneapolis, in any event it didn’t work as Aaron Rodgers wasn’t able to lead his team to victory with James Starks running the ball for just 42 yards on 15 carries. Starks did make up for some of the lack in production on the ground with a six catch 54 yard performance, but it wasn’t enough. The big blow for the Lions came on Ameer Abdullah’s 104 kickoff return inside the one that set up a Stafford touchdown pass to TE Brandon Pettigrew that made the game 9-3.

Green Bay would have several cracks to not only tie the game,┬ábut even win it at the end when they recovered an onside kick following a failed two point conversion. Mason Crosby would miss a potential game-winning 52-yard field goal as time expired sending the fans home from Lambeau extremely unhappy. The Packers had lost their previous two games to two undefeated teams before the shocking loss to the now 2-7 Lions, Detroit hadn’t won in Lambeau since 1991. The Lions didn’t play particularly well on offense yesterday mustering just 287 yards of offense, but the Lions won the time of possession battle and forced nine punts by Green Bay on the afternoon. The Packers were favored by -10.5 points heading into the game.

The last game of the NFC North slate was the Bears heading into St. Louis to continue the torment started by the Cubs. Chicago played by far and away their best game of the year and the offense was just sensational on the day scoring 24 first half points. Jay Cutler was incredible yesterday throwing for three scores with no picks and just five incompletions. Cutler had a QB rating yesterday of 151 which is nearly perfect. The Bears got 129 yards rushing out of Ka’Deem Carey and Jeremy Langford, not to mention that Langfrod added 109 yards receiving including a 73-yard screen that went for a touchdown. The other big target was the Bears newest weapon in Zach Miller who had two touchdown receptions to go along with 107 yards of receiving. As you remember Miller got the winning touchdown pass against the Chargers last week on Monday Night Football.

This was the Bears best performance of the season and with it comes a renewed new sense of optimism about perhaps having meaningful football in December. The Bears have an extremely light schedule in the final month of the season with games against Tampa, Washington, San Francisco and Detroit on the last day of the regular season at home. The Bears do have to go up to Minneapolis on December 20th which is of course going to be a brutally tough game to win, especially with the way the Vikings are playing now. That defense of Minnesota is only going to get better as the thermostat drops. The biggest test will be the next two weeks. Chicago is hosting Denver this Sunday at Soldier Field and the QB expected to start is the southpaw Brock Osweiler. The Bears are going to have to contend with that ferocious Denver defense that will be looking to stop the bleeding on the road after two straight losses. Cutler and Fox are facing their former employer in the Denver Broncos and hopefully they’ll bring something a little extra with them to the contest that now has serious significance to the NFC Playoff Race.

On Thanksgiving the Bears head up to Lambeau in a game that would have massive importance if the Bears win this weekend. Chicago will close the Thanksgiving three game slate at 7:30CST. If the Bears were to win the next two games, and that’s a big if from right now, there’s a distinct possibility that 10-6 wouldn’t be out of the question. After Thanksgiving four of the Bears’ final five games are against teams they’re either tied with in the standings or have a better record then. Three of which are at Soldier Field.