We take a look around the NFC North to see what the Vikings closest competition has going on…
Last Week: 24-21 loss to the Buccaneers
With both the Bears and Packers reeling, the Lions had a chance to take a stranglehold of the NFC North by beating the lowly Buccaneers at home on Sunday. However, thanks in large part to four Matthew Stafford interceptions, the Lions let that chance slip away thanks to a 24-21 loss the Bucs.
Granted Tampa Bay has now won three games in a row so they are certainly playing better football than they were when the opened the season with eight losses in a row, but this was a game that could have gave the Lions some breathing room atop the division with no other NFC North team winning this past Sunday either.
Maybe the most frustrating thing for the Lions is that they held the Bus to just 22 yards rushing on 24 carries. But rookie QB Mike Glennon was efficient if not flashy, completing 14 of 21 passes for a pair of scores and – most importantly – no turnovers.
Stafford, on the other hand, threw for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns but the interceptions were killers: the first came at the Tampa Bay 22 as the Lions were marching for at least three points; the second was returned 48 yards for a touchdown by the Bucs; the third again came in Tampa Bay territory at the Bucs 25; and the final one was a pass that Calvin Johnson almost always catches, but he let the ball slip out of his hands and Tampa Bay picked it off to seal the win.
One positive for the Lions was the return of Nate Burleson from the broken arm that has sidelined him for several weeks. He made an impact, too, with seven catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
This Week: Lions vs. Packers, Thursday at 11:30 AM
Coming off of two-straight losses, the Lions will look to get things going in the right direction in their most important game of the season when they play host to the Packers on Thanksgiving. Detroit dropped the previous matchup at Green Bay 22-9 in September in a game they played without Calvin Johnson. Aaron Rodgers is almost assuredly out so that should make life much easier on the Lions, who should be able to put up points on Green Bay’s defense.
Last Week: 42-21 loss to the Rams
It was more of the same for the Bears rushing defense on Sunday, as the Rams ran up and down the field to the tune of 258 yards on the ground in their 42-21 win over Chicago.
Things got off on the wrong foot for the Bears when the Rams, on the third play of the game, ran a trick play to Tavon Austin who ran 65 yards for a touchdown and the Rams were literally off and running.
Matt Forte fumbled on Chicago’s first offensive play, giving the Rams the ball inside the Bears 10. The Rams promptly converted to make it 14-0 just a few minutes into the game.
Josh McCown, still started for the injured Jay Cutler, engineered a scoring drive to keep the game close but the Rams against answered with a touchdown of their own, making it 21-7 after the 1st quarter.
Chicago made it a six-point game early in the 4th quarter after a 1-yard score from Michael Bush, but then the wheels really came off: the Rams drove 80 yards on seven plays (just one of which was a pass) to score another touchdown and tacked on a two-point conversion. McCown was then sacked on the fifth play of Chicago’s next series and fumbled the ball which was returned for a score to effectively end the game.
McCown wasn’t awful on the day (36 of 47, 352 yards, two touchdowns) but his two turnovers came in bad spots. It’s hard to pin too much of the blame on him though when you consider he was playing from behind all game long. He will get the nod again this weekend according to Bears Head Coach Marc Trestman, as Cutler continues to recover from a high ankle sprain.
Forte also suffered a knee injury in the loss though the Bears feel like he’ll be able to play this Sunday against the Vikings. Thanks to the struggles around the division, the loss didn’t do too much damage to the Bears, who are tied with the Lions at 6-5 and a half-game ahead of the Packers who are 5-5-1.
This Week: Bears at Vikings, Sunday at Noon
The good news for the Bears is that with the Packers playing the Lions this week, the odds are that one of those teams will lose (though as we saw last weekend you never know) and the Bears have a chance to jump over one of them with a win over the Vikings at Mall of America Field. Chicago barely beat Minnesota earlier this season in Chicago when both teams were much healthier, so one would figure that this game would come down to the wire as well.
Last Week: 26-26 Tie vs. Vikings
Matt Flynn had been atrocious since leaving Green Bay two season ago and signing a big contract with the Seahawks, but last Sunday he kept Green Bay’s season afloat, engineering a late-game comeback after replacing Scott Tolzien that helped the Packers salvage a tie against the Vikings.
With Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy essentially ruling Aaron Rodgers out for Thursday’s matchup with the Lions, Flynn looks poised to get the start after going 21-36 for 218 yards and a score vs. Minnesota. Tolzien was just 7-17 for 98 yards before he was yanked.
The star of the game for Green Bay though was Eddie Lacy, who got back on track after a couple of subpar weeks. He ran for 110 yards and was rarely brought down by the first defender who made contact with him. He made life miserable for the Vikings all day, though he did exit the game late due to an asthma issue.
The Packers were down 23-7 early in the fourth quarter and it looked like they were on their way to their fourth straight loss, but the Green Bay defense, which was getting gashed via the run from both
Meanwhile, Flynn got the offense rolling and thanks in part to several Vikings penalties the Packers got back in the game and tied it up with a Mason Crosby field goal with 1:43 to go.
In overtime the Packers took the opening kick and appeared to be on the verge of winning the game with 1st and goal from the Vikings 7. However, McCarthy opted to kick a field goal on 4th and goal from the 2 rather than try for a touchdown. Crosby nailed the field goal, but the Vikings answered with three points of their own to keep overtime going. The teams then traded punts and neither was able to emerge with a victory.
This Week: Packers at Lions, Thursday at 11:30 AM
In maybe the biggest game of the season for any of the four NFC North teams, the Pacers and Lions square off on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. The Lions are essentially a half-game up on the Packers in the division race after their awful loss to Tampa Bay last Sunday, but the winner of this game figures to be the odds-on favorite to take home the division championship.