We take a look around the NFC North to see what the Vikings closest competition has going on…
Last Week: 27-21 win vs. New York Giants
After back-to-back losses to the Lions and the Saints, the Bears did exactly what they needed to do last Thursday against the winless Giants at home, winning 27-21 to remain in a 1st place tie with Detroit atop the NFC North standings.
Given Eli Manning’s propensity to throw interceptions and how often the Bears defense causes teams to turn the ball over, it wasn’t too big of a surprise to see Tim Jennings pick off a Manning pass early in the game and return it for a pick six. Manning would throw three total interceptions on the night to up his League-leading total to 15.
Chicago scored 17 2nd-quarter points to take a 10-point lead into the locker room at halftime, with Brandon Marshall – who had been very quiet in the team’s previous two outings – hauling in a pair of Jay Cutler passes for scores. Marshall finished the night with nine catches for 87 yards, while Alshon Jeffrey, Cutler’s favorite target in recent weeks, had just one catch.
On the ground, Matt Forte had just 67 yards on 19 carries. Chicago’s inability to get much going on the ground while having a lead during the second half allowed the Giants to hang around and make a game of it down the stretch.
Brandon Jacobs scored his second touchdown of the night at the end of the 3rd quarter to make it a six-point game. The teams traded punts to start the 4th quarter before Manning’s final interception of the night, which came in Chicago territory, sealed the deal for the Bears.
Unfortunately for the Bears, the defensive injuries continued to mount as LB D.J. Williams will miss the remainder of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. He joins DTs Henry Melton and Nate Collins as being out for the remainder of the year.
This Week: Bears at Redskins, Sunday at Noon
The Bears now play four of their next six games on the road, starting with this Sunday’s game in D.C. against the 1-4 Redskins. With a bye the following Sunday and then divisional matchups vs. Detroit and at Green Bay on the horizon, getting a win against RGIII and Co. this Sunday would get the Bears off on the right foot (paw?) for what might be the toughest stretch of their schedule.
Last Week: 31-17 win at Cleveland
After their Week 5 loss at Green Bay where the team scored a season-low nine points, the Lions got Calvin Johnson back in the mix after he missed the Packers game with a sore knee and hung 31 points on a stout Browns defense to leave Cleveland with a win and remain tied with Chicago for 1st place in the NFC North.
This game featured a tale of two halves, as the Lions got worked over pretty well by the Browns for the first two quarters of this one, with Cleveland leading 17-7 at halftime. However, the Lions came out of the locker room, forced the Browns to go three-and-out, and then drove 79 yards with Reggie Bush hauling in a 18-yard pass from Matthew Stafford to cut the Browns’ lead to three points.
Cleveland would actually go three-and-out on their first four drives of the second half, which of course allowed the Lions to get back into the game and really take control. Rookie TE Joseph Fauria, who had the Lions lone touchdown of the first half, caught two more during the second half to ice the game away.
Johnson had just three catches for 25 yards in limited duty due to his knee still bothering him, but his presence clearly opened this up for the offense that weren’t there in his absence a week ago.
LB DeAndre Levy had a pair of interceptions, including one of a horrific Weeden underhand pass late in the game to seal the victory for Detroit, which went 3-2 over their last five games, with four of those being on the road.
This Week: Lions vs. Bengals, Noon on Sunday
Despite both teams having varying degrees of success in recent years, still kind of weird to think that the Bengals and Lions are both in 1st place in their respective divisions and we’re in mid-October. Such is the case this Sunday, with Cincinnati – who has won four of their last five outings – head to Ford Field in a game that will showcase arguably the two top receivers in the NFL with Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green.
Last Week: 19-17 win at Baltimore
Sunday’s 19-17 win in Baltimore was certainly a big one for the Packers, who moved to 3-2 on the season with the ‘W,’ but it was certainly costly as several key players went down with injuries on the day.
The most notable Packer to get hurt was WR Randall Cobb, who suffered a fractured fibula and could be out as much as six to eight weeks. Fellow wideout James Jones was also dinged up with a leg injury though he could be back this week.
Second-year LB Nick Perry, who was helping filling the void of Clay Matthews, who is out several more weeks with a broken thumb, ended up breaking his foot on Sunday and he too will miss a significant amount of time, possibly the rest of the season depending on which report you want to believe.
Sunday’s MVP for the Packers may have been K Mason Crosby, who continued to have a bounce-back year by hitting four of his five field goal attempts, with the lone miss being his first arrant kick of the season. Not bad for a guy who was seemingly on the verge of being cut at any moment over the last nine months.
Aaron Rodgers completed just 17 passes on the day but still threw for 315 yards, including a 64-yard strike to WR Jordy Nelson at the end of the 3rd quarter to put the Packers up 16-3.
Rookie RB Eddy Lacy had another nice outing, which given the injuries at wide receiver was something the Packers needed bit-time on this day. He went for 120 yards on 23 carries, including 32 yards during a clock-draining 4th quarter drive.
LB A.J. Hawk was the defensive MVP on this day for the Packers, who helped the team’s sack quota in Matthews’ absence by registering 3.0 on Joe Flacco. Hawk finished with 10 tackles (five of which were for a loss) and the 3.0 sacks.
This Week: Packers vs. Browns, 3:25 PM on Sunday
Green Bay now enters a stretch where they play three of their next four games at Lambeau Field, starting with this Sunday’s game against the Browns. Cleveland is coming off a home loss vs. the Lions and clearly isn’t the same team with Brandon Weeden at the helm, so even though the Packers are banged up you have to figure they’ll get another win and keep pace in the NFC North this Sunday.