Week 10 brings about two great matchups in the NFC North. With the Green Bay Packers on a bye, the Chicago Bears host the Houston Texans while the Detroit Lions travel to Minnesota to finish out their season series against the Vikings. Let’s look at some of the storylines surrounding the games.
Houston Texans (7-1) at Chicago Bears (7-1)
This is the marquis matchup for the NFL’s week 10 slate and is the Sunday Night game. Each team comes in having lost just one game and playing well. Chicago has won six straight and Houston has bounced back from their first loss of the season and won their last two in a row. Each team’s last loss came at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
Defense is the name of this game. Houston ranks 3rd overall in yardage allowed (286/game) while Chicago ranks 6th (318/game).
The Bears are leading the league in takeaway’s with 28 and takeaway ratio at +16. They’re turning those takeaway’s into points and have seven interception returns for scores this season by five different players. Their defense has become nearly as potent, in terms of scoring, as their offense.
Chicago is tied with New England for fumbles caused with 11. Just last week, Chicago forced five fumbles, two by CB Charles Tillman. Tillman has been hot after the ball this season and has seven caused fumbles and has two of Chicago’s interception returns for touchdowns. Some say he’s an early candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
Houston has 24 sacks on the season, led by defensive end J.J. Watt who also leads the league with 10.5. Like Chicago,Houston is making a good living on the defensive side of the ball. They have nine interceptions and are just one behind Cleveland for the AFC lead in that category. The Texans are giving up just over 82 yards/game and will look to stonewall Chicago’s ground game that is currently averaging 128.5 yards.
The key in this game will be the defense that can hold the line of scrimmage and stop the run. Both of these teams mirror each other in many ways and this game is a possible preview of Super Bowl XLVII, at least at this point. The winner takes another step towards solidifying themselves as a top contender in their conference and in the league overall.
Detroit Lions (4-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4)
These teams met in week 4 with Minnesota giving Head Coach Leslie Frazier his first divisional win since taking over the team late in the 2010 season. The Vikings are just one game over .500 after starting out 5-2. They have lost their last two games.
The Lions have bounced back and are at .500 after starting out 2-4. They have won two straight with a tough victory over Seattle in week 8 and last Sunday’s win over Jacksonville.
These teams are almost in the exact opposite spots they were in when they last met. Detroit is on the way up with the Vikings starting to slide. Many expected the North to shake up this way but let’s wait until after the game is played on the field before we conclude that all is back to normal.
Much as it was last time, this is Detroit’s potent passing game against Minnesota’s stingy defense. That the Lions have been able to keep putting up big numbers through the air is more impressive when you consider that All Pro WR Calvin Johnson still has just one touchdown catch on the season. This may add some credence to the dreaded “Madden curse” as Johnson continues to have a subpar season in terms of meeting expectations. He was on a snap count on Sunday (although he missed just 12 snaps on the day) as he continues to battle a left knee injury. The Lions will want to be smart about how they are using Johnson down the stretch and in anticipation of landing a playoff spot.
After starting the season playing very efficiently, Vikings QB Christian Ponder has cooled off. After throwing zero interceptions in the Vikings’ first four games, Ponder has thrown at least one in five straight. He now has eight picks on the year to 10 touchdown passes and a QB rating of just 82. Minnesota has been very fortunate to see no drop off in production from RB Adrian Peterson, who is the team’s offensive MVP so far this season. If the Vikings want to remain in the conversation and contend in the North, Ponder will have to elevate his level of play and be a key contributor at the most key position on the field.
After seeing Tampa Bay’s RB Doug Martin have a field day against a good Vikings defense, the Lions will surely try to get their RB Mikel Leshoure going early on Sunday. If Detroit can establish the run and control the line, it will be a long day for the home team.
The Vikings will need to find a way to get more from their passing game on Sunday against a Lions defense that is giving up just under 230 yards/game. Minnesota’s best bet is to work Peterson and hope he can break free on a few long runs. The Vikes are averaging 145 yards/game rushing while the Lions give up 106.
This one is a toss up but I’ll lean towards the Lions and the momentum they are starting to build. Each team needs a win to keep pace in the division. The Lions would get over .500 once again with a win whereas Minnesota would fall to .500 with a loss.
Green Bay Packers are on a bye
Enjoy the games!——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: