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December

Around the NFC North: Week 17

Around the NFC North

The Packers and Bears meet for the NFC North division title on Sunday

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate.  And Happy Wednesday to those who don’t.

We are down to just one game left in the 2013 season and the NFL gets its way again.  In the NFC North, the matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will determine the division winner on Sunday.

Both the Packers and Bears lost their games to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.  Chicago could have clinched the division with a win.  Instead, they will host the Packers for another late-season game with major playoff implications.

In the other divisional matchup, the Detroit Lions will face the Minnesota Vikings for the last time at Mall of America Field.  The Lions, who just one week ago were in the driver’s seat for the division title, lost to the New York Giants late and were eliminated from postseason contention.  The Vikings dropped their meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals and have likely begun making offseason tee times already.

Let’s look into each matchup a bit closer in this final edition of Around the NFC North.

Detroit Lions (7-8) at Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1)

One thing that can be said about this matchup is that I’m sure both the Bears and Packers are glad they don’t need to rely on the Vikings anymore this season.

Minnesota did come up with a big win over the Eagles in week 15 but returned to form in getting blown out by the Bengals last week.  After reaching the postseason last year, they will end this season with no more than five wins and double-digit losses.  Rumors are already swirling that Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is likely to be let go as soon as the season ends.

The Lions saw their season’s hopes fade to black in a matter of six days, with their loss to the Giants being the exclamation point on a season that turned disappointing in a hurry.  Despite being the third-ranked offense in the league, the Lions weren’t able to muster enough when it mattered.  Much like Frazier, there is a chance that Lions head coach Jim Schwartz could be shown the door soon after the regular season is over.

The biggest significance in this game is that it is the last game that will be played at Mall of America Field (MoA), also known as the Huber H. Humphrey Metrodome.  The Vikings will rent TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for two seasons while their new stadium, Vikings Stadium, is constructed near the site of their current home.

Detroit won the first matchup between these two teams in week one after being swept by the Vikings last season.  A win would prevent a losing season for the Lions and improve them to 8-8.  The Vikings are in the hunt for a top draft pick and will most likely pick in the top 10.

Throw the stats away on this one, as this game is for pride.  The Lions can avoid the losing season and end with an emphatic win over a division opponent.  The Vikings can further complicate their starting quarterback situation with a win, although many mock drafts already have the Vikings taking a quarterback in round one.  Still, it’s December and too early to seriously talk draft.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has over 1,200 yards on the season and will look to finish strong in his last game at MoA.  Defensive end Jared Allen and defensive tackle Kevin Williams are pending free agents and could be playing in their last game with the Vikings.

For Detroit, the biggest name on the pending free agent list is running back Joique Bell.  Bell formed a nice tandem with Reggie Bush to complement quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson.  The biggest thing I am looking for from Detroit is the demeanor they carry themselves with in this game.  Having forged a reputation for being physical, even beyond the whistle, how do they react in a meaningless game after having just been eliminated from playoff contention?  That could say a lot about the status of Schwartz and what they carry forward into 2014.

Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) at Chicago Bears (8-7)

While their loss to the Steelers didn’t kill the Packers’ postseason chances, it certainly didn’t provide any more momentum heading into their most important game of the season.  The Bears had the same problem, getting thumped in Philadelphia after entering that game with a chance to clinch the division.

This will go up before the official status of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is announced this week.  With the holiday, the Packers may still announce on Friday, as they have been, or they may wait.  They have up until 90 minutes prior to game time to announce their starter, although they have never gone that late before.  On Monday, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said they prefer to make a decision sooner than later on who their quarterback will be this week.

Many are still hopeful that Rodgers can be medically cleared to play and return just in time to thrust the Packers to another division title.  Still, that decision rests with the team doctors and front office.  The concern for Rodgers’ long-term future has been evident and there is good reason to believe that he may not make it back this week.

If not, Matt Flynn would get another start.  Flynn has done an admirable job in relief of Rodgers and since taking over for Scott Tolzien.  Flynn is 2-2-1 and has kept the Packers in every game he has started, save for the Thanksgiving debacle against the Lions.  In week 17 of the 2011 season, Flynn started for Rodgers after the Packers had already secured home-field advantage and led Green Bay to a shootout win over Detroit at Lambeau Field.  This time, it will be on the road and against the Bears.

Chicago returned Jay Cutler at quarterback last week after he missed several weeks with an ankle injury.  Cutler is 1-8 all time against the Packers with seven of those losses coming as Bears quarterback.  This will be Cutler’s first start against Green Bay this season, as he missed the first matchup with a groin injury.

The Packers have had success against Cutler in the past, but this year’s secondary is a different bunch.  The safety play in Green Bay has been below marginal this season and that position group still has yet to record an interception this season.  An improved Bears offense and the emergence of Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery will provide a stiff test for the Packers secondary.

Green Bay will likely be without linebacker Clay Matthews, who suffered what is being called a repeat injury to the same thumb he injured earlier this season.  Chicago’s offensive line has improved overall, although they had their issues against the Eagles pass rush last week.  The Packers will need to find a way to hurry up Cutler or it’s going to be a long day for the guys in green and gold.

Defensively, the Bears have struggled.  They did return their veteran leader in linebacker Lance Briggs, although that did little to stop the Eagles and their high-flying offense.  Chicago ranks last in run defense and are giving up an astonishing 161 yards per game on the ground.

That could be very good news for a Packers team whose best offensive threat is running back Eddie Lacy.  Lacy has 1,112 rushing yards on the season and broke the Packers single-season rookie rushing record, previously held by John Brockington since 1977.  Lacy has been a work horse and a major driving force for a Packers offense that has needed to find a spark elsewhere with Rodgers out.

Lacy is dealing with a very sore ankle and did miss time against the Steelers.  He won’t practice until at least Thursday and the team will determine his status over those few days before the game.

If the Packers are without both Rodgers and Lacy, they’ll face a huge challenge in moving the ball in the cold.  Temperatures are expected to be in the mid to upper 20′s.  Precipitation is unknown.  The Packers played most of last week’s game in snow and on frozen turf and that setting would be nothing new to them.

This has the makings of a close game that could come down to the wire.  A turnover or big special teams play tends to be a factor in this matchup often.  While not the homerun threat he has been in the past, Bears returner Devin Hester will be looking to take advantage of a Packers special teams unit that has been anything but.  Pittsburgh racked up 161 return yards on seven returns last week and Chicago is fully aware.  Hopefully Packers kicker Mason Crosby brings his A-leg to Soldier Field on Sunday and can sail it out of the back of the end zone.

The longest-standing rivalry in pro football doesn’t need any added motivation but we find these two teams battling it out again for the north division.  Expect an entertaining contest with a home playoff game on the line.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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38 Responses to “Around the NFC North: Week 17”

  1. Alex Parkhurst says:

    Rodgers

    You get lucky and draft someone like this very rarely. He is 30 years old and has another 5 years or so.

    You send him out and he is not healed, so is told never to run the ball, if no one is open get rid of the ball so you are not sacked. Therefore Rodgers is set up to not use his talents. Your chances of advancing with Rodgers playing this way has been reduced dramatically.

    If he reinjures his clavicle or something worse you didn’t just write off this year but maybe the next five. You then have to draft a QB in round one next year when you have a lot of other needs.

    You are responsible for playing him. One game against the Bears is worth the next five years? What would you do?

    Trust me, if he played and was seriously hurt no one here would defend MM or TT. Everyone would say how stupid they were to play him and they should be fired. MM and TT are thinking the same thing.

    Just thinking out loud.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

    • Dave D says:

      A broken collar bone is nothing had mine broke in half. Hell, it is not even his throwing arm.

      Play him and live with it!

      Stop being a bunch of babies!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

      • Bubbaloo says:

        Kinda funny Dave how trolls like yourself seem to think this a fan’s decision. Thanks for the advice, Merry Xmas.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

        • Dave D says:

          No just an opinion that means nothing other than chatting with my Packer buddies.

          Merry Christmas

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

          • dave d is full of opnions,all real bad of course,but he not know what he do.wants MM head.i personally think this is one of the best coaching jobs ever.got to know what hes working with…nothing….but pack has been in most all the games with most of their skilled players hurt on off. and def.lets ban dave d from als site…all in favor….I

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Dobber says:

      “If he reinjures his clavicle or something worse you didn’t just write off this year but maybe the next five. You then have to draft a QB in round one next year when you have a lot of other needs.”

      And if you sit him and he blows his Achilles taking practice snaps in OTAs in June? Or trips on a flight of stairs and breaks his leg in July? Or gets run over in a preseason game in August and all but breaks his neck?

      Pick your time. Any game. Any time. Any one of us. Nobody knows which snap, which run down the tunnel, which birthday cake will be their last. If he’s well enough to play and you’ve got something important to play for, then play him.

      “Trust me, if he played and was seriously hurt no one here would defend MM or TT.”

      See comments above. Just win baby.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Bubbaloo says:

    I gotta leave the Rodgers thing alone, there’s no good decision, and hopefully no bad decision.
    That said, this NFC North could be scary.
    The Vikings are the Vikings, with or without their present day coach they always seem to hit a pothole each season where they lose a few in a row that they shouldn’t, and their talent is questionable as some of their top players are aging.
    The Lions on the other hand are loaded with young talent and could become a real force with a competent coaching staff.
    Green Bay (and Chicago) should pray the Lions keep Schwartz, which pretty much guarantees a few extra losses each year.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

    • Nick Perry says:

      I think Schwartz is as good as gone. Even a franchise as bad as the Lions aren’t that lost are they? Well then again considering the Lions are 1 of the 4 teams to have never played in a SB, maybe they are! Keep Schwartz please!!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      • Stroh says:

        They had Wayne Fontes for what 10 years? ANd Matt Millen for another decade? Yeah I would say they are pretty stupid. Not saying they won’t fire Schwartz, but its hardly out of the realm of possibility he sticks either.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

      • Jerry says:

        Yea look how long the Ford family kept Matt Millen.I hope they reconsider and keep Schwartz he’s sooo incompetent!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Nick Perry says:

    As much as I’d like to see the Packers beat the Bears and get in the playoffs, I wonder if “Just Get In”, can be applied to this years Packers team. This is not the 2010 team, not even close. Gone are Jennings, Bishop, Jenkins, and most importantly Nick Collins. Although Raji is in the lineup, he’s moreless been missing since 2010. Injured are Rodgers, Cobb, Finley, Matthews, Bulaga, Hayward, Jolly, and Lacy to name just a few. I think Lacy will play but for how long and how effective will he be. That’s a lot to overcome, even if Aaron Rodgers was cleared to play. Then of course the Packers still have the problem at RT. Shea McClellin came into the game at Lambeau with 1/2 sack. He left Lambeau with 3 1/2 sacks! McClellin has been labeled a bust by most, but Barclay made him look like Clay Matthews. I think at the end of the day even the most optimistic of Packers fans have to wonder if “Just Get In”, applies to the 2013 Packers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    • Dobber says:

      The ultimate goal is to win Superbowls, and if you don’t get to the playoffs, you can’t do that. Who knows what happens once you get into “one and done” situations.

      Just win, baby!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • Stroh says:

        Its always worth getting to the playoffs! At least you give yourself a chance at greatness. Catch a little lightning in a bottle, may not be likely, but you just never know. This team may not be great but they have overcome a lot of adversity. That could help propel them to improbable highs!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  4. NYPACKER says:

    I think we have to take some chances on defense & just not sit back & let the Bears big receivers make plays. The Eagles used stunts & blitzes to get pressure on Cutler. Of course they were able to do this because they got ahead & stopped the run on first down….two things that we have difficulty doing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Dave D says:

      Collinsworth said on the telecast Sunday night that Chip Kelly want his DC to be aggressive and would rather see the opposing teams score in a few seconds instead of a 12 or 14 play drive and eat up the clock.

      totally agree, bring the house and live with it. The Bears will make some big plays but the Defense may also. Sitting back in the zone without any pass rush is a recipe for disaster, right?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

      • Dobber says:

        Cutler is not a guy who handles pressure well. He gets flustered when rushers get in his face.

        I want to see the Packers play this game at Mach 5. If they make mistakes, so be it.

        Play fast.
        Play hard.
        Play to win.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

        • Dave D says:

          Amen Dobber Amen!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

        • Nick Perry says:

          So let’s hope Capers doesn’t play his soft zone and rush 3. Without Matthews the Packers will have to be creative and bring pressure. Capers is notorious for just rushing one extra right up the gut right into a blocker though, drives me nuts. The Bears are actually protecting the QB this year. If Cutler can just sit back for 4 or 5 seconds those big receivers will eat them up. Like Woodson said, “We can always count on Jay to throw us the ball”. Pressure is a must then.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          • Stroh says:

            What team have you been watching? The Packers don’t play much zone coverage! Sure sometimes he only rushes 3. Vs Dallas he rushed 3 on a 2nd or 3rd down and created an imcompletion, then on the next play he blitzed and gave up the conversion on 3rd or 4th and long on the slant to Bryant. It works both ways…

            Start calling like it is instead of how you perceive it. Your perception is ONLY your reality, which we’ve seen if far from the truth!

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

            • Nick Perry says:

              Did I say they play all zone? NO, I didn’t. It’s not what I perceive, it’s the truth. Just like when I said Micah Hyde is a football player, the Packers need to use him more. But you Stroh, you bagged on the kid and all you could talk about was his combine time and he’s to slow. He’s averaging 12.9 a return and made some pretty terrific plays on defense. Football player Stroh. On the football field he’s not running a straight line for 40 yards in spandex shorts! He’s a football player!! Again, not my perception but fact!

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • DAVE D IS A CLOSET EAGLES FAN…HIS FAMILY ARE ALL EAGLE FANS.WE ALL KNOW CHIP IS A MUCH BETTER COACH THEN MIKE M…LOL
        LOL
        LOL
        LOL
        DID I MENTION…LOL
        I KNOW DAVE D WELL,WERE BOTH FROM TRENTON NJ….BAN HIM NOW,BEFORE ITS TO LATE….SEND HIM TO PHILLY

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Dave D says:

    What is the matter Bill from Trenton, cat got your tongue?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  6. Tarynfor12 says:

    The problem(s) with this team this season are obvious:

    Offense:

    Play calling,injuries,inability to perform the no-huddle with any consistency,failure in the RZ,too many 3 and outs,failure to use the run game and equal failure when to not use it,play calling again,pass protection.

    Defense:Lack of talent,failure to believe there is a lack of talent,no pass rush,player positioning,bad tackling,bad communication,defenses being called,zone coverage,lack of man coverage,low quality OLBs,low play from our top OLB,regression of players,failure to step up,revolving door DL,3 year absentee being your best DL guy,allowing some to wear a uniform.

    Merry Christmas !!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  7. larry valdes says:

    Merry Christmas and a happy next Sunday. To all packers fans will get the best gift next Sunday. Go pack go.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. Flynn4theWin says:

    When and why did Crosby take over for Mathsay on kickoffs? Mathsay was booming it out of the endzone regularly, then we go back to crosby who all last game was kicking it around the 10 yard line. What gives??

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Alex Parkhurst says:

      Interesting question

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Stroh says:

      As the season wore on and the weather has gotten colder it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to kick the ball out of the end zone. When you can’t kick it out of the end zone the placement of the kick becomes FAR more important. Masthay could kick out of the end zone early in the season, but not late in the year when its cold. Crosby is very accurate placing the ball to limit returns (except when the coverage fails).

      Slocum has spoken about this a couple times if you had been paying attention. You just can’t kick the ball nearly as far in the cold weather, making placement far better late in the year. Who do you think can place kickoffs better? The placekicker or the punter?

      This isn’t rocket science guys…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  9. tim says:

    Have to pressure Cutler and hope he makes a few mistakes. Can’t sit back and let the bears dictate the game. That will be slow death. Its a challenge without Matthews, but I like what Neal and Hawk have been doing lately, and Lattimore, Richardson and Hyde seem to bring a toughness – they seem to be an upgrade. Hopefully between all of that and Capers calling a decent plan, we’ll have enough to make it to the postseason. Santa predicts the pack go back to lambeau for at least one more game this season, & da bears go home. Ho Ho Ho.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Archie says:

    After 7.5 weeks, the ass-clowns (MM/TT) will announce today what most everyone else knew 7.5 weeks ago i.e., it takes 8 weeks minimum for a collarbone to heal and more likely, 10 weeks.

    AROD will be cleared to play on Monday, the day after the Bears finish what they started 7 weeks ago, by eliminating the Pack 45-20.

    That’s OK, AROD’s career is saved and Pack drafts 12th instead of 22nd. That could mean ILB CJ Mosely! Or it could mean a great OLB. Or even a TE. At the very least, we should fill one major need. Picking 2th in R2 should fill another major hole.

    We must go after defensive help in free agency this year. Get rid of Williams, Hawk, Raji, Pinkett and Finley and put that money to work on the defensive side of the ball. Williams will pay for Shields, and the other four should land at least 3 good defensive FAs. 3 more major holes filled. With 5 major holes on defense filled, Pack should be ready to roll in 2014.

    Now, can our overpaid ass-clowns manage that little? Probably not.

    Time to bring in new young blood to coach the defense. Lack of defensive talent is on TT but Capers does not inspire/lead. Maybe too many ghosts haunt him. By keeping Capers, the ass-clowns lost out on the guy to CLE last year and the guy to PHILLY last year. Both have done terrific jobs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

    • Dobber says:

      A TE in this draft worth a #12 pick?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Nick Perry says:

        We won’t draft that high even if they did lose to the Bears I don’t think. Guessing here but I think 15th to 17th, somewhere in that area. A kid coming out of Texas Tech, if he declares is supposed to be something else. Not many Mock Drafts out yet but the ones that do have the Packers taking him. Now if the Safety from Alabama fell to that spot TT would have a interesting choice.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Nick Perry says:

        Safety is really weak in this draft. That’s why it made no sense not to address it last year.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        • Dobber says:

          Turns out maybe they did…Micah Hyde? Might not be a cure-all, but he makes things happen on the field, and he can cover.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Dobber says:

    I’m seeing a Packer game on Sunday played in the 30s. Hopefully the Packers learned something from their earlier tilt with the Bears and can find ways to cover those big receivers or at least to pressure Cutler. Pack needs a big game from Lacy and Starks (I wouldn’t be surprised if they split snaps pretty equally) with the Packers playing out of the gun a lot to keep the rush in front of ARod. Whose defense stinks more? I hope the Bears still suck…
    Packers 38
    Bears 31
    …this might be one of those “whomever scores last wins” games.

    Other game…ugh. Will the Lions completely fall apart? I don’t think so. I think they hang a big fatty on the Vikes to make a statement to save Schwartz’s job (but it’s too late…he’s gone Monday am).
    Lions 44
    Vikes 17
    …pray the Lions decide to bring back Marty Mornhinweg…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0