Around the NFC North: Week 13 All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Around the NFC North
The Bears and Lions remain in first place with Detroit hosting the Packers on Thanksgiving.

The NFC North had a lackluster showing in week 12 with none of the four teams winning their respective games.  As such, the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears remained tied atop the division with matching 6-5 records.

The Green Bay Packers moved to within a half game of the division lead with a tie against the Minnesota Vikings.  And the Vikings?  Their biggest remaining question mark is how badly they want to finish this season and in preparation for next year’s draft.

The Packers and Vikings tie was Green Bay’s first such result since 1987.  If nothing else, it ended the Packers’ three-game losing streak and also gave the Vikings a moral victory.  Win-win, right?  Not really, but just trying to find some good in it all.

I am not a fan of a tie game and wish the NFL would allow teams to play until there is a winner.  But I digress.

This week, there are two divisional matchups to look at, starting the Thanksgiving Day matchup between the Packers and Lions.

Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) at Detroit Lions (6-5)

I have long wondered how I would react to a Packers tie game.  I can now cross that off of my “life’s mysteries” list and gladly so.  Green Bay was able to mount a comeback against the Vikings after entering the fourth quarter down 23-7.  The Packers, looking for a spark, benched starting quarterback Scott Tolzien in favor of backup Matt Flynn.  Many had been clamoring for Flynn after watching Tolzien struggle to move the ball most of the day.

It was Flynn’s first action since returning to the Packers two weeks ago.  In his last appearance at Lambeau Field in 2011, Flynn started a week 17 game against the Lions and set a Packers franchise record with 480 passing yards and six touchdown passes.  While Flynn’s performance against the Vikings fell way short of those totals, he was able to rally Green Bay to even up the game and with a chance to win.

Alas, the game ended in a tie.  As dismal as the last month has been in Green Bay, the Packers still remain viable in the NFC North race.  Both the Bears and Lions lost their games on Sunday and so the Packers actually gained a half-game on each.  Both Detroit and Chicago should probably be added to the Packers’ holiday “thank you” list.  One would think that after three straight losses, one divisional loss and a divisional tie, that the Packers should be looking up at the division leader and with a huge hole to climb out of.

That may still end up being the case, but with just five games left, Green Bay is in the thick of this divisional race and inching closer to the return of starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  While no determination has been made this week as to whether Rodgers will play against the Lions, the popular conversation seems to be that it would be a longshot to see him in uniform on Thursday.  That said, the cranberry sauce still has an outside chance of being the thing most looked forward to on Thursday.

With Flynn having performed so marvelously in relief of Tolzien, I would expect Packers head coach Mike McCarthy to stick with Flynn this week against the Lions.  This is an important divisional game and on the road.  Flynn has not only played well in relief of Rodgers in the past, but he has done so at this very venue.  Flynn came in during a December 2010 game after Rodgers was knocked out with a concussion.  Unfortunately, the Packers were unable to find the end zone all day and lost.  But the fact still remains that Flynn gives the Packers their best chance to win on Thursday.

The Lions let their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers slip away on Sunday as Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions in the loss.  Two of those interceptions came off the hands of Detroit receivers Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson.  Johnson appeared to make a critical catch in the red zone with Detroit down 24-21, only to see the ball jarred loose after a hit from a Tampa safety.  The ball was intercepted by Tampa Bay and the Bucs were able to run out the clock and preserve the win.

Detroit has lost two straight for the first time this week and will come into this week’s game looking for blood.  The Lions know how important these last five games are, especially the divisional matchups.  They expect that Rodgers won’t play and they plan to take full advantage of being at home and facing a less-potent Packers offense.

Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon racked up 247 passing yards and two touchdowns on just 14 completions.  Detroit was more stout against the run and bottled up Tampa running back Robby Rainey, who managed just 35 yards on 18 carries.  Green Bay will surely continue to turn to their workhorse back in Eddie Lacy to try and establish the run.  Despite a heavy emphasis by the Vikings defense on stopping Lacy, he was still able to gain over 100 yards and many of which came after contact.  Questions about whether Lacy might start to wear down late in the season seem to be on hold, at least for now, as the Packers continue to feed him all day long.

The defensive deficiency with both of these teams is the secondary.  Stafford has attempted more than 40 passes on several occasions this season and the Packers need to do whatever they have to in order to get a win.  That could mean turning the quarterback loose and a shootout is very possible this week.  Detroit’s cornerback Chris Houston left Sunday’s game with a foot injury and his status for this week is unknown.  Green Bay still has yet to see an interception by a safety this season.  The status of cornerback Sam Shields and his recovery from a hamstring injury will be monitored very closely this week, as his absence would create a deeper mismatch against Johnson and Burleson.

The winner of this game (there can’t be two ties in a row, can there?!) keeps pace in the North and could take hold of the division of the Vikings are able to take down the Bears.  Detroit holds a tie-breaker over Chicago, having swept them this season and so if both the Lions and Bears are victorious, the Lions would still hold a slight lead.

Lost in the chaos of the rare tie at Lambeau was the fact that the Packers did not appear to suffer any new major injuries to key players.  Defensive end C.J. Wilson suffered what appeared to be a leg injury and running back Johnathan Franklin was evaluated for a possible concussion early.  Neither returned and on a short week, I would think they would be challenged to be available against the Lions.

Lacy left the game for a short period of time, due to an asthma condition, but he did return and is expected to play this week.  The Packers are also hoping for good news on Shields, defensive lineman Johnny Jolly (groin), and offensive tackle Don Barclay (knee).

Game time on Thursday is 12:30pm EDT and is likely the last game in Prime Time for the Packers this season.  Their Sunday night matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in week 14 was flexed out and into a day slot.

Chicago Bears (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1)

The Bears fell victim to the St. Louis Rams to the tune of three Chicago turnovers and over 250 yards rushing surrendered.  The Rams didn’t commit any turnovers and that overall recipe spells a dominant 42-21 win for St. Louis.

With Detroit losing to Tampa and the Packers and Vikings tying, the Bears missed an opportunity to jump ahead in the NFC North.  They will now face the best running back in football in Adrian Peterson and a Vikings team that knows their season has been reduced to playing the role of spoiler.  They nearly accomplished that mission against the Packers at Lambeau but a huge third down drop by receiver Greg Jennings likely cost the Vikings their best chance to secure the win.

Bears running back Matt Forte was dinged up in the loss although early indications seem to be that he can play this week.  Quarterback Jay Cutler has already been ruled out against the Vikings with a high ankle sprain.  Josh McCown will get the start for the Bears.

McCown had a respectable day passing against the Rams with over 250 yards passing and two touchdown passes.  Against a somewhat weaker Vikings secondary, McCown could find similar success this week.  However, stepping up for the Vikings against the Packers was cornerback Xavier Rhodes who started in place of injured Josh Robinson.  Rhodes was solid against Green Bay after having underwhelmed so far in his rookie season.

The Bears secondary isn’t much better than is Minnesota’s these days.  Cornerback Charles Tillman remains on injured reserve-designated to return and won’t be back before the last week of the season, if at all.  Chicago safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte have underperformed and are receiving much criticism for the Bears’ lacking pass coverage.

With one backup quarterback going up against another who is probably no better than a backup on most other NFL teams, it’s tough to see this one turning into a score fest.  Minnesota’s Christian Ponder was adequate against the Packers despite being sacked six times.  Ponder had 218 yards passing and did not throw an interception against a Packers secondary whose safeties have netted zero picks this season.

The biggest battle of the day could be on special teams as each of these teams features two of the best return men in the game.  Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson again torched the Packers for 126 yards with a long of 57 yards.  Patterson has also come on as a receiver in recent weeks and is becoming a bigger part of the Vikings game plan.

The Vikings have nothing to gain from a win besides pride and it’s their last time hosting the Bears at Mall of America Field.  The Bears have everything to play for and need a win to keep up with whoever emerges victorious between the Lions and Packers on Thanksgiving Day.  It’s a safe bet that most fans in Packers and Lions country would like to see the Vikings knock the Bears back a peg and create some separation in this tight yet sloppy division.






Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on

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10 thoughts on “Around the NFC North: Week 13

  1. (Get ready, my inner Cow42 is about to come out)

    1. The Lions slaughter the Packers on Thurs.

    2. Dom’s D looks terrible. Again. He gets canned at the end of the year.

    3. ARod tries to save the season in 2 weeks, but it’s too little, too late.

    4. We finish 7-8-1 in 3rd place in the NFCN (Beat ATL and PIT)

    5. Raji, Kuhn, Tramon and J. Jones walk

    6. TT FINALLY drafts another safety high (I’m too realistic to think he goes to the FA well, although Byrd would be nice)

    7. Mike considers switching back to a 43 in the offseason.

    8. Finley plays for another team next year. Never for GB again.

    9. Bostick is the next Finley.

    10. Mike gives himself one more year to call a better game. And then removes that responsibility from himself. Cause he sucks at it.

    11. The team looks loaded going into 2014. And then injuries completely blow everything up. Again. 🙁

    12. The Bears lose to the Vikes. The Lions win the division at 10-6 by default.

    I told you – my inner Cow was coming out.

    1. #2 Capers, for some reason unknown to fans, will get another pass and be back next season.
      #5 Most likely to go is T. Williams unless he takes a cut bigger than A.J. Hawk did.
      #6 Absolutely yes.
      #7 MM considers it, but not for long. We’re sticking in 34 for a while. MM likes it.
      #8 Finley shows his maturing side and shows loyalty to a team that treated him the right way after this injury. He stays for about the same amount as this season.

  2. Our only hope would be that the Lions completely overlook this game treating it like a bye week. It would truly be a fluke if the Packers win this one. This will be as if the Lions have a scrimage game with a local high school team for charity. Hopefully they will have a little mercy on us. Donkey Kong Sue please don’t pile drive Matt Flynn, he never did anything to you. Dear MM please put Raji in to replace Newhouse, at least he is a fat bloated blob that may be more difficult to get around. Newhouse just side steps and lets whomever opposite him come right through and then scratches his azz and smells his finger.

  3. Glad that I am not watching the game with you guys. Who knows, maybe…

    – Tramon Williams has another big game and does it against Calvin Johnson.

    – Eddie Lacy keeps moving the chains and is an antidote to their pass rush.

    – We sack Matthew Stafford 5 or 6 times and he starts to send up balloons.

    – Matt Flynn manages the offense enough to eat the clock and take advantage of a suspect Lions secondary.

    – The Lions make some bad mistakes and hurt themselves.

    – Sherrod replaces Newhouse and big problem disappears.

    Too bad it is a short week because it makes all this a little more difficult. But – all this is possible and in some cases even likely. Keep the faith you dumb bastards.

    Go Packers!

    1. Razer –

      I am a realist who leans towards optimism when it comes towards the GBP – because they’ve by and large been very good since 1992. I’m not a pessimist like Cow.


      You have to acknowledge that the defense has looked friggen terrible for 4 games in a row now. 2 of which were against backup caliber QBs. Really, the defense has by and large looked terrible since Capers took over.

      What makes you think they’ll turn it around now? Where’s the evidence? Returning health? Nope. Better coaching? Nope. Easier competition? Nope.

      And on offense, there’s no relief in sight, save a miraculous injury free return from ARod. And Cobb. And Barclay. And Finley. He was a threat and now he’s probably done in GB forever.

      So you are right. There’s a chance. Albeit a very small one.

      I hope I’m wrong.

      1. I hear you and I feel you pain about our defense – aside from injuries, it has been our biggest disappointment by far. I am hoping that Nick Perry and Sam Shields make it back and that Lattimore, Datone Jones, Neal and maybe even Worthy make some plays. We have some players. Will Capers use them properly and will the guys “finish” their assignments. I am hoping. Go Packers!

  4. A little late, but I’ll ask anyways: am I the only one who thinks that Jared Allen doesn’t understand why “a tie is like kissing your sister” is not a good thing?

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