Around the NFC North: Week 11

NFL NFC North Division

The Green Bay Packers put an emphatic end to the NFC North’s week 10 with a 55-14 drubbing of the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.  Earlier in the day, the Detroit Lions survived the Miami Dolphins and came away with another down-to-the-wire win to keep a one-game lead in the division.  It was Detroit’s fourth straight win.

The Minnesota Vikings enjoyed their bye week and now head to Chicago to take on the Bears, who have not won a home game yet this season.  The Lions hit the road again and will face the red-hot Arizona Cardinals, who have the NFL’s best record at 8-1.  The Packers stay at home and host the Philadelphia Eagles, who stomped the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football, 45-21.

Here’s a look at each game a bit deeper.

Minnesota Vikings (4-5) at Chicago Bears (3-6)

The Vikings have won their last two games and can even their record at 5-5 with a win over Chicago.  The Bears have now lost three straight, with this latest one seemingly setting the sentiments towards the team ablaze.  It’s no secret that the Bears have had a disappointing season but to come out after the bye week and perform the way they did in Green Bay only showcased a team in turmoil.  Frustrations were already high and some major changes are likely ahead.  Whether any of those will take place before season’s end remains to be seen.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler may not receive the warmest reception at Soldier Field come game time.  Cutler is now 1-9 against the Packers, including playoffs.  Fortunately for the Bears, the Packers won’t be anywhere near Chicago this week.  There was a thought that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson might have had a slim chance of being reinstated for this one, but it’s not going to happen.  Peterson reportedly will have a hearing on Monday by an arbitrator who will decide if any further punishment is forthcoming under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.  With a ruling not coming until the end of next week at the soonest, the earliest Peterson would be available is the November 16th game against the Packers.  In the meantime, Matt Asiata will continue to carry the load for the Vikings.

The Vikings continue to bring along rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and are seeing the emergence of wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.  Defensively, rookie first-round linebacker Anthony Barr has played well and should be a regular in the Vikings defense for years to come.  The Vikings are already ahead of the Bears in the standings, but a Minnesota win would likely entrench the Bears as cellar dwellars for the foreseeable future.  It would also build some faith amongst the team in new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.

On the health front, the Vikings are monitoring the status of tight end Kyle Rudolph as he continues to recover from a sports hernia suffered in late September.  The Bears will likely lose guard Matt Slauson for the season after he has missed the last few weeks and receiver Brandon Marshall did not return in the game against Green Bay due to a left ankle injury.  Marshall had a right ankle injury earlier in the season.  Early indications are that Marshall will be active this week against Minnesota.

The Bears just need a win to stop the bleeding.  They were seen hanging their heads and playing very uninspired football after getting down early against the Packers.  Unfortunately for Chicago, everyone now sees them as an easier opportunity to get a win and any intimidation factor is gone.  The Bears will have to begin, somehow, to earn it back.

Detroit Lions (7-2) at Arizona Cardinals (8-1)

The Lions won their third-straight game in the fourth quarter on Sunday.  In fact, they were trailing in all three games with two minutes or less to go in regulation.  On the one hand, they’re winning games that they used to lose and that counts for a lot in the NFL.  On the other hand, how long can Detroit get by letting their opponents hang around with a chance at the end?  I don’t see that formula as one that likely takes the Lions deep into the playoffs, but they seem likely to at least get there at current rate.

Detroit scored a late touchdown to reclaim the lead and secure their seventh win of the season.  They now lead the division by a full game and own a tie-breaker over the Packers with a head-to-head win.  Detroit’s next challenge is going to be establishing more consistency for four quarters, especially on offense.  The return of receiver Calvin Johnson gave the Lions a big boost against the Dolphins and with Golden Tate on the other side, Detroit has the tools to be a great passing offense.

The Cardinals are neck and neck with the Lions in terms of run defense.  Both are giving up less than 80 yards per game.  The Lions have the third-best passing defense as well.  Arizona’s pass defense is ranked 30th, but they are taking the ball away and that has been a huge difference-maker for the Cardinals this season.  They’re have 19 takeaways and are +19 in that category while the Lions are just +2 despite having forced 14 turnovers.

Arizona will be at home where their crowd is louder than most realize.  The team’s best start in over 50 years has their fan base loud and proud.  The Cards may need the extra boost, as they lost starting quarterback Carson Palmer to a torn ACL in the win over the St. Louis Rams.  Drew Stanton will take over for the rest of the way and while Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians can stick his chest out and say that Stanton is taking them to the Super Bowl, we all see Arizona’s road as being a bit rougher than it was before last Sunday’s game.

Speaking of coaches, Detroit’s Jim Caldwell seems to have figured a few things out and is keeping the Lions in line.  At this rate, the Packers won’t be able to afford many more losses if they want to catch Detroit in the standings.  Caldwell could receive some consideration for coach of the year depending on how the Lions finish.  And while Caldwell is doing a fine job, we have to remember it’s still the Lions and there is a lot of season left.

Palmer may be out against the best defense in football, but the Cardinals just seem hard to bet against.  They’re at home and have an overwhelming amount of confidence right now.  Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford likes to give his receivers a chance to make a play at times, but he has to know the Cardinals secondary is ready to pounce on a bad throw.  The Lions will be hard-pressed to get away with late-game heroics this week and will need to remain in charge from start to finish.  If they can get to Stanton early on, it could prove to be an easier day for Stafford & Co.

Philadelphia Eagles (7-2) at Green Bay Packers (6-3)

The Packers bounced back from their loss to the New Orleans Saints and after the bye week in grand fashion, with a 41-point beatdown of the Bears.  While Chicago is going through one of its roughest stretches in recent history, the Packers came out sharp and focused.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for six touchdowns in the first half alone and just missed becoming part of the seven-touchdown club before he was removed for Matt Flynn.

Green Bay’s defense also played well, led by linebacker Clay Matthews, who moved to the inside and led the team with 11 tackles.  Former Bears defensive end/linebacker Julius Peppers had a sack, forced a fumble and recovered it on the same play while adding in a batted pass against his former mates.  Cornerbacks Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward had interceptions and Sam Shields could have added a third had he not dropped it.  Hayward caught a tipped ball and returned it to the house for his first touchdown as a pro.  Overall, it was one of the Packers’ best defensive showings under defensive coordinator Dom Capers but as usual, the Pack got some help from Jay being Jay.

If only the Packers could face the Bears every week but alas, here come the Eagles.  The Mark Sanchez-led Eagles.  Sanchez took over when Nick Foles went down with a broken collarbone that will sideline him the majority of the rest of the regular season.  Eagles head coach Chip Kelly remains confident in Sanchez, saying that they brought him in because he’s not a backup, he’s a starter.  That he is, and he will be for the majority of what is left in the regular season.  Sanchez hasn’t been flashy, but he has taken care of the ball and gotten some help from his defense.

The Eagles were -10 in turnover ratio and cut that deficit in half against the Panthers with five takeaways and committing no turnovers of their own.   The Packers are +10 and tied for second-best in the league to this point.  Needless to say, turnovers will be a big factor in this game.  The Eagles had a big day against Cam Newton but this week, they’ll face the ultra conservative Rodgers and the steady hands of running back Eddie Lacy.  Takeaways will come at a premium unless there’s a rash of tipped balls.

The real story in this game is going to be the Eagles run game versus the Packers defense.  Green Bay gave up just 75 rushing yards to the Bears although officially they were only charged with 55 due to a muffed snap on a Chicago punt attempt and a stuffed end around. Despite the fact that the Bears were playing from behind all night, Matt Forte still had 17 carries.  Perhaps Matthews’ move to the middle can be a catalyst to better play against the run.

Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy had just 19 yards on 12 carries against Carolina.  The Packers can only hope to stifle McCoy to that total on Sunday.  Besides McCoy is Darren Sproles, who had a short rushing touchdown, but dazzled with his second punt return score of the year.  Sproles is the type of back that the Packers have problems with and he has had some good performances against the Packers in the past.  His opening day showing in 2011 comes to mind.  McCoy and Sproles will offer a stiff test to the Packers’ new defensive look.  While Green Bay is keeping an eye in the backfield, Eagles receivers Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews will keep the secondary well occupied.  The Packers front seven will be key in getting pressure and closing up running lanes.

The offenses will star in this one so it comes down to Rodgers vs. Sanchez, run defense by the Packers and the turnover battle.  A win here would legitimize the Packers and give them a win against a high-quality opponent.  Green Bay is 4-0 at home this season.  The Eagles are now 2-2 on the road.





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

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9 thoughts on “Around the NFC North: Week 11

  1. If you look at the NFC standings there is a concern. The Saints are leading their division and have a losing record. The Cowboys are 7-2 and Seahawks are 6-3. We better win our division or me may finish with a great record and not make the playoffs. It has happened before.

    1. Yep, 1989 one of my favorite all time seasons. 10-6 and we don’t make the playoffs. That one hurt. Still does.

  2. I can’t believe how teams are folding in front of Detroit. New Orleans, Atlanta and Miami all gave away leads and ball possession when they had the game in hand. Now Detroit goes to Arizona right after Carson Palmer goes down for the season. You could not ask for a better script if you are a Lions fan. I hope that we aren’t witness to someone else’s enchanted season. I guess the last game will be all-in

  3. Sanchez is just like Cutler only less physical talent. The qb will not beat us this week. Only way they beat us is if they rush for 250+ yards. As far as Detroit, they will self destruct at some point. Donkey Kong Sue is about to do something stupid and get ejected for awhile. Detroit WILL self destruct, it is written…

    1. Detroit will not self-destruct. Unfortunately they have a better more disciplined head coach this time. Yeah, they got lucky in those close games but Jim Schwartz is not there anymore. They are loaded on offense and especially defense. They are legit. Everything in Detroit is on it’s way up including the city itself though they have a much longer way to go than their team. I say this and I absolutely can’t stand the Lions but I have to be real about this.

      Green Bay needs to keep winning. It will definitely come down to the final game. Last year it was Chi and this year it will be Detroit at Lambeau. That’s what the NFL wants.

      1. I agree that Caldwell might have figured things out, but–in general–the Lions seem to play down to their opposition, offensively. Sure, Megatron missed time, but they should be winning comfortably with that defense, not sneaking games out late. It seems that they’ve played the “cardiac kids” role in recent years up to a point, then they implode. It might still happen this year, but I’m not expecting it.

        That said, they’re not really on the way up. They’re at a plateau. They’ve got cap issues and are about to lose important pieces on their DL. If they don’t win it this year, it might not happen in the near future.

        1. You are correct Dobber. I forgot about their cap issues next season with Suh likely to be let go. Thing is, it’s always about the quarterback and Stafford is a pretty good one. Not Aaron Rodgers but damn good. As long as they have him they’ll remain competitive.

          I look at what they did to Green Bay this season. They have to be taken serious. Eugene Levy is the real deal. Would love to have him on our team.

          1. “Eugene Levy is the real deal. Would love to have him on our team.”

            I know…he was awesome in the American Pie movies! 😉

  4. Hate to be that guy, but, I have to be honest: I think the season is about to get much more dire.

    1. Vikings blast CHI
    2. DET squeaks ARI (again..ugh)
    3. PHI pulls away late in GB.

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