The Week 10 Bye Week Is Nearing, How Could The NFC North Look Then?
The NFL season is nearly reaching its half-way point so it is becoming more clear how the standings may look when it is all said and done. There is still a lot of football to be played but some teams have already essentially eliminated themselves from playoff contention. In the NFC North there is one team that is looking like a sure playoff team, two who are right in the thick of the playoff race, and then there are the Chicago Bears.
Luckily for Detroit Lions fans, the Lions are one of the teams who are in the hunt for the playoffs. That is mostly due to the magnificent right-arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions are going to need to find a way to be more consistent and healthy if they are going to playoffs, but both of those things are doable (The Lions’ best players can’t possibly continue to be injured every week…right?).
The team in the NFC North that is as close to a sure thing as there is to make the playoffs is the Minnesota Vikings. The Green Bay Packers are with the Lions as a team that is in the hunt but has work to do. Like I previously mentioned, the Bears have put themselves in an early hole that they most likely won’t climb out of.
But before we move on, here is a message from Jim Mora:
Here is a look at the current NFC North standings:
- Minnesota Vikings (5-1) (1-0 in the division)
- Green Bay Packers (4-2) (2-1)
- Detroit Lions (4-3) (0-2)
- Chicago Bears (1-6) (1-1)
Now let’s examine each of these teams more closely.
Up to this point the Lions have had sort of an up and down year. In just about every game that the team has won, they relied on the ability of Mathew Stafford to perform in the clutch, which is something he has proven time and time again that he can do. There have been games where the team performed very poorly, most notably the week four loss against the Bears.
The Lions inconsistency is at least in part due to the countless injuries that the team has had to deal with this season. Defensive standouts Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy have both missed time. Cornerback Darius Slay is dealing with a hamstring injury and is in real danger of having to sit out week 8.
On offense, the Lions lost Ameer Abdullah early on in the season and Theo Riddick has missed the last couple games. Tight end Eric Ebron has missed multiple weeks as well. These are just the most notable injures, there have been multiple other key players that have been forced to sit out games due to injury. The team is slowly becoming healthy again, but the success of the team may depend on whether or not key players can stay on the field.
The good news is that heading into week eight the Lions are currently riding a three game win streak. Also, in week eight the team is heading to Houston for a match up against the Texans. The Texans enter the game with a 4-3 record. Houston has lost the last two out of three games however, and has had some struggles on the offensive side of the ball. The Lions have momentum in their favor. I predict the Lions to pull this one out with a score of 27-20.
The team will face a tougher test in week nine when they head to Minnesota to face off with the Vikings. The Vikings success this season has been almost entirely due to their defense. The Lions playmakers will have a tough time doing their jobs against the Minnesota defense. However this could end up being a bit of a trap game for the Vikings. Minnesota plays a Monday night game week eight, so they will be on short rest in this contest. The Lions have a shot to really make a statement by winning this game, and I think they will do it. The Lions will pull off a shocker and win 20-17.
Week ten is the Lions bye week. This will be a valuable opportunity for the team to allow its players to get some rest.
Before the season officially began the Vikings lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a devastating knee injury. And to make matters worse the team’s star running back, Adrian Peterson, tore his meniscus early on in the season.
Despite both of those setbacks, the Vikings have started the season strong. The Vikings defense is one of, if not the strongest in the NFL. However, the team has struggled on the other side of the football. Because of this, the team’s defense does’t have much room for error. The defense hasn’t yet shown that they will start slowing down and they won’t be able to if the team wants to continue winning.
In week eight the Vikings take on the Bears for a Monday night football showdown. The Bears have struggled to this point and this game likely won’t be any different. The Vikings will win this one with a score somewhere around 21-10.
As previously mentioned, the Vikings will take on the Lions in week 9. I predicted the Lions to pull the upset and win 20-17.
And in week 10, the Vikings will head to Washington for a game against the Redskins. This won’t be a cake walk for the Vikings, but they should be able to come away with the win. It will be a close game, with a final score of around 24-20 in favor of the Vikings.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers continue to lack the explosive offense that they have been known for with Aaron Rodgers under center. Granted, they also continue to win football games due to a strong defense that allows the least amount of rushing yards per game. Unfortunately for the Packers, they had to put running back Eddie Lacy on injured reserve. This will make things a little tougher on an offense that has already had its struggles.
In week eight, Green Bay heads to Atlanta for a tough game against the Falcons. Atlanta’s offense has been on a roll this season, but they lost the last game they played. This game may end up depending on who can get the most out of their run game. The Packers running backs will be the “jack of all trades” Ty Montgomery, Don Jackson, and Knile Davis. Montgomery, who is normally a wide receiver, played well last week against the Bears. The Falcons have been able to run the ball well this season in large part to their running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. In this contest however, Tevin Coleman won’t play due to injury. It will be all up to Freeman to carry the load against the Packers elite rush defense. I think this will be a close game but the Falcons will find a way to win with a score of 28-24.
Week nine, Green Bay comes back home to Lambeau field to take on the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have an explosive offense led by quarterback Andrew Luck, but they are not a very good defensive football team. The Packers will win this one with a score of around 30-21.
Green Bay heads to Tennessee in week 10. This will be a battle between a team that runs the ball well (the Titans) and a team that shuts down opposing running backs (the Packers). Tennessee doesn’t excel in many areas other than running the football. The Packers should win this one as well, with the final score being roughly 27-14.
The Bears are the only NFC North team to already be out of playoff contention, unless of course there is some kind of miracle. Quarterback Jay Cutler will be back under center for the Bears in week eight, which depending on who you ask could be good or bad. Most likely if the team’s “back up” quarterback Brian Hoyer didn’t get injured last week then Cutler would have remained on the bench. It will be interesting to see how Cutler performs moving forward.
As already mentioned in the Vikings section of this article, the Bears take on the Vikings week eight. I predicted the Bears will lose this one 21-10.
Chicago gets their bye in week nine.
Week ten the Bears head to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are far from a great football team. With that said however, they are a better team than Chicago. Tampa Bay will win this one 30-17.
Here are the standings based on how I project NFC North teams to perform in the next three weeks:
- Minnesota Viking (7-2) (2-1)
- Green Bay Packers (6-3) (2-1)
- Detroit Lions (6-3) (1-2)
- Chicago Bears (1-8) (1-2)
So looking at those standings, the Detroit Lions will head into week 11 with an opportunity for a playoff run. A big part of whether or not they will be able to pull off either winning the NFC North or grabbing a wild card spot, will depend on the health of the team. If the team can get healthy, especially on the defensive side of the ball, with the way that Mathew Stafford has been playing, this team can compete with anybody.