NFC North Standings:
1. Detroit Lions (2-1)
2. Chicago Bears (2-1)
3. Green Bay Packers (1-2)
4. Minnesota Vikings (1-2)
Minnesota Vikings vs Atlanta Falcons (Vikings are underdog at +3; over/under 46.5)
The Minnesota Vikings return home after putting up a good fight in their loss to New Orleans last Sunday to welcome in the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons (2-1) are equipped with quarterback Matt Ryan and the best passing attack in the NFL. After three games, Matt Ryan has a quarterback rating of 105.1 which is a far cry from last year where he hit a career low rating of 89.6. A lot of why Ryan is putting up better numbers is the return of a healthy Julio Jones. The athletic wideout is averaging 16 yards per reception and is in early pro bowl form.
The Vikings have without a doubt one of the biggest distractions off the field, but on the field it seems that the Norv Turner offense has yet to find it’s footing. The Vikings passing attack is next to last in the league and their rushing attack ranks at the bottom third of the league as well. The running game might be able to find some stability against a Falcons defense that isn’t really strong in the trenches but all eyes won’t be on the running game – it will be on rookie Teddy Bridgewater and the passing game. Bridgewater gets his first official start due to an injury last week to quarterback Matt Cassel. Second year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was expected to have a break out year and although he leads the Vikings in both rushing and receiving yards, 95 and 143 respectively, those aren’t impressive numbers after three games.
The Falcons will score, it’s all about the Vikings playing catch-up for the most part. The offense needs to run through Patterson exclusively in order to stand a chance, but even then the chances look very slim for Vikings.
Prediction: Falcons 31, Vikings 17; Better’s pick Falcons and the Over
Detroit Lions vs New York Jets (Detroit is the favorite at -1.5, over/under 45)
The New York Jets are seemingly running an “NFC North Gauntlet” after giving up a lead to Green Bay and fumbling through a second half of mis-steps against Chicago, the Detroit Lions are hoping to capitalize off of the trend. Funny thing is, Detroit is not known for being the most disciplined team in the league, so will they be able to capitalize on what’s becoming a comedy of errors with the Jets?
Detroit’s defense was able to ground Green Bay’s aerial assault and they were also able to bury the running game. Truth is, Detroit had chances to break away from Green Bay but lacked that “killer instinct,” to do so. Detroit was supposed to be a ‘scoring machine’ with the new offensive weapons added (rookie tight end Eric Ebron and wide receiver Golden Tate) and new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, but only put up 7 points against a good defense in Carolina and of their 19 points scored against Green Bay only 7 were scored by the offense.
After a nationally televised home loss, the Jets will look to defend their home turf with a sense of wounded pride. The Jets offense is one of the most head scratching to watch and it starts with quarterback Geno Smith. His inconsistent decision making puts all the pressure on this defense, who bolsters one of the NFL’s best defensive fronts in the league. Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system is in a struggle and will not be able to “learn on the fly” against a Jets defense that is stingy against the run and can get pressure on the quarterback without blitzing their linebackers.
This game will come down to which teams makes the least amount of mistakes. Pick your poison.
Predicted Score: Jets 14 Detroit 13; Better’s Pick: the Under
Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers (Bears are underdog at +1.5, over/under 49)
Soldier Field is the setting for one of the NFL’s most famous rivalries. At the moment the Chicago Bears lead this rivalry at a record of 93-89-6.
Both teams will look to get help from their running games which at this point have been nearly non-existent. After three weeks,Packers running back Eddie Lacy has 113 rushing yards, while Chicago’s Matt Forte hasn’t been much better, totaling 136 rushing yards so far this season. Lacy may have the harder time getting on the right path considering the Bears run defense has shown improvement in back to back weeks against San Francisco and the New York Jets, while Green Bay is tied for the NFL lead in rushing touchdowns allowed (5) and as a unit are allowing 156 yards on the ground.
While both backs need to pick it up, the passing games of both teams will be the focal point of this game. Jay Cutler has had a good a start to the season averaging 250 yards a game with 8 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions thrown. Cutler has cut down his “forcing the throw” tendencies and has exhibited great footwork when in the pocket. Of course he is going against Aaron Rodgers who has had a slow start to his season.
The Bears’ Brandon Marshall has been battling an ankle injury over the last two weeks and will most likely be light all week in practice and have a shot against a Packers secondary that, on average, don’t allow more than 250 passing yards a game. The last time these two teams played it was for all the marbles, and a late touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb, sealed the fate of the Chicago Bears’ season as the Packers won the NFC North and with that, a trip to the post-season. In this rivalry, stats and records mean very little – expect special teams to play a big part in this game as it should be a close one.
Predicted Score: Bears 27, Packers 24; Better’s Pick: The Over