NFC North Standings:
1. Detroit Lions 4-2 (2-0)
2. Green Bay Packers 4-2 (2-1)
3. Chicago Bears 3-3 (0-1)
4. Minnesota Vikings 2-4 (0-2)
Minnesota Vikings vs Buffalo Bills (Vikings are the underdog at +5.5, over/under: 42.5)
The Minnesota Vikings proved last week that this offense is definitely a work in progress, no matter who plays quarterback. The Vikings lost 17-3 to Detroit last week and in the process the Lions defense gave rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a taste of reality. Bridgewater may have a bright future ahead of him, and if he does, he needs to learn how to get over performances like he had last Sunday. Bridgewater finished the day being sacked 8 times, throwing 3 interceptions and completing 23 of 37 passes at an average of 5.1 yards an attempt.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner couldn’t get much from his running game last week and the story on Cordarrelle Patterson is that his lack of touches is a result from him not understanding the playbook correctly. Nothing is going right in Minnesota at the moment and now they go against another team in Buffalo, who knows how to get to the quarterback and stop the run. The Bills are second in the league with 19 sacks and number one in the league in rush defense only allowing 67.5 yards per game.
This game should be another low scoring Vikings affair. Minnesota will become one dimensional early in the game while Buffalo will find success against this run defense which will leave for a lot of one-on-one coverages for the young wideouts Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods.
Prediction: Buffalo 20, Minnesota 13; Better’s Pick: the Under
Green Bay Packers vs Carolina Panthers (Packers are the favorite at -7, over/under 49)
The Green Bay Packers are 4-2 after six weeks and are hoping that the NFL notion of being a “pass-happy” league will hold true for their sake. In a “pass-happy” NFL, the Packers’ last ranked rush defense which allows 154.5 yards a game and it’s 94.8 yards of rushing offense per game, wouldn’t seem so important. Their offense was supposed to display a more balanced approach this season, thanks to second year running back Eddie Lacy but so far, that hasn’t been the case. Lacy averaged a little over 50 yards a game while rushing for under 4 yards a carry. To the Packers credit they are trying to be consistent with a running game and Lacy’s 80 carries thus far prove that.
Green Bay welcomes in a Carolina Panthers defense that is a far cry from last year’s team. The Panthers are giving up over 390 yards a game on defense, which is only about 20 yards more than what Green Bay is giving up, but Green Bay has an aerial attack, where the Panthers have Cam Newton, a wish and a prayer.
Although Newton has been hampered by injuries this season limiting his mobility, his pocket awareness and accuracy have improved because of this. In the long run, Cam not having mobility for one season may actually make him a better quarterback down the line but currently the offense is a mess. Carolina is one of the few teams in the league that cannot take advantage of this Green Bay run defense which will force Cam to go early and often into the secondary of Green Bay’s defense which is their clear strength.
Expect Aaron Rodgers who currently has a touchdown-interception ratio of 15:1 to have his way with Carolina and continue to put up numbers for an MVP caliber season.
Prediction: Green Bay 38, Panthers 14; Better’s Pick: Green Bay
Chicago Bears vs Miami Dolphins (Bears are the favorite at -3, over/under 49)
It’s hard to believe, but the Bears are 3-3 and yet to win a game at home. They hope to change that as they welcome in the Miami Dolphins who’s lost last week to Green Bay included back to back plays of a fake spike followed by a touchdown pass – courtesy of Aaron Rodgers.
The Miami Dolphins have been without their number one back Knowshon Moreno for most of the season, but news came out today that Moreno will be out for the remainder of the season due to an ACL injury which means the load will remain on Lamar Miller who brings along with his 3 rushing touchdowns, his three lost fumbles. Wide receiver Mike Wallace has fumbled twice and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has thrown 5 interceptions and has fumbled twice himself. Why, this sudden obsession with fumbles? The Chicago Bears are now two seasons removed from coach Lovie Smith, but one thing that has remained from Smith is the art of stripping the ball. Bears rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller, seems to be learning from the sideline coaching he’s receiving from the injured veteran, Charles Tillman. Fuller has already forced 3 fumbles and has 3 interceptions this season – and just for good measure, the rookie is leading all Bears defensive players in tackles with 50.
Last week Jay Cutler came under heavy criticism for his poor decision making in the pocket and he responded by having one of the best passing performances of his career. Cutler seized the opportunity against a week Atlanta Falcons defense and threw for 381 yards. For the first time this season Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall both had over 100 yards receiving and seemed to resembled the fearsome wideout tandem that dominated all of last year. Matt Forte got off to a slow start this season but in the last two weeks has picked up his play considerably. This week though – his blocking, not his receiving or rushing will be key for this Bears offense as they go up against an underrated Miami Dolphins defense.
Bears’ defensive end Willie Young was the defensive signing that received the least hype, but he is turning out to be their biggest threat off the line of scrimmage. Young has 7 sacks this season and has been playing well against the outside run, which will be key because Lamar Miller is the kind of back that wants to work in open space rather than run up the middle.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Miami 17; Better’s Pick: “Da Bears”
Detroit Lions vs New Orleans Saints (Lions are the favorite at -3; over/under 48.5)
Last Sunday, the Lions played without star wide receiver Calvin Johnson and they muscled their way to 17-3 win over the Vikings. Matthew Stafford had some struggles during the game, but lucky for him, the Vikings are a struggle all their own. . .
Unfortunately for Stafford and the Lions, it looks like “Megatron” will sit this one out as well, but they will have running back Reggie Bush back in the lineup who gets to go against his former team, the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints are so far one of the more disappointing teams this year. Quarterback Drew Brees and his band of Gold and Black were considered by most to be an NFC favorite but have looked nothing short of flat, on both sides of the ball. The Saints still air out the ball to the tune of 314 yards per game, but Drew Brees has uncharacteristically thrown 6 interceptions already. This week Brees is without his top target, tight-end Jimmy Graham, so expect him to rely on Marquis Coltson and rookie Brandin Cooks to carry the load. The problem with that is Detroit’s defense unit allows under 200 passing yards a game and now that they don’t have to worry about Brees’ top target, things can possibly get worse for the Saints.
Matthew Stafford will rely a lot on his two backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to carry the load against a Saints defense that allows over 110 yards on the ground per game. Stafford has to have more trust in his rookie tight end Eric Ebron and free agent signing Golden Tate, to establish this passing attack in Calvin Johnson’s absence. Johnson may be gone till week 10 so it’s time for Stafford to act like the quarterback he’s being paid to be.
Prediction: Lions 17, Saints 14; Better’s Pick : the under