NFC North Standings
1. Green Bay Packers 3-2 (2-1)
2. Detroit Lions 3-2 (1-0)
3. Chicago Bears 2-3 (0-1)
4. Minnesota Vikings 2-3 (0-1)
Green Bay Packers vs Miami Dolphins (Green Bay is the favorite at -3; over/under: 49)
It seems that after quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the Green Bay faithful to “R-E-L-A-X,” the Packers have got some of their “mojo” back. The Packers’ last two games were against divisional foes the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers beat both teams with a combined score of 80-27. In those two games, Rodgers has thrown at about a 75% completion rate and has tossed six touchdowns. Even running back Eddie Lacy showed signs of a pulse last week, rushing for 2 touchdowns and 105 yards.
Green Bay’s rush defense was a big reason for concern while matched up against the Vikings, but the Packers D Line helped keep both young Vikings’ backs combined for under a hundred rushing yards. As the Packers fly into Miami for their week 6 match up against the Dolphins, things don’t necessarily become harder for the Pack.
The Miami Dolphins are still a team caught in what seems to be a 4 year transition. The doubt is settling in on quarterback Ryan Tannehill being the long term answer, and they’ve been without their running back Knowshon Moreno since week three. Lamar Miller has been filling in for Moreno and although he has two lost fumbles, he has averaged 5.7 yards a carry. All signs are pointing to Moreno coming back this week which will be a huge help, not just to the running game, but in the passing game as well. Moreno’s return will be more than welcoming to a struggling Ryan Tannehill, who lacks the time behind this offensive line to even attempt the deep ball – so expect “check-downs-a-plenty” in the direction of Knowshon.
Miami has one of the league’s best pass rushers in Cameron Wake, but even Wake will find out how elusive and elite the footwork of Aaron Rodgers can be, even while playing behind an offensive line that isn’t playing to his standards.
Prediction: Green Bay 34, Miami 17; Better’s Pick: the Over
Chicago Bears vs Atlanta Falcons (Bears are the underdog at +3; over/under: 53.5)
The Bears go into Atlanta and it must feel like they are looking into a mirror. Both teams have high-powered offenses with a great one-two punch at the receiver position and both teams have defenses that leave their respective fan-bases shaking their heads.
For the Bears, it was supposed to be different. The additions along the front line of Jared Allen, Willie Young and Lamaar Houston were supposed to have an immediate positive impact but it just looks like a slight upgrade from what they had last season. The Bears have now dropped two games in a row in which they came out flat in the second half. Jay Cutler has even displayed some of the “Bad Jay Cutler” antics we all thought were behind him in Trestman’s system. The Bears need to rack up wins after gift-wrapping games they could’ve won (week one against Buffalo, and last week against Carolina).
Defensively Atlanta ranks at the bottom third of the league, while Chicago is somewhere between the bottom third and slightly mediocre. . . There is no doubt both teams will have the opportunity to do damage to the other’s defense whether through the air or the ground. The Bears have a slight advantage in that they do possess the previously-mentioned pass rushers and an offensive line, that even through injuries has held up pretty well. If Cutler can go back to being the 250 yards, 2 touchdown, 0 interceptions guy – the Bears should have the advantage. Even if the Bears minimize the turnovers and play good defense one should still expect Atlanta to put up their share of points on the scoreboard.
They may be mirror images of each other, and if so, it will be a battle of two 2-3 teams who will fight desperately to get their squads to a .500 record.
Prediction: Chicago 35, Atlanta 32; Better’s Pick: the Bears +3
Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings (no line as of Tuesday, October 7th)
The Detroit Lions obviously didn’t watch tape of the Bears in week one. If they did, they would’ve learned a lesson from the Bears. That lesson being “Don’t let the Bills hang around – you’ll regret it in the end.” Detroit had a 14-3 lead at halftime and then gave up 14 unanswered to the Bills. Aside from the defensive lapses in the game against Buffalo the bigger story is the absence of wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson has been trying to recover from an ankle injury and he has only caught three passes for 19 yards in his last two games.
Matthew Stafford without Calvin Johnson is an “average-at-best” quarterback. To be fair though, the entire offense takes a hit without Megatron in the line-up. He attracts double teams, is an able blocker in the running game and most importantly is Matthew Stafford’s security blanket. With reports now saying that Johnson is sitting this week against the Vikings, this can be a prime time for Minnesota to take advantage.
The NFC North is still up for grabs and considering the chaos that has inhabited the Vikings, give them credit for still being very much in the mix.
Teddy Bridgewater by all accounts, should be good to go against the Lions, this Sunday, and if not then Vikings fans must unwillingly rally behind Christian Ponder, once more. Against the Packers last Thursday, Ponder pretty much put to rest any notion that he may still have a chance to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Ponder finished the game being sacked six times, threw two interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 45.8.
Maybe THIS is the week the Vikings decide to use Cordarrelle Patterson as something more than a decoy. Patterson voiced his frustrations after last week and maybe this will force the ball his way. After five weeks of games, the Lions have one of the best defenses in the league, so it’s time for the Vikings to get a little more creative on offense – no matter who starts at quarterback this week.
Prediction: Detroit 18, Vikings 10; Better’s Pick: whatever the under is