NFC North Standings

1. Detroit Lions 6-2 (2-0)

2. Green Bay Packers 5-3 (2-1)

3. Minnesota Vikings 4-5 (0-2)

4. Chicago Bears 3-5 (0-1)

Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers (Packers are the favorite at -7.5; over/under:53.5)

These two teams met each other back on September 28th and what resulted in a 38-17 win for the Packers which in turn, was an embarrassing home loss for the Bears.  The paths for both teams have gone in different directions since then.  The Packers have gone 3-1 and the Bears have gone 1-3 since the late September meeting.

The Packers have been relying heavily on Aaron Rodgers and his quarterback rating of 113.6 which currently leads the NFL.  Though Rodgers is a master under center, some credit must be given to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who is having one of his best seasons.  Before the season started, Nelson signed a four year extension worth $39 million, his 50 receptions with 737 yards receiving are proving to be worth the investment so far in 2014.

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The fact that the Packers can throw the ball doesn’t surprise anyone, but because of a disappointing first half of the season from running back Eddie Lacy, they’ve had to air it out more than they’ve liked.  The sophomore back was expected to vault himself into a “top 5 back” conversation this year, but averaging 53.5 yards a game is not what the Green Bay brass had envisioned.  It all might not be Lacy’s fault though.  The Green Bay offensive line is ranked 20th in run efficiency and 23rd in pass efficiency, according to footballoutsiders.com.  Aaron Roders has already been sacked 20 times this season and the offensive line has been stuffed at the line for 18% of their plays.

Luckily for the Packers, the Chicago Bears defense is giving up 27.8 points a game and has a revolving door of mediocrity at the line backer position.  The off-season signing of Lamaar Houston has turned out to be a tragic one, as Houston was a non-factor for the defense all year.  Adding to the disappointment Houston has been, he ruptured his ACL while celebrating a sack on New England’s back up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo while the Bears were trailing by more than 3 scores in the fourth quarter.  As the kids on social media would say “SMH.”

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Although the defense has been a point of frustration, so has the play of quarterback Jay Cutler.  It’s quite simple with Cutler: In games he doesn’t throw an interception, the Bears win; In games where he throws an interception, the Bears lose.  The problem isn’t  one interception in a game.  It’s usually multiple and an occasional lost fumble as well. The play-calling has been a bit head scratching as well, especially from a head coach who many previously perceived as an offensive-genius.

The overall feel of the Chicago Bears is a team that lacks leadership and even lacks respect for head coach Marc Trestman.  Wide receiver Brandon Marshall hinted at small groups “forming” in the locker room and a lot of guys not being happy with the team’s current 3-5 record.  This game is a must-win for Chicago, who follow this game with two home games against the Vikings and the Bucs.  If the Bears have six losses, two of them being to Green Bay, before playing Detroit on Thanksgiving Day – it will be a long December for Chicago.

Prediction: Green Bay 26, Chicago 20;  Better’s Pick: Chicago +7.5

Detroit Lions vs Miami Dolphins (Lions are the favorite at -3; over/under 43.5)

Detroit and Miami present an interesting match up for the NFL weekend.  Not many saw Miami having five wins by mid season and not many thought the Lions’ strong point this year would be their defense and not their offense.

Credit should be given to a Detroit team that has had to deal with injuries to two of their biggest weapons on offense, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush.  Both will return this week and they both will be needed against a Dolphins defense is one of the stingiest this year.  Quarterback Matthew Stafford might have benefited from the absence of Johnson and Bush, because he has found a chemistry working with free agent acquisition Golden Tate.  In Detroit’s last two games, Tate has totaled over 300 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

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Detroit’s defense is tops in the NFL, only giving up 15.8 points and 290 yards a game.  Unlike Detroit though, Miami does not have the fire power on offense to go toe-to-toe with the Lions defensive unit.  Miami’s offense has over-achieved against less than stellar defensive competition in the last month (Chicago, Oakland, Jacksonville and a San Diego team that traveled from San Diego to Miami and had to play a 1 o’clock game).  Miami has tried using quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s speed and athleticism to their advantage by working designed runs and option plays with him.  If Miami gets too cute with play calling they’ll probably end up getting Tannehill hurt.

Detroit’s defense is aggressive and for the first time in over a month the offense is back together in one piece.  It might be ugly for a while, but Detroit pulls away ultimately.

Prediction: Detroit 24, Miami 13; Better’s Pick: Detroit

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

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