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NFC North Standings:

1. Detroit Lions 7-2 (2-0)

2. Green Bay Packers 6-3 (3-1)

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

4. Chicago Bears 3-6 (0-2)

Detroit Lions vs Arizona Cardinals (Lions are the underdog at +1.5; over/under 41.5)

After nine games, the Detroit Lions are 7-2 and sit on top of the NFC North.  Week to week the Lions come equipped with the NFL’s best defense and as of last week, they are now reloaded on offense with a healthy Calvin Johnson.  Calvin Johnson returned to action last week recording a touchdown catch and 113 yards receiving.  Matthew Stafford showed his appreciation to Golden Tate, who stepped up in Johnson’s absence.  Tate led the team with 11 receptions and totaled 109 yards receiving. The Lions outlasted a feisty and aggressive Miami Dolphins team and more importantly it seems this is not the Lions team of old.

There is still time for a “Detroit Lions Meltdown,” but with the defense playing like it has and Stafford not folding in the fourth quarter of games, it seems Detroit may finally “get it.”

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This week Detroit rolls into Arizona to face the Cardinals in what will be a battle between the two teams with the best records in the NFC.  The Cardinals are 8-1 and have done so under head coach Bruce Arians who may be the best coach in the NFL for the last three years. Arizona lost their quarterback Carson Palmer last week for the rest of the season due to an ACL tear last Sunday, and have handed the keys over to Drew Stanton.  Stanton came into last week’s game after Palmer went down and right away threw a long touchdown pass to rookie John Brown.  Arizona’s defense is no slouch as well and proved it with two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the Rams away for good.

Although Drew Stanton played well when his number was called earlier this year, it is going to be hard to find folks who still believe in Arizona moving forward.  You can never count Arians out of any game as he prepares as well as anyone in the game but they are only the (slight) favorite in this match up because the game is being played in Arizona.  This is a test for both teams.  Detroit’s wideouts Johnson and Tate will be matched up against one of the best cover corner tandems in the league with Arizona’s Patrick Peterson and Dominic Rodgers Cromartie.  Detroit’s running game hasn’t really lifted off in recent weeks and Andrew Ellington of the Cardinals will have his hands full running against this Detroit defensive front.

Game Prediction: Arizona 15, Detroit 14;  Better’s Pick: the Under

Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears (Vikings are the underdog at +3.5; over/under 47)

After two embarrassing loses by the Chicago Bears in which they gave up over 50 points to the Patriots and Packers in back to back weeks, there is good news and bad news in Chicago.  The Good News: Nobody lost their job.  The Bad News: Nobody lost their job.  It seems that the Chicago brass is willing to let this season ride out and let the chips fall where they may, while currently the Bears have fallen into last place in the NFC North.  To say the Bears have fallen short of expectations is an understatement.  The Bears defense gives up the fifth most passing yards a game and gives up an NFL worse, 30.8 points per game.  Last year this offense was a tenth of a point shy of averaging thirty points a game and this year  average 21.6.

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At least for Minnesota, they weren’t expected to do much, so at this point being third in the division with four wins can be considered over-achieving.  Norv Turner’s offense has been averaging less than 20 points a game, but in their last game verse the Redskins they put up 29 points (they scored 33 points in their three prior games combined).

There is really nothing to see here as the Chicago Bears have become a train wreck of a team / franchise.  Jay Cutler’s confidence seems completely shot, and the team’s confidence in each other and their coaching staff has become non-existent.  The Vikings are a young team who see a mentally destroyed division opponent in their path and are looking to make a statement within this division.  A victory for the Bears would be not giving up 50 points, but self inflicted mistakes will keep this young Vikings team in the game all four quarters.

Game Prediction: Vikings 19, Bears 21; Better’s Pick: Vikings

Green Bay Packers vs Philadelphia Eagles (Packers are the favorite at -4.5; over/under: 57)

On Sunday night, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were trying to hold a practice on the field and the Bears were just in their way.  On Monday night, the same could be said for the Eagles, who were running defensive and offensive drills against the Carolina Panthers.

Both teams are coming off impressive prime time wins and now play a game that could figure into the wildcard/playoff picture.

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The Eagles, led by head coach, Chip Kelly – go into Green Bay and hope that back up quarterback Mark Sanchez’ confidence will continue to roll as they hit the road.  Mark Sanchez has gotten a bad rap for the most of his young career.  Some would say that his situation was just “unfortunate” to say the least, but for any negativity thrown his way, Sanchez has won four road playoff games and helped bring the New York Jets to two AFC Championships.  Now, Sanchez is in a system in which the offensive talent around him is one of the best a quarterback can ask for.  On Monday night against the Carolina Panthers, the offensive line gave Sanchez an eternity of time in the pocket and his arm looked as lively as it’s ever been.  Sanchez completed only 54% of his passes, but threw for over 300  yards and two touchdowns (first time he’s completed that feat in his career).

The Packers and Aaron Rodgers are always going to be a tough out for anyone because of the offensive game plan, but can their weaknesses be exploited by the Eagles?

Jordy Nelson is having a terrific season and has solidified his spot in the league as a top 10 wide receiver and he is going against a secondary that takes a lot of gambles on the ball and has improved week to week.  Nelson is an exceptional route runner who will find holes in the secondary, but expect Nelson to be more effective on in routes and slants than deep posts.  This is because the Eagles blitz and blitz and blitz on defense.  Aaron Rodgers won’t have the luxury of sitting and moving in the pocket with ease as he did against the Bears because the Eagles defense bring one of the more unpredictable blitz packages in the league.

The Packers offensive line will be under fire all game, and considering the running game has been a disappointment so far this year, the Packers may find themselves in a situation where the passing game won’t be enough.

The line is at -4.5 because the Packers just had a huge win on prime time and are at home against a team who is starting a back up quarterback.  This game would be a pick, or even have the Eagles at a slight favorite if it was at a neutral site.

Game Prediction: Eagles 29, Packers 18;  Better’s Pick: The Eagles

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

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