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NFC North Standings

1. Green Bay Packers 8-3 (4-1)

2. Detroit Lions 7-4 (2-0)

3. Chicago Bears 5-6 (1-2)

4. Minnesota Vikings 4-7 (0-4)

Chicago Bears vs Detroit Lions (Lions are the favorite at -6.5; over/under 47)

On Thanksgiving Day, the NFL kicks off it’s holidays festivities with this NFC North rivalry.  While the Bears vs Packers rivalry is the most storied rivalry – there is a line of respect between those two franchises.  In recent years though, the Bears vs Lions rivalry has been an intense one, where there is no love loss on either side after every contest.  The Lions are coming off back to back loses to two of the NFL’s stronger teams in the Cardinals and the Patriots, and this week are host to a Bears team that is on a two game winning streak while picking up the pieces to a disappointing season.

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The Bears “woes” have been documented by every football pundit with a voice or opinion for some time now, but in the last two weeks, the Bears have been trying to reclaim some identity and even more importantly, some pride.  An expected name on the Bears roster who has been making a noticeable impact is nickel corner, Demontre Hurst.  The Oklahoma alum went undrafted and after being signed onto the Bears in late September has found his way on the field getting a good number of snaps.  He seems to be that pesky type of corner who doesn’t shy away from contact and is capable of big plays.  Kyle Fuller went down in the second half and filled in admirably.  Admirably being the word of choice because the Bears secondary still gave up 341 yards in the air, but the scoreboard damage was kept to a minimal.  It was the Bears defense that forced the Bucs into turnovers in the second half which led to short scoring drive opportunities for this Bears offense. Stafford gets a pass for whate

The Detroit Lions are in danger of becoming. . . the Detroit Lions.   The team that “can’t get out of it’s own way,” is up to their old tricks again it seems.   When the Lions offense was without wide-receiver Calvin Johnson, the Detroit faithful kept telling themselves “the offense will pick up when Megatron comes back.”  Since the return of the Gridiron Decepticon the Lions have mustered a 6 point effort and a 9 point effort in back to back weeks.  An offense with Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Joique Bell and Eric Ebron led by an offensive minded disciplinary coach in Jim Caldwell, haven’t scored a touchdown in two games.  Who’s to blame?  The easy answer is Jim Caldwell, who has been critically acclaimed for offenses but not exactly for winning. The truth of the matter is: how much can you trust Matthew Stafford?

Stafford’s inability to stay consistent and play well consistently has been the trademark of his career, but most people sweep that under the rug.  His 13 touchdown passes are joined by 10 interceptions, 5 fumbles and one lost fumble on his stat sheet.  Stafford is a tough one to figure out, when his team is ahead by 9-16 points he has a quarterback rating of 50.3 and when his behind by 1-8 points his quarterback rating is 85.6 — those numbers just show that Matt Stafford can keep himself and his opponents in any game.

This one’s a tough call, and the line may be too big to ignore when you have a team losing two in a row, to a team with talent that has won two in a row.

Prediction: Bears 24, Lions 21;  Better’s Pick: Bears +6.5

Green Bay Packers vs New England Patriots (Green Bay is the favorite at -3; over/under: 58.5)

Super Bowl Preview?  Maybe, just maybe.  The NFL is such a week to week league it’s hard to call that in week 13, but these two teams might be the favorites out of their respective conferences at this point. The New England Patriots, are back to their old tricks being – you never know who they will throw at you.  Jonas Gray? Legarrette Blount? Tim Wright?  You just never know who their weapon of choice will be week to week.   One constant defenses do have to worry about is tight end Rob Gronkowski. “The Gronk” has totaled 58 receptions, 812 yards and 9 touchdowns so far this year – and has proven to be just as beastly as ever.  Their isn’t a linebacker who can cover him and their isn’t a safety or corner that can tackle this beast one on one.  A healthy Gronkowski has helped put Tom Brady back in MVP form.  Since the Patriots’ 2-2 start, Brady has thrown for at least 2 touchdowns in every game and is currently just two yards shy of passing the 3000 yard mark.

When talking “MVP” one can’t ignore what Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been doing.  After 11 games, Rodgers has a quarterback rating of 119.3 with video-game-like-numbers of  30 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  Rodgers has been involving all members on the depth chart in the passing game and has things running fluidly in the passing game.  The Packers almost lost to a feisty Vikings team last week, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick must’ve liked what he saw.  The Vikings secondary was playing as physical as they ever had with the Packers receivers, even at times if the aggression took them out of position, they wanted to knock the timing off between Rodgers and his wide outs.  Ultimately, all it did was stall another Packers victory, but the Vikings did it with questionable talent in the secondary.  The Patriots bring one of the better corner back duos in the league with Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis.

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Expect this game to be a chess match more than a shoot-out as both head coaches, Mike McCarthy and Bill Belichick are two of the finest in the league.  Both teams will come out of the gates not wanting to be the first to make a mistake because all it takes is one slip up, for this game to go south for either team.

Prediction: Patriots 26, packers 21    Better’s Pick:  Under 58.5

Minnesota Vikings vs Carolina Panthers (Vikings are the favorite at -3; over/under: 43)

After talking about a rivalry game on Thanksgiving and a possible Super Bowl preview – we have this: Vikings vs Panthers.  Last year’s sweet hearts the Panthers seem to be a team in turmoil. Regardless of what head coach Ron Rivera says, Cam Newton has definitely been playing hurt for most, if not all, of this season, the yearly talks of management not retaining Rivera have started again, and wide receiver Jason Avant has been let go due to a riff between him and the coaching staff.   Cam Newton seems helpless out there on the field and as talented as he is, he is a quarterback that needs help.  Kelvin Benjamin has been a nice addition, but more times than not Benjamin has exemplified a receiver who uses his athleticism not his football i.q. in most situations.  The running game is non-existent behind Newton and this defense is a definite shell of what they were last season.

Sound like a walk down easy street for the Vikings, right?  Wrong.

Teddy Bridgewater has gone through his own share of struggles this year and it’s hard to tell if those struggles are his own or just the team as a whole.  In a surprising move the Vikings picked up recently released Browns running back Ben Tate off of waivers last week.  It was a surprise because there didn’t seem to be a need with the young backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata seemingly not doing terribly this year.  Asiata was sat out this week due to a concussion which made many think Tate would get a few carries behind McKinnon but instead Tate watched from the bench as rookie Joe Banyard got his first carries of his career against the Packers.

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It’ll be a tough call to say the Vikings will come out as intense and motivated against the Panthers as they did against the Packers last week.  The difference in this game is Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (56 receptions, 719 yards, 5 touchdowns) who is trying to put up numbers to get into a much deserved first pro-bowl of his career.

Prediction: Panthers 13, Vikings 10     Betters Pick: Under 43

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

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