NFC North Standings:
1. Detroit Lions 7-3 (2-0)
2. Green Bay 7-3 (3-1)
3. Chicago Bears 4-6 (1-2)
4. Minnesota Vikings 4-6 (0-3)
Detroit Lions vs New England Patriots (Detroit is the underdog at +7; over/under 48)
Remember a few weeks back, we were looking at Detroit and waiting to see if they would be their own worst enemy as the season progressed? Nobody is saying they are at that point yet, but Detroit fans must be getting worried right about now.
Detroit couldn’t get anything going offensively against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and lost 14-6. Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton played a great first quarter and that’s all he needed against this Lions defense. Stanton threw two touchdowns in the first quarter, both to Michael Floyd – while Detroit struggled to get the ball passed the 50 yard line all game long.
The one “bright” spot for Detroit’s offense was running back Joique Bell, who rushed for 85 yards, but that doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t score you points or add some validity to the play action pass.
Detroit now went from facing the best team in the NFC to playing the best team in the AFC, in back to back weeks. Going into New England to face the NFL’s hottest team, the Patriots, will not be an easy task. Detroit still brings one of the more feared defensive units to the table, but no matter how good a defense is – Tom Brady will undoubtably “get his.” The question is: Will Detroit’s offense show up this week?
Matthew Stafford and the boys seem to play peek-a-boo with the scoreboard from week to week – head coach Jim Caldwell, was brought here to maintain order – but also to use his offensive mind to generate a powerhouse offense with the tools at his disposal. Tom Brady is almost throwing at touchdown-interception ratio of 5:1 on the season and what this team has done well is keep every defense guessing each week. A healthy Rob Gronkowski has opened up possibilities downfield for the other wideouts, and he has also been instrumental in helping the running game. This trip to New England is exactly what the Lions don’t need at this point in the season.
Game Prediction: New England 31 Detroit 17; Better’s Pick: Patriots
Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings (Green Bay is the favorite at -9.5; over/under 48.5)
The Green Bay Packers are coming off their second 50 plus point performance in a row, as they made short work of the Philadelphia Eages 53-20. Many thought this game would be a shoot out of sorts, but it turned into another Aaron Rodgers highlight reel. Rodgers finished the game with 3 touchdown tosses and is just cruising on to an MVP caliber season.
The Green Bay defense has proven to be an opportunistic one, and as they keep forcing turnovers and giving the ball to an offense that has become “automatic” to some degree.
The Minnesota Vikings were hoping to catch a dysfunctional Chicago Bears team off guard but ended up playing against the Bears we all thought we would see all season long. The Vikings defense was able to muster a few turnovers, but the Bears love turning the ball over so that’s not much of an accomplishment now-a-days.
This Vikings offense has been a struggle to get going this season, and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been regulated to game-manager duties to try to keep his woeful roster at least competitive during games. They just don’t have the tools week in and week out to score on NFL defenses — or to keep up with the NFL’s elite offenses, which is what they face in against Green Bay.
Green Bay will notch another division win and Aaron Rodgers will put up another 300 yard, 3 touchdown game and probably not even have to play in the fourth quarter. . .again.
Game Prediction: Packers 37, Vikings 10
Chicago Bears vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Chicago is the favorite at -6; over/under 46.5)
The Bears finally won a home game, so there’s that. They also seemed to enjoy playing football for the first time in weeks, so there’s that as well. Baby steps folks.
Sure it took the Bears to week 11 of the NFL to win at Soldier Field, but it was a win they desperately needed – not even for the sake of their season record, but for the sanity of their fans.
The Bears played against the Vikings the way many thought they would all season. Jay Cutler threw for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns, two of those tosses went to his buddy Brandon Marshall and the other went to Alshon Jeffrey who had 135 yards receiving. Defensive end Jared Allen showed some life against his former team racking up five tackles and an early sack in the game.
The Bears try to retain some normalcy in their home as they welcome in a two win Tampa Bay Bucs team.
At the end of the day, these two teams are mathematically still factors in their division, but the story here isn’t the “long shot” hopes of these teams magically getting into the playoff picture – the story here is Lovie Smith coming back to Chicago.
The last time Chicago saw Lovie Smith he coached the Bears to a 10 win season, but fell short of the playoffs – soon after he was fired. Under Lovie Smith, the Bears defense was typically a “top five” unit every year – this season, the Bears defense ranks at the bottom of the league. Lovie will probably be showered with some cheers and applause before kickoff, but soon after will be greeted with the Chicago hospitality that he is used to seeing the opposition receive in the Windy City.
Tampa Bay made short work of the Redskins last week by capitalizing on mistakes made from the quarterback position. Jay Cutler has been prone to mistakes, even on his best days so that’s something to keep an eye on. Tampa Bay’s rookie wide receiver Mike Evans has emerged as the number one option on the team as he’s racked up 100 yard games in his last three weeks and has proven to be a match up nightmare. He and Vincent Jackson should get some looks from quarterback Josh McCown (another former Bear) against a very questionable Bears secondary.
Although the Bucs record is pitiful, the talent on their roster isn’t. Lovie Smith is relishing at this opportunity to stick it to his former team.
Game Prediction: Bears 24 Bucs 21; Better’s Pick: Bucs