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NFC North Week 11 Power Rankings

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2016

NFC North Week 11 Power Rankings

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    I will tell you, after watching the Bears game Monday night, you kind of want to drop them all the way down to fourth.

    That's not how this works, though, even if we have to start wondering if the Vikings have a better shot to beat the Bears at home next week than we thought.

    Still, there was some shifting last week, and with a ton of NFC North games in the next month, there will be even more shifting over the next month or so.

    But let's see where we stand at the end of week 11 before we start trying to look too far ahead.

No. 4 Detroit Lions

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    What a disappointing performance.

    I said early Monday that it killed their playoff chances, and technically that's untrue. Mathematically they can still make the playoffs, but with four divisional losses? I just don't see it.

    Here's the thing though—the defense is actually playing well. They didn't get killed by the Packers, and Nick Fairley had a breakout game.

    It's the offense that is killing them. More specifically, Matt Stafford.

    Sure, Titus Young being a punk hurts, as does the struggling offensive line. However, the biggest issue is Stafford's play.

    Stafford is what gets this offense going, and he isn't doing that. The slow starts are stemming from his inability to get his passes to his receivers on a consistent basis. Sure, he's had issues with receivers dropping balls, but he's also had massive accuracy issues.

    He doesn't look comfortable, confident or decisive, unless he's throwing to Calvin Johnson and even then, it's not pretty.

    What is going on is difficult to say. This is still the guy who threw for 5,000 yards in 2011.

    Something has changed, though, and it's killing this team.

No. 3 Minnesota Vikings

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    Watching the Chicago Bears fold against the 49ers, one wonders if the Vikings might have a very good chance to move up this list after being locked into the third spot for several weeks.

    It depends on which Vikings team shows up. The power-run, solid-tackling team that whupped on the Lions or the bad-tackling, Christian Ponder-mistake plagued guys?

    That game also hinges on the play of the Bears, but putting that aside, this Vikings team has to do a better job of finding ways for Christian Ponder to be involved. It's dangerous against the likes of Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings but at some point, you have to start trusting your quarterback.

    Can the Vikings protect Ponder (and the offense) from himself? The Bears will come hard at Adrian Peterson, and Peterson will go right back at them. However, the Vikings will need to move the ball efficiently in other ways as well.

    Which really is the biggest question here. This is a young team, rebuilding and raw. Can the players remain focused and continue to find ways to win in big games like the next three or are they still too young?

    We'll get a lot of answers in the next three weeks.

No. 2 Chicago Bears

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    Wow. Just, wow.

    Monday night was a debacle on just about every level. We suspected that the offense might struggle, although what we saw Monday night was surprising.

    We didn't expect the horror that was the Bears defense, though.

    I had someone on Twitter tell me that the only reason the Bears defense looked good this season was because they generated turnovers. I disagree and have contended all season that the only reason the turnovers are high is because of the tremendous pressure the front seven supplies.

    There were no turnovers Monday. There was very little pressure.

    The San Francisco 49ers imposed their will on the Bears early and just held them down on both sides of the ball.

    The Bears defense going flat is unusual and unlikely to repeat. That said, we learned how important Jay Cutler is to this offense. The difference between Cutler and Jason Campbell is pronounced.

    One might call it as wide as the Grand Canyon.

    I wasn't sure Campbell would be the guy to carry this team if Cutler went down. I feel even less sure now.

    Two games against the Vikings and one against the Packers are the centerpiece of a very tough stretch to finish the season.

    Right now the Bears have the wrong kind of momentum. They have to be careful it doesn't keep gathering the next few games.

No. 1 Green Bay Packers

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    I wanted to see the Packers react to losing key guys all along the defense.

    They reacted, all right. Boy howdy did they react.

    The Lions are still unsure what hit them.

    I've talked about the "next man up" philosophy the Packers use and how impressed I always am with it.

    It was on full display this weekend as guys like MD Jennings (pick-six), Jerron McMillian (fumble recovery) and Casey Hayward (interception) stepped up to solidify the secondary as the front seven continued to find ways to get at the quarterback despite not having key guys like Clay Matthews.

    Depth wins championships. I'm not crowning the Packers Super Bowl champs yet. Heck, I'm not calling them NFC North champs, even if they always were the favorite.

    Their depth is amazing, though. If they continue to play well on both sides of the ball, they will take this division and have a very good shot to make a run in the playoffs, especially if some of their key players get healthy.

    That's the future, though. For now, they just top the B/R NFC North Power Rankings.

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