The State of the NFC North
It’s nearly the halfway point of the season, and it’s getting easier to see where the chips are falling in 2009. Let’s take a look at where the roughest division in football is.
Let’s start with the Chicago Bears.
I remember reading an article on this very site suggesting that this was the year of the Bear. All of the Bear fans jumped on board the bus and screamed that this was the team that was so much better than the 1985 Bears and would take them all to the promise land… and then the regular season started. Beat by Green Bay in game one. A win over the Steelers by a field goal, a win over the Seahawks by 2 field goals, and then doubling up the Detroit Lions at home. All right, I got one foot on the bandwagon.
After their bye week, a touchdown loss on the road at the Atlanta Falcons, and then this week, a huge blowout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. And, as if 45 to 10 weren’t bad enough, one of their castoffs, Cedric Benson, ran for 189 yards against their vaunted defense.
So the Bears are now at 3 and 3, and the Super Bowl talk has simmered down just a tad… but give them another win, and the boasting will begin anew – after all, it IS the Windy City.
Next, the Detroit Lions.
Well, they didn’t lose this week – that’s good. Of course, they didn’t play this week either, but who’s quibbling over little things like that?
So far, I like what I see from the revamped and retooled Lions.
When you sit back and look at what they had last year as compared to what they have this year, you can start to see the changes. A defense that can keep you in games, and an offense that is beginning to stabilize. Unfortunately, they still have horrible special teams, and they are beginning to get the nick-outs, you know, those nicked-up key position players that don’t see the field for extended periods of time. Nick-outs happen to all the bad teams, and there’s been no cure to date.
Still, I can see them possibly getting two more wins over the Rams and the Browns. But the scheduling gods did them no favors this year, so they face a plethora of good teams, and unfortunately, they will be on the wrong side of the road at season’s end.
Onto the Green Bay Packers.
The year has been a yo-yo of sorts. You start with the longest rivalry in the history of the NFL, a home win over the Chicago Bears via a game winning drive in the final minutes. Then, you lose by a touchdown at home to the resurgent Cincinnati Bengals. You follow that with a 19-point road win at St. Louis. Finally, a touchdown loss on the road to the Favre-lead Minnesota Vikings.
After the bye week, the Pack stays at home and shuts out the Lions 26 to 0, followed by a drubbing of Cleveland on the road, 31 to 3.
Along the way there have been huge questions brought up with little bitty answers. What’s with all of the penalties. Will Aaron Rodgers finish the season because of all the sacks he’s been receiving? Who the heck is running the special teams? Stay tuned for these and many more answers all through the season.
Finally, the Minnesota Vikings led by Hall of Famer Brett Favre.
You start with double touchdown wins over Cleveland and lowly Detroit. Follow that up at home with a 3-point victory over San Francisco and a touchdown victory over Green Bay. Then a 28-point victory at St. Louis, and a 2-point victory at home against the Ravens. Despite 334 yards from Brett, the first Viking loss of the year to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Up next: Round 2 of the Favre vs. Thompson debacle at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.
Yes, a win is a win is a win, but, that being said, Minnesota has shown holes and vulnerabilities. Aaron Rodgers and company was in the Vikings red zone three times and came away with nothing because of self-inflicted problems, not because of the Viking defense. Overcome those problems, and that game is a blowout – in Green Bay’s favor!
Same thing with the Pittsburgh game, but it was the Steelers capitalizing on the Minnesota errors. So, is there cracks in the armor of the Vikings? We shall see next week when those same Vikings invade Lambeau Field.
Accordingly, the Vikings are 6 and 1, the Packers are 4 and 2, the Bears are 3 and 3, and the Lions are 1 and 5. This is shaking out just as most pundits did NOT predict. Of course, these so-called experts don’t come from the Midwest, they come from the right or the left coast. They have a tendency to gravitate to right or left coast teams. Meanwhile, we in the heart of America will battle on, confident in our division - The NFC North, but better known as the The Black and Blue Division.
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