NFL Week 9: Previewing the Rest of the NFC North

I mainly focus on covering the Green Bay Packers when it comes to the NFL, and by doing so, I believe that what goes on in the rest of the division is just as important as what goes on with the Packers. I’m not one of those guys who believes you need to beat out the best competition week in and week out (in pro sports more so than college sports) to prove you are worthy of the playoffs, because that is not what matters. All that matters is the standings after Week 17, which is why I root for the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings to lose each week. So, with that in mind, here is a preview of the match-ups these teams will be facing coming out of the gate.

 Sometimes, these three teams either play each other or have a bye week, and in this case, it happens to be both. After a win over the Minnesota Vikings that nobody expected, the Chicago Bears, led once again by veteran Jay Cutler, are going into a bye week. And, the Vikings and Lions get the virtue of meeting up for the first time this season. Meaning there is only one other NFC North game, and it is the Detroit Lions traveling to Minnesota to take on the Vikings.

Imagine if Detroit won this game, and then Green Bay won against Indianapolis. That would put the Lions at 5-4, and the Packers and Vikings both at 5-3, with the Vikings holding the tiebreaker over the Packers. It would turn the North into a bit of a mess.

With the way that both of these teams are trending, one would have to think that the Vikings don’t have as big of an edge over the Lions anymore, especially after the resignation of offensive coordinator Norv Turner.  With or without Turner, the Vikings’ offense is a mess, and (surprise) both sides of the ball are required to be good in order to have a quality team in today’s league. The defense, along with an undermanned offense playing out of its’ mind, managed to squeak through five games, but now, after losses to the Eagles and Bears, the Vikings are reeling fast.

As far as injuries go, both teams are relatively healthy when it comes to active rosters. Outside of linebacker DeAndre Levy, the Lions should have 52 players available. The lack of quality outside linebackers is hurting Detroit, but they are rolling and haven’t needed Levy that bad up to this point in the season. As for the Vikings, guard Alex Boone, running back Jerrick McKinnon, defensive tackles Tom Johnson and Sharrif Floyd and inside linebacker Eric Kendricks did not practice on Wednesday.

Boone, Johnson and Kendricks have concussions, and sometimes those heal up pretty quick, but chances are at least one and probably two will be out. Floyd will likely be out again, too.

The key to this game is going to be the Vikings’ offense against the Lions’ defense. The Vikings have home field advantage, which is helpful at times, but being potentially without three starters on the offensive line and Adrian Peterson, it should have spelled disaster all season. It has finally caught up to them, and Sam Bradford is now back to being Sam Bradford.

When you think of it, outside of the Green Bay game, Stefon Diggs is averaging less than 50 yards per game, and the only other real threats in the passing game are receiver Adam Thielen and veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. If those names don’t scare you, you are not alone. The Vikings defense, even with injuries, is full of talent and could stop this Lions’ offense altogether, but the longer they keep the Lions around, the more likely the defense will let Golden Tate or Marvin Jones slip in for a touchdown.

All of that said, I still like the Vikings in this one. The Lions are very inconsistent, and although Minnesota’s offense has been porous these past two weeks, they should be able to produce something when they get back home. Vikings take this in a low scoring game. Final score: Minnesota 19, Detroit 17.

Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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