Is The Landscape Changing In The NFC North?

I don't think anyone, at the beginning of the season, would have predicted the NFC North would look the way it does after five weeks of play. For me, it is an example of what makes football so special. A team can go from rags to riches in less than a year, and of course, the opposite is also true. Only yesterday I heard someone on a podcast say they thought the Indianapolis Colts could scrape into the playoffs. And I agree with them. That's how quickly things can turn round.

So what of the NFC North? Let's take a look at how the land lays at the moment and whether this points to a shift in power in what still remains a tough division.

NFC North Team W L T Pct PF PA Net Pts TD Home Road Div Pct Conf Pct Non-Conf Streak Last 5
Minnesota Vikings 4 1 0 .800 120 79 41 12 3-0 1-1 1-0 1.000 2-0 1.000 2-1 3W 4-1
Chicago Bears 4 1 0 .800 149 71 78 17 2-0 2-1 0-1 .000 2-1 .667 2-0 3W 4-1
Green Bay Packers 2 3 0 .400 112 111 1 14 2-1 0-2 1-0 1.000 2-2 .500 0-1 1L 2-3
Detroit Lions 1 3 0 .250 100 114 -14 9 1-1 0-2 0-1 .000 1-2 .333 0-1 3L

1-3

Minnesota Vikings

Surprisingly, the Vikings' only loss this year came against the Colts in a match-up they should probably have won. As it stands they top the division (along with Chicago) with a 4-1 record.

Quarterback Christian Ponder has been playing well, or at least not playing poorly, and star running back Adrian Peterson seems fully recovered from his ACL tear that he suffered last year.

The Vikings defense is good against the run and pretty decent when stopping opponent's passing games as well.

Going forward, their schedule begins to get a bit tougher with games against Houston and Arizona coming up, as well as more match-ups with NFC North opponents.

My prediction for their final regular season record: 8-8

Chicago Bears

The Bears' only defeat this season came against Green Bay and have otherwise looked good as they have beaten the Colts, Rams, Cowboys and most recently the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Their defense has been excellent and I think it's time to point out that Bears linebacker Lance Briggs has scored more touchdowns than Titans running back Chris Johnson.

The Bears have shown how dangerous they can be on offense with Brandon Marshall having a couple of big games and Matt Forte showing some of the reasons the Bears gave him the contract extension.

Going forward they look to be without rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery who could miss up to six weeks with a fractured hand. Hopefully a returning Earl Bennett can step in and fill the void.

The Bears have the Texans and the 49ers on their schedule and those will be tough games, but I see them being competitive in all their remaining matches.

My prediction for their final regular season record: 11-5

Green Bay Packers

One of the most surprising things this season is the record of the Packers after five games. Yes, you could argue that things might be different had the replacement officials not screwed up the call against the Seahawks as was alleged. But a loss is a loss and they lost to Seattle. Get over it.

Even with the addition of former Bear Cedric Benson (who is now injured), Green Bay's running game continues to falter. They are 20th in the league in rushing yards and are perhaps beginning to realise they need more than just Aaron Rodgers to be victorious.

The Packers have suffered injuries with receiver Greg Jennings missing a a game and possibly more to follow, but they have enough weapons for this not to pose a problem. WR Jordy Nelson has just one touchdown reception, even though he leads the team with 23 receptions.

You could argue that they have faced tough opponents in the first five games, but that does not get reflected in the win-loss column, unfortunately.

My prediction for their final regular season record: 10-6

Detroit Lions

The Lions have played one less game than everyone else as they have already had their bye week. But nonetheless, their record stands at a disappointing 1-3.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is 19th in the NFL with a passer rating of 81.6 and has only thrown three touchdown passes. Matt Cassel, Blaine Gabbert and Brandon Weeden are among the players who have thrown more TDs than Stafford this season.

The Lions QB has not been helped out by the rest of his team. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson only has one touchdown reception although he has averaged over 100 yards receiving per game.

They are 24th in the league in rushing yards with just 90.3 per game. The duties have been split between Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith, and neither has really lit things up.

Their defense is good against both the pass and the run, and this might be the only thing that gives them a chance of winning some of their remaining games.

My prediction for their final regular season record: 3-13 (sorry Lions fans!)

I can see the NFC North coming down to the wire, but I believe that only two teams will be in the running come the end of the regular season. While Minnesota has been good and have played some strong football, I envisage them running out of steam as the season moves forward.

Unless things go disastrously wrong, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears will be the ones fighting it out for the division. So, nothing new there then? But the Vikings have shown enough to suggest they are on the rise, but perhaps the Lions have not progressed as much as we thought they had.

But this unpredictability is just one of the reasons why I love this game.

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