The Bears won on Thursday, the Lions and Packers won yesterday and the Vikings dropped a home game to the Carolina Panthers. That's the short of it.
However, there is always much more than what's on the surface. The NFC North is one of the better (arguably the best) division in the NFL right now. The Lions, Bears and Packers (Sorry, Vikings fans), have been beating up on one another through the first six weeks of the season, making each division game mean that much more when they start happening more frequently toward the end of the season.
I'll do a quick recap of each team's Week 6 game and then look ahead to their next game and I'll bring it all back to the Bears and when they face Chicago next.
We'll go in alphabetical order, beginning with the beloved:
Week 6: W - 27-21 over the New York Giants
Next: At Washington Sunday (1-4 coming off a 31-16 loss to the Cowboys)
Division Standing: Second, division record is 1-1
Analysis: This week the Bears held off a bad Giants team at home on a short week. While many expected a blowout, the short week could have caused the team to be less prepared. The 20th ranked defense (in terms of yards per game) is injury-depleted right now, especially along the line, the 11th ranked offense is definitely a switch from what fans are used to but they still can't seem to score consistently and at will.
Outlook: Good. The Bears get 10 days off before going to Washington and facing RGIII and a struggling Redskins squad, they then get the bye week and 12 days off to prepare for their next division game against the Green Bay Packers. That game is followed by the second game against Detroit. Believe it or not the Bears have scored the most touchdowns in the division and have scored the most total points (172) as well. Now they have a chance to get a little more healthy and get the back ups prepared for the second half of the season. Coming off the bye they'll have a chance to put a major stake into the division race.
Week 6: W - 31-17 over the Cleveland Browns
Division Standing: First, 2-1 division record
Analysis: Yesterday the Lions came from 10 points behind (17-7 at the half) to score 24 second-half points to beat the frisky Browns 31-17. In terms of yards per game, the Lions have the ninth ranked offense and the 25th ranked defense. The team has struggled at times since Calvin Johnson was injured but have plenty of weapons, especially Reggie Bush.
Outlook: Very good. This team is in the drivers seat for the division right now, having the wins over the Bears and Vikings gives them the early tiebreaker. However, to stay in control they'll need to beat the Bears on the road when they come off their bye in just under a month. A week 13 home rematch against Green Bay really gives them a chance to put a stamp on the division with over a month to go. Through six weeks the Lions have outscored opponents by a total of 22 points and they are +5 in the turnover margin.
Green Bay Packers
Week 6: W - 19-17 over the Baltimore Ravens
Next: Vs. Cleveland Browns Sunday (3-3, coming off a 31-17 loss to Detroit)
Division Standing: Third, 1-0 division record
Analysis: The Packers played sloppy game against the Ravens committing eight penalties, getting sacked three times and turning the ball over twice but they still got their first road win of the season. Despite losing James Jones and Randall Cobb, Rodgers overcame the early pressure and the defense held the Ravens in check and allowed the Packers to earn a W. They are only third in the division by virtue of having played one division game and their early bye week.
Outlook: Good. The Packers have played only one divisional game and they won, beating the division-leading Lions, which puts the Pack in a good place with two more divisional games on the horizon after Cleveland. They travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings in two weeks before turning around and hosting the Bears on Monday Nigh Football. The Packers have scored only 14 total touchdowns but they have the second ranked offense and 18th ranked defense. They are a dangerous team working through injuries and it's still far too early to take them out of the race yet. Their outlook could easily turn to "very good" or "great" over the next month.
Week 6: L - 35-10 to the Carolina Panthers
Next: At New York Giants on Monday (0-6 coming off a 27-21 loss to Chicago)
Division Standing: Fourth, 0-2 division record
Analysis: The Vikings dropped a home game to the Panthers who are struggling in their own right and who may or may not be already searching for their next head coach. The Vikings were never in this one, trailing at halftime 14-3. The Vikings allowed Cam Newton to go wild, completing 20 of 26 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 30 yards and another score. Adrian Peterson was held in check and with the quick Carolina lead, the Vikings were forced to have Matt Cassel throw the ball 44 times.
Outlook: Poor. With a three game deficit to the division leaders and a two-game hole inside the division already, it's hard to see the Vikings climbing out of the funk they are in. The media and fans alike are already starting to look forward to seeing the newly signed Josh Freeman on the field, possibly as soon as Monday. All of his issues aside, he could certainly give them a better chance to win over Christian Ponder and Cassel but how much? He hasn't completed 50% of his passes. The Vikings offense ranks 19th and their defense ranks 31st and they have been outscored by opponents by 33 points.
The next month is really going to go a long way in determining the division. Three teams all have a chance to win the division and it's super close even now. Detroit is in the early drivers seat but could easily be taken over by the Bears or the Packers. The NFC North is the only division with three teams having only two losses. The Bears, Packers and Lions all have their flaws but all have shown flashes of what they can be.
It's going to be an exciting finish for the black and blue division and it's certainly going to live up to it's name as the three teams vie for the division crown.
How do you like the Bears chances at winning the North?