1- Minnesota Vikings: 5-0
2- Green Bay Packers: 3-1
3- Detroit Lions: 2-3
4- Chicago Bears: 1-4
The temporary reprieve out of last place was a welcome breather for the Chicago Bears. However, they had no second wind, as after their loss to the Indianapolis Colts and the Detroit Lions’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles, they now dwell in the NFC North basement again.
Who knows when they’ll dig their way out.
Anyway, let’s discuss Super Bowl shop schedule-wise with Minnesota. Then, I’m not letting go any discouraging signs in Green Bay. Finally, somehow the Lions found an opponent to screw up instead of them this time.
Here’s this week’s topsy-turvy NFC North look.
Minnesota Vikings (5-0): Win Vs. Houston Texans, 31-13
I cannot and will not stop gushing about the NFL’s best team every week. Yeah, I said it. The Vikings are the best team in the league. Minnesota is the one team you can poke the least amount of holes in across the entire league. When they’re firing on all cylinders, they will just demolish their opponents like Houston.
An offensive DVOA of 11th overall and defensive DVOA of 3rd overall paints a perfect picture of complimentary football. At this point, it’s an exhausting exercise to talk about everything they do well. They’re the last undefeated team though, so for the first time, let’s predict when they lose their first game.
We’ll start this phenomenon before ESPN does in a month.
- Week 6: BYE WEEK
I think it’s pretty much impossible for Minnesota to somehow lose on it’s off week, but if someone can figure otherwise, let me know.
- Week 7: At Philadelphia Eagles (6-0)
The Eagles are a solidly built team and they look like they’ve found their franchise passer in Carson Wentz, but a rookie quarterback isn’t going to beat this defense. Also, keep an eye out on Sam Bradford’s revenge here.
- Week 8: At Chicago Bears (7-0)
Do you really expect this Bears team to beat Minnesota at it’s own game on Halloween? It’s not like Chicago has some great home field advantage either. Whoever the quarterback is in Brian Hoyer or Jay Cutler, stands a great chance of getting spooked. Moving on.
- Week 9: Vs. Detroit Lions (8-0)
Matthew Stafford is a mistake-prone signal caller at the handle of a flawed offense. The defense can’t stop anyone. No chance of the buck stopping here.
- Week 10: Vs. Washington Redskins (9-0)
Washington is currently riding high on a three-game winning streak following their win over the Ravens. But beating New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore in succession isn’t some murderer’s row. That squad of teams is largely the same caliber of middle-of-the-pack mediocrity save for the Browns. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins won’t be enjoying himself on this Sunday.
- Week 11: Vs. Arizona Cardinals (10-0)
Carson Palmer and company are far from the regular season juggernaut they were last season. There’s not much consistency on either side of the ball and we seem to be entering the “Good Carson” or “Bad Carson” zone. I wouldn’t trust “Good Carson” to show up on the road against Minnesota.
- Week 12: At Detroit Lions (11-0)
I’ve always objected to Detroit and Dallas getting automatic rights to Thanksgiving games based on “tradition.” Especially in the Lions’ case. What has this franchise done to warrant an annual nationally televised game on a holiday? (The Bears have not earned that right either) You’ll be stuffing yourself while surrounded by your loved ones watching the Vikings turn the Lions into a turkey.
- Week 13: Vs. Dallas Cowboys (11-1)
While the Vikings are a great team, they’re still bound to let up at some point. The team most equipped to deal with their monstrous front seven is the Cowboys with the best offensive line in the NFL. As the Vikings begin to lose focus down the stretch, Dallas will catch them off guard and the 72’ Dolphins will annoyingly pop champagne yet again.
This team will be cruising towards the number one seed at this point so the last month of the season will largely be for tune-ups and show. Once everything’s set in motion, the undefeated record won’t matter as much anymore.
I am fully prepared for all this to be wrong, if you’re asking, by the way.
Week 6: BYE WEEK
Green Bay Packers, (3-1): Win Vs. New York Giants, 23-16
Pop quiz: Who has the lowest completion percentage among qualified quarterbacks in the NFL this season?
Oh, it’s Aaron Rodgers, if you were wondering. Surely, that’s no big deal.
Wait, to top it off, each of those passes average out at a measly 5.9 yards per attempt. Yeah, this is a thing.
Let’s be frank: Rodgers was the best quarterback in the league from 2011-2014. Really, no one had ever enjoyed as impressive a four-year stretch. A 139-25 touchdown to interception ratio isn’t human. Those are numbers you put up when you set the game to “rookie” difficulty in ‘Madden’.
Danny Kelly over at ‘The Ringer’ did a fantastic job breaking down how Rodgers has become human since then. Kelly went into depth as to how Rodgers was outplayed by someone like Jay Cutler at home on national television last year- strangely, though, that part has now been omitted.
It’s a combination of everything I’ve been repeating over the past month. The Packers receivers aren’t getting open and have lost a step. Jordy Nelson, while still better than most options, isn’t the same electric talent pre-ACL tear. Davante Adams is an adequate third target, nothing more, etc. Randall Cobb is the only guy consistently winning match-ups on a one-on-one basis and that’s a problem.
And as you know, the Packers are a major proponent of mostly running the same scheme and routes. Green Bay doesn’t use specific plays to get players open. They just have the same deadly slants, drag routes, and post-corners attempting to bludgeon you through the air. It’s all perfected timing. Green Bay can’t adapt because they simply don’t know how. This works with a guy like Rodgers when your receivers can get open, but it proves disastrous otherwise.
All of this has led to a climax of Rodgers morphing into gunslinging mode. Rodgers may be the league’s most athletic and gifted magician in the pocket, but when he sees not everything fine-tuned around him, he tries to become a superhero. The thing is, he loses tracks of his fundamentals, becomes less accurate, and is more easily rattled.
All of this makes sense, when I consider that there are throws I’ve seen Rodgers completely airmail over his receivers’ heads recently, that have made me audibly gasp over what I’ve previously become accustomed to from him. He’s overcompensating and the Packers have no answer.
Does Green Bay have an answer to fix this issue this year?
Maybe, it’s still early. But they did just come off of their bye week to an uninspiring offensive performance against the Giants at home. This is a receiving talent problem that needs to be solved in the offseason. Until then, knock the Packers down a few pegs as a contender. That is, unless you’re doing something crazy like convincing Calvin Johnson to come out of retirement in November. Then you’re fine.
Now you have all the evidence you need to know that it wasn’t just Rodgers making his receivers better. It’s been vice-versa which should be music to your ears.
Week 6: Vs Dallas Cowboys, (4-1)
Detroit Lions, (2-3): Win Vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 24-23
Inconsistent officiating held the needle for Detroit here.
When you look at the final result of a one-point game, you’ll typically expect a hard-fought contest that’s even in statistics and fought to the bitter end. Philadelphia held the edge in almost every relevant statistic, however. From third-down efficiency and total offensive yards, to average gain per-play, the Eagles should have had this game locked down.
The disparity that ultimately betrayed them was the 14-2 penalty advantage. As well as two late turnovers. Two primary keys to discipline. We’ll focus on the zebras in this case.
Of the most egregious of these penalties was one that didn’t even count. Still, it framed head official Pete Morelli and his crew’s state of mind.
On an Eagles’ reception late, Philadelphia was penalized for an illegal man downfield by number 98. One problem. Number 98 is Connor Barwin and he plays for the Eagles defense. They had actually meant to penalize Lions defensive Devin Taylor. Wait, even that doesn’t make sense when you consider why they would mistake a defensive player downfield as illegally positioned.
Only upon official review, did Morelli and his crew pick up the flag. If they weren’t urged on to fix this, could you imagine the controversy. It wouldn’t have been pretty.
Ultimately, the Eagles actually choked away a win to the Lions because they committed two turnovers late and they allowed Detroit to score 21 first half points. They played catch up all day.
One thing’s for sure though, it’s kind of nice when the officials are fortunately on your side like they were for Detroit. Given the lack of quality the Lions displayed against the Bears, expect these two to flip back and forth between third and last place through the rest of the season.
Week 6: Vs. Rams, (3-2)
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.