NFC North standings
Detroit Lions: 7-6
Chicago Bears: 7-6
Green Bay Packers: 6-6-1
Minnesota Vikings: 3-9-1
Last week: 45-28 home win against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football
The Bears recaptured a piece of the NFC North lead in dominating fashion on a chilly Monday night. Quarterback Josh McCown guided the Bears to an offensive explosion with 5 total touchdowns and 348 passing yards. The Bears offense had their way with the Cowboys' banged-up defense and came away with points on every drive up until McCown finished the game with kneel-downs.
I debated this question with a friend who is a Bears fan this week: If you were starting a new NFL team at the end of this season, would you rather have Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson or Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery? I'm really not sure. Calvin is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, but Marshall is a solid receiver who is getting better as his attitude improves and he focuses on the little things (like laying the wood on Sean Lee), and Jeffery might have the best hands in the league. Burleson is a good player and a great leader, but he is in the waning years of productivity. What would you do?
Run defense - The Bears' run defense is still terrible. They gave up 8.1 yards per carry to DeMarco Murray and were lucky that the offense forced the Cowboys into shootout mode. ESPN showed an interesting graphic during the game about how the Bears defense had six different starters compared to when the two teams met last year. It shows.
Next week: At the Cleveland Browns (4-9)
Green Bay Packers
Last week: 22-21 home win against the Atlanta Falcons
At halftime, it looked like the Falcons were going to do the Lions a huge favor by putting the Packers out of the divisional race for good. The Falcons led 20-10 and the Packers were reeling thanks in large part to 2 Matt Flynn turnovers (in fairness, his interception was a fluke that bounced off someone's foot), which the Falcons converted into 14 points. Alas, they could not keep that momentum, and their second-half drives resulted in 3 turnovers (1 on downs), 2 punts and a missed field goal.
After 2 Mason Crosby third-quarter field goals cut the Falcons' lead to 21-15 to start the fourth quarter, the Packers took the final lead with 12 minutes to play on a short Flynn pass to tight end Andrew Quarless. The Falcons had a chance to retake the lead immediately thanks to good field position after a short Crosby kickoff, but the drive stalled at the Packers 34-yard-line and kicker Matt Bryant could not connect on a 52-yard field goal. Neither offense could sustain another drive, and the game ended with a 22-21 win for the home team.
Play calling - The Packers showed strong determination to establish a running game on Sunday rather than put the game on Flynn's arm. Even though the Falcons stacked the box and were stingy with yards, running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks churned out a tough 84 yards on 27 carries. That is obviously not an impressive average, but it took pressure off of Flynn and helped the Packers control the clock.
Pass protection - The Falcons reached Flynn 5 times for 36 yards as the Packers' pass protection woes continued. Maybe their offensive line should spend more time practicing and less time talking.
Next week: At the Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
Last week: 29-26 away loss to the Baltimore Ravens
I didn't watch this game live, but feel like I did after being inundated with highlights. After a somewhat boring and low-scoring game, the final 2 minutes saw 5 touchdowns and as many lead changes. The biggest storyline from the game was Adrian Peterson leaving with an injury, but it does not appear serious and he is questionable against the Eagles in Week 15.
Cordarrelle Patterson - I highlight Patterson once again on his biggest game of the season. He received his highest snap count to date and responded with 5 receptions for 141 yards and a score. He also averaged 27.8 yards on his 4 kickoff returns. He is electric, and if I was a Vikings coach, I would get him the ball as often as possible.
Closing - The Vikings had two chances to ice this game within the two-minute warning. They blew their first lead by giving up a 77-yard kickoff return touchdown by Jacoby Jones. The second time, they allowed Joe Flacco to march down the field in 41 seconds to lose the game.
Next week: At home against the Philadelphia Eagles (8-5)