The Lions' bye week is winding down, and soon they will start preparing for their Week 8 matchup against the Redskins. Before we start looking ahead to Washington, though, I want to take a quick look at where the NFC North stands following seven weeks of action this season:
|Green Bay Packers
So what have the first seven weeks taught us? My observations for each team are after the jump.
- The Bears got off to a good start this season record-wise, but they are the very definition of a fraud (as we all expected from the very beginning). They should have lost to the Lions in Week 1; their offensive line is a mess; Jay Cutler is back to his interception-happy ways; and now their deficiencies are finally catching up with them. I expect the Bears to continue to struggle as time goes by, although having a bye next week will give them a chance to try and put the pieces back together.
- The Packers are the best team in the division, but they are having such a tough time staying healthy that it doesn't always show. They definitely have their weaknesses, as the Lions showed in their game a few weeks back, but I think if the Packers can maintain even a decent level of health the rest of the year, they will pull away to win the NFC North.
- There's not much that needs to be said about the Vikings right now. Brett Favre looks like a mess physically and I'm sure mentally he can't be doing much better with the whole Jenn Sterger controversy out there. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he packs it in midway through the season if the Vikings continue to play their way out of contention for a playoff berth, especially since it seems like him and Brad Childress are about to reach their boiling point.
- The Lions have played better than their record shows, but unfortunately that doesn't mean anything in the standings. It would sure be nice if Detroit had a second victory right now, as they would still be in the hunt for a division title going forward. With a 1-5 record, though, staying in contention won't be easy and will take a spectacular second half run. I'm not ready to write the possibility off altogether, but at this point I'm more concerned about Detroit picking up a second victory rather than making a run at the division title.
Overall, the NFC North doesn't appear to be a very strong division, but then again, you can say that about a lot of divisions in the NFL right now. Parity is definitely alive and well in the NFL this season, and what that means for the Lions is that even at 1-5, they still can make things interesting in the second half of the season. That might not amount to anything more than climbing out of the cellar of the NFC North, but hey, that would be progress from past seasons. Besides, anything beyond a third-place finish seems unlikely no matter how bad the Bears are looking right now. It's tough to overcome a three-game deficit no matter who you are, so unless the Lions put together an extended winning streak, I can't see it happening.
Regardless, I'm just glad that the rest of the division isn't greatly separated from Detroit. For example, the Vikings head to New England next week and will be favored to lose. A Detroit victory over Washington would move the Lions into a third-place tie with Minnesota (if the Vikings go down) and move them just a little bit closer to the Bears. At the very least, hopefully the Lions play well enough going forward to allow us to continue talking about the NFC North standings, even if it isn't about first or second place. Obviously that's what I'd much rather be talking about, but for now I will settle for discussing scenarios in which the Lions can start to move eye to eye with Minnesota. That's certainly better than nothing.