NFC North standings
Detroit Lions: 7-3
Green Bay Packers: 7-3
Chicago Bears: 4-6
Minnesota Vikings: 4-6
Green Bay Packers
Last week: 53-20 win at home against the Philadelphia Eagles
At this point in the season, the Lions' Week 3 19-7 win against the Packers seems like a very distant memory. While the Lions held the Packers to a single touchdown in that game, the Green Bay offense is firing on all cylinders now. Since that loss, the Packers have scored under 35 points only twice and have topped 50 points in each of the past two games. They are very scary right now.
Fresh off their 55-14 laugher against Chicago last week, the Pack faced a much tougher opponent in the Eagles in Week 11. They responded by picking up where they left off against the Bears. Aaron Rodgers put together four scoring drives in the first half to go with a 75-yard punt return by Micah Hyde, and the Packers were already at a 30-6 advantage by halftime. The Eagles found the end zone for a pair of touchdowns in the second half, but they could not overcome four Mark Sanchez second-half turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers - This goes without saying, but Rodgers is on fire right now. He is currently projected to finish the season with 45 touchdowns, over 4,300 yards and a 120 quarterback rating. He also has nine touchdowns in the past two games despite only playing roughly five combined quarters in those contests.
Eddie Lacy - Lacy was in full beast mode against the Eagles this week. He sought contact, bulled through defenders and finished the game with a 6.9 yards per carry average to go with two touchdowns. More than half of his 114 combined yards came after initial contact.
Defense - The Packers defense was more than ready to take advantage of Mark "Buttfumble" Sanchez's propensity for coughing up the ball. Julius Peppers picked off Sanchez for a touchdown, and the defense forced three Sanchez fumbles and recovered two of them.
For the second week in a row, I'm giving the Packers a free pass. I'm not going to nitpick a 33-point win against a 7-2 team.
Next week: At the Minnesota Vikings (4-6)
Last week: 21-13 win at home against the Minnesota Vikings
This game really looked like it was going to be another step toward the city of Chicago imploding into itself. On their opening drive, the Vikings marched the field and converted on a 50-yard Blair Walsh field goal, while Chicago could not match after Robbie Gould missed a field goal in the midst of swirling snow. On their next drive, the Vikings jumped to a 10-0 lead after they capped off a 63-yard drive -- nearly all of which came via a 48-yard run on a fake punt -- with a 7-yard Teddy Bridgewater pass to tight end Rhett Ellison. Fortunately for the sanity of Bears fans, the team they expected at the beginning of the season finally emerged at this point and the Bears took control of the game thanks to two lengthy first-half touchdown drives. Even a ritualistic Jay Cutler interception at the end of the first half was largely harmless thanks to an expiring clock, and the Bears entered the break up 14-10.
On the first drive of the second half, the Bears looked to assert themselves and strung together a nice 82-yard drive that took nearly half of the third quarter. However, the Vikings held strong on their own goal line and the Bears could not convert on a Cutler quarterback dive on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard-line. After giving the ball back to the Bears with decent field position, the Vikings picked off Cutler again on the next drive, effectively flipping the field. However, the Vikings could not take advantage thanks to a missed Walsh field goal. The Bears finally found the end zone again on their next drive to take a 21-10 lead. The Vikings brought the gap to 21-13 after another Walsh field goal, and they took over possession at their own 34-yard line with 2:03 left to play in the game. After driving to the Bears 29, the Vikings' comeback came to a crashing halt when Ryan Mundy picked off Bridgewater to seal Chicago's first home victory of the season.
Alshon Jeffery - Cutler targeted Jeffery an insane 17 times on Sunday. While this would normally be a problem, Jeffery brought down 11 of these targets for 135 yards and a touchdown. Whatever works.
Offensive balance - During the past few dark weeks in Bearsdom, Marc Trestman and his coaching staff have put the Bears' offense almost completely on running back Matt Forte. While Forte is a great player and did a decent job in that role on paper, this laser focus on one player crippled the offense. This week, the Bears did a much better job of balancing their running and passing games. Forte still received 32 total touches, but the Bears also focused on getting their receivers more involved instead of relying solely on screens and checkdowns to Forte. With field-stretching receivers like Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, this seems like a much more effective strategy.
Willie Young - Young tallied another sack against the Vikings, bringing his total to eight on the year. That is sixth-best among defensive ends in the league. The Lions could have used some of that production against the Arizona Cardinals.
Special teams - In a really tough turn of events, the Bears suffered a 13-point swing thanks to their special teams in the first half. First, the normally reliable Robbie Gould missed a 47-yard kick. The Bears defense did its job and forced a three-and-out, but then the Bears special teams unit fell victim to a nice fake punt in which safety Andrew Sendejo took an end-around for 48 yards and nearly scored. The Vikings then converted on their next play.
Next week: At home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8)
Last week: 21-13 loss at the Chicago Bears
Everson Griffen - While Griffen and his defensive cohorts did not bring Cutler down for a sack on the day, they did apply a lot of pressure. Griffen in particular had his way with the Bears' offensive line. On the day, Pro Football Focus awarded him a +5.4 grade. Considering he did not record a sack, this grade shows how effective he was from his defensive end position.
Kyle Rudolph - In his first game back from injury, the highly touted tight end did not receive a single target. The Vikings really need to work him into their struggling offense, as he is probably their top pass-catching option.
Cordarrelle Patterson - Patterson continued his dismal sophomore season. He turned three touches into 27 total yards. Yawn.
Next week: At home against the Green Bay Packers (7-3)