Our little trip around the NFC North looks a little bit different this week, as the Minnesota Vikings were the only divisional team in action during Week 9. Bottom line? This week had no real impact on the Detroit Lions' playoff chances.
NFC North standings
Detroit Lions: 6-2
Green Bay Packers: 5-3
Minnesota Vikings: 4-5
Chicago Bears: 3-5
Green Bay Packers
Last week: Bye
With the Pack winning four of their last five and only one game behind the Lions in the race for the NFC North, I imagine "Bear Down" will be heard more than once around Detroit this week.
Next week: At home against the Chicago Bears (3-5)
Last week: 29-26 win at home against the Washington Redskins
Thanks to the Vikings, the NFC North finished Week 9 with a 1-0 record. This was not a pretty win for the Vikings, but they got the job done thanks to safe play on offense and another strong defensive effort.
The game started poorly for the Vikings, as they were forced to punt on their first four possessions. Their fifth drive looked promising before stalling in Redskins territory, where the Vikings failed to convert on fourth down. In contrast, the Redskins converted their first two drives into 10 early points.
This game really shifted at the end of the first half, when the Vikings picked off Robert Griffin III, giving Teddy Bridgewater and the offense a short field with about a minute left. The Vikings scored using four quick plays and entered the half down only 10-7. From that point, the Vikings offense began to click, leading to three second-half touchdowns. Up 29-26 with 1:05 left in the game, the Vikings managed to run off 59 seconds before giving the ball back to the Skins with only six seconds left in the game. Griffin's last-second heave fell incomplete and the Vikings took the win.
Front seven - The Vikings defense is playing at a really high level right now, with the exception of their tendency to give up home-run plays. Giving up big plays is mainly the fault of their secondary, though. The Vikings' front seven is doing a great job of pressuring quarterbacks and plugging running lanes. Already at the top of the league in sacks, the Vikings brought down Griffin five times on Sunday and hit him another eight times. Pro Football Focus particularly highlighted defensive end Everson Griffen and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd for their games on Sunday.
Red-zone offense - Although the Vikings offense puttered around for much of the game on Sunday, it was perfect inside the red zone. All three of the Vikings' trips inside the 20 ended in running back Matt Asiata touchdowns, and their fourth touchdown came courtesy of a 20-yard Teddy Bridgewater pass to tight end Chase Ford.
Fantasy football - The Vikings are killing fantasy dreams. They underutilize dynamic receiver Cordarrelle Patterson on a weekly basis, and Asiata is vulturing starter Jerick McKinnon's touchdowns. Asiata had only 10 carries and a measly 2.6 yards per carry average on the day, but he walked away with three touchdowns. For his part, McKinnon contributed a pedestrian 59 yards but did the heavy lifting to put Asiata in position for his scores.
Next week: Bye
Last week: Bye
In certain past years that shall remain nameless, I vividly remember making the joke (with a brave face, while bottling all emotions) that the Lions' bye week was the one week I could count on them not to lose. I heard different Bears fans make this joke at least a dozen times within the past week. Bears nation is not in a good place emotionally. The natives are getting restless and already some are calling for coach Marc Trestman's head. Having been there themselves, Lions fans can sit back and enjoy the show.
Next week: At the Green Bay Packers (5-3)