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Around the NFC North: Week 10

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A new division leader emerges in the NFC North, and the rest of the action in week 10.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

You already know the greatness that transpired in Green Bay, but let's take a look at what went down in the rest of the NFC North.

Bears dominate Rams, 37-13

The Bears won their second straight game on the road on Sunday as they moved to just one game below .500 on the season.

The Bears’ offense was impressive right from the get go, with Jay Cutler finding Zach Miller who took it all the way for an 87 yard touchdown on the first possession. Cutler was efficient in completing 19 of 24 passes for 258 yards and three scores, getting plenty of yards from plays after the catch. More importantly, Cutler was turnover free. One surprising aspect was that the Bears did so much on offense with such a quiet game from Alshon Jeffrey, who had just three catches for 23 yards. Michigan St. alum Jeremy Langford had a big game in his second consecutive start for the inactive Matt Forte, rushing for 73 yards and getting 109 yards through the air with two total touchdowns. Miller also finished with 107 receiving yards and two scores.

Defensively, the Bears were able to hold rookie Todd Gurley to just 45 yards on 12 carries, the second straight game that an NFC North team hasn’t allowed Gurley to have much of an impact. After opening the game with a touchdown, the Rams couldn’t do anything as Nick Foles completed less than 50% of his passes. Wes Welker, in his team debut, had three catches for 32 yards, tied with Gurley for the most receptions of any Rams’ player.

Takeaway

At 4-5, the Bears playoff chances are very slim at this point, especially with two tough games in the next two weeks with the Broncos and Packers. An opposing team’s fan might point to them probably pushing themselves to a middle of the first round pick and a missed playoff spot as a sign of why this isn’t good, but Bears’ fans have to like what they see. John Fox and Adam Gase are getting the most they can out of this team, especially out of Cutler, who is tenth in QBR and 13th in traditional passer rating, both significant steps forward from last year. The defense is 23rd in points given up, which isn’t good, but is much better than their 31st place finish last season and 30th place finish in 2013. They still have a ways to go, but this team is moving in the right direction.

Up next: The Bears will host the Broncos in a rematch between John Fox and his old team (as well as OC Adam Gase). After the disaster that the Broncos had against Kansas City, this game at least feels a little more winnable, though I suspect the Broncos defense will have a better performance.

Vikings beat Raiders, 30-14

With the win in Oakland and the Lions’ win in Green Bay, the Vikings now hold the division lead in the NFC North.

The Vikings offense was led by another huge game from Adrian Peterson, who averaged nearly eight yards a carry for 203 yards. He capped off the Vikings’ victory off with an 80 yard touchdown run with about two minutes to play in the game. Bridgewater managed to not turn the ball over, but didn’t do much else, throwing for just 140 yards on 14 completions. No receiver had more than two catches, with Rhett Ellison bringing in the only touchdown.

On the other side, the Vikings defense gave up 371 yards, just 14 more than their offense had, but were able to hold the Raiders to just 14 points. They picked off Derek Carr twice, though he did throw for just over 300 yards and two touchdowns as well. The Raiders didn’t run the ball a ton, but averaged 4.4 yards a carry when they did.

The Raiders shot themselves in the foot a lot in this game, with eight penalties for 80 yards to go along with the two turnovers.

Takeaway

The Vikings have now won five straight, three of which were road games, and look the part of a legitimate division contender. Peterson has rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games, and leads the league in rushing yards while averaging almost five yards a carry. I would still like to see Bridgewater and the passing game bring some more balance to the offense; otherwise this offense is going to be the same as past ones that Peterson has had to carry.

Defensively, the Vikings have had a lot of success, though the advanced stats and results don’t line up. Football Outsiders DVOA had them at 22nd overall (15th against pass, 25th against rush) before Sunday. Yet they haven’t given up more than 20 points in a game this season and are second in the league in points given up. No team has also reached the 400 yard mark against them, and they are seventh in the league in yards given up. The weaker schedule must be playing some sort of role in the weak DVOA rating (five games against the bottom five DVOA offenses, including the Lions twice), but it still feels like it is underrating them.

Up next: The Vikings host the Packers in an attempt to extend their division lead to two games. Getting the win at home for the Vikings is especially important, otherwise they will have to win in Green Bay to avoid the losing a possible head-to-head tiebreaker.