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Around the NFC North: Week 11

The Packers and Vikings battle for NFC North lead while the Bears try and get back in the playoff picture. Here's what happened in Week 11 of the NFC North.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The two teams on winning streaks fall while the Packers right the ship after a three game losing streak. Here’s what happened in Week 11 in the NFC North.

Bears lose to Broncos, 17-15

While the Broncos came in with a two game losing streak and the Bears with a two game winning streak, the two teams reversed fortunes on Sunday as the Broncos won in Chicago.

The Broncos came into Sunday with the best defense in the league by DVOA and yards allowed, and were able to hold the Bears offense to just 15 points on the day while forcing just two turnovers, both by Jay Cutler. Cutler finished the day 18 of 32 for 265 yards in the air in a game without Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery, getting most of his help from Marquess Wilson who caught four passes for 102 yards. The running game was completely absent for the Bears, as Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey combined for 22 carries and just 57 yards.

The only Bears’ touchdown came with less than 30 seconds to go in the game when Langford took it in from two yards out. Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game, the Bears tried going to Langford again, but he was stopped well short of the goal line.

Defensively, the Bears probably wish they could have played Peyton Manning this week, as Brock Osweiler filled in admirably in his first career start. Osweiler finished the day 20 of 27 for 250 yards and two scores, with no turnovers. The Bears struggled mightily against the run as well, giving up 170 yards on nearly five yards a carry to a team that entered the day 27th in rushing offense by DVOA and 29th in total yards. While the defense held them to just 17 points, they let the Broncos control the clock, with the Bears having over six minutes less possession.

Takeaway

Little attention will be given to the Bears’ performance in this game as the focus turns to the Mannning vs. Osweiler debate, but this is a disappointing home loss in a game that looked like it could firmly put the Bears in the playoff conversation. The Bears’ offense took a step back this week, but the Broncos defense has shut down almost everyone this season. The defense did enough to keep them in the game, but it was against a quarterback making his first career start for an offense that had a number of issues beyond the poor play of Manning -- though that has been the biggest issue.

The Bears’ remaining schedule has three games on the road against teams that are .500 or better (Packers, Buccaneers, and Vikings), and it looks like whatever slim playoff hopes they had have been dashed with this home loss.

Up next: The Bears will take on the Packers on Thanksgiving night in Green Bay.

Packers crush Vikings, 30-13

The Vikings lose control of the NFC North with a home loss to the Packers just a week after taking the division lead for the first time this season.

The Vikings’ offense actually outgained the Packers by 22 yards on Sunday, but was unable to turn those yards into points. Teddy Bridgewater put up some big numbers with 296 yards and a touchdown in the air, but was sacked six times, as well as racking up some of the yardage in garbage time. The Vikings were behind pretty much the entire game and didn’t get a chance to involve Adrian Peterson as much, who finished with just 13 carries and 45 yards.

Aaron Rodgers completed less than 50 percent of his passes and the offense was far from perfect, but he was able to complete two touchdowns and did enough to set up Mason Crosby for five field goals, all from 40 yards or more. Eddie Lacy had his highest rushing output of the season with 100 yards on 22 carries, while James Jones led the receivers with 109 yards and a touchdown.

Takeaway

The Packers are back in control of the division, holding the tiebreaker over the Vikings with the final game between the two teams at Lambeau Field in Week 17, a potential division-deciding game.

Three straight losses by the Packers had raised a lot of questions if this Packers team was truly among the best in the league, and the Packers responded to those questions the way they always seem to, by winning. Even with the blowout win, this didn’t feel like a great display by the Packers, with the passing game never really clicking as I’m sure Packers’ fans would hope. It was nice to see Eddie Lacy actually show some signs of life, and a return to previous season's form could significantly help the offense gain some balance.

The Vikings were playing from behind all game, forcing them to throw the ball and taking the game out of Peterson’s hands. The fact that they can’t seem to win without a big game from Peterson is concerning. In the three losses, he has averaged just over 52 yards a game on the ground on four yards a carry, while in the seven wins; he has averaged about 121 yards a game at five yards a carry.

The rest of the season gets very interesting for the Vikings, with five of their six final games against teams that are .500 or better, including potential wild card competitors Seattle and Atlanta.

Up next (Packers): As stated above, the Packers host the Bears on Thanksgiving night.

Up next (Vikings): The Vikings will travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons, who have lost three straight and four of their last five after starting the season 5-0.