Bears beat Buccaneers, 26-21
The Bears snapped a three game losing streak with a win in Tampa Bay, giving them a winning record of 5-3 on the road this season.
The Bears offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, but they controlled the clock with over 37 minutes of possession, had only three penalties, and no turnovers. Jay Cutler had just 156 yards of passing on 27 attempts, with Zach Miller leading the way with seven catches for 69 yards, his third straight game of at least five catches and 50 yards. The offense was committed to running the football, with 39 rushes for 4.5 yards a carry. Jeremy Langford led the team with 19 carries for 83 yards, while Ka’Deem Carey scored two total touchdowns.
On defense, the Bears forced three turnovers, as John Timu recovered two fumbles and Harold Jones-Quartey intercepted Jameis Winston. Winston did have some success through the air, finishing with 295 yards and two touchdowns, including three plays of over 40 yards. Surprisingly, the Bears held the second leading rusher in the league, Doug Martin, to just 49 yards on 2.9 yards a carry. The Bears had given up the eighth most rushing yards in the league coming into the game.
The Bears were able to show some signs of life on the defensive end and get some big plays from some of their lesser-known players. Still, they are in the same boat as the Lions as they are purely just trying to build something going forward into the next season. Turnovers and penalties have both been an issue for them this season, so a game like this is certainly a positive for them to see. The fact that they finished 5-3 on the road and are 1-6 at home has to be one of the stranger splits I have ever seen for a full season.
Up next: As you all know, the Bears will host the Lions in a game that will determine the order the teams finish in the bottom half of the division.
Packers demolished by Cardinals, 38-8
Looking to extend on a three game winning streak, the Packers were absolutely trounced in Arizona, looking nothing like a team that could potentially contend for the NFC crown.
The Packers offense was about as bad as they could be against a very good Cardinals’ defense. Aaron Rodgers was sacked an astounding eight times, with Scott Tolzien getting sacked once in relief as well. Rodgers threw one interception that led to an Arizona touchdown, and the Packers had two fumbles that were returned for touchdowns. Eddie Lacy had the most effective game of all the running backs, with 12 carries for 60 yards, while also scoring the lone Packer touchdown on a 28 yard reception.
The Packers defense didn’t have much success either, as Carson Palmer threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw one interception to defensive lineman Mike Daniels. The Cardinals averaged 4.7 yards a carry on 26 rushes, with Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington, and David Johnson getting a pretty equal share of the yards and carries. Michael Floyd had six receptions for 111 yards and David Johnson added another 88 yards in the receiving game.
Just two weeks away from the playoffs, the Packers were a complete disaster on both sides of the ball. Despite winning four of five, the Packers have really only beaten bad teams recently and haven’t looked good in many of those wins, and they were finally exposed by one of the best teams in the league. At this point, the Packers just don’t look at all like a team that is a threat to win the NFC.
At the very least, the Packers are still in a decent situation to be able to win the division. Even with the loss, they still win the division and secure a round one home game if the beat the Vikings at home next week. If they don’t, they will be a wild card team, but will either travel to Minnesota, a place they already won, or to Washington, a team that is probably among the weakest to make the playoffs.
Up next: The Packers will host the Vikings next week, in a winner-take-all game for the division crown. This game has been flexed to Sunday night.
Vikings beat Giants, 49-17
An Atlanta loss or Seahawks win would have locked up the Vikings’ playoff berth, but both results went the opposite way. Instead, the Vikings dispatched the Giants with ease to secure the final playoff spot in the NFC.
The Vikings’ offense was led by its running game, as it has been for most of this season, with Adrian Peterson rushing for 104 yards and one touchdown. Jerick McKinnon had a big day as well, rushing for 89 yards on just seven carries, though most of that came on a 68 yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Teddy Bridgewater was solid, though his numbers don’t jump off the page with just 168 yards and one touchdown through the air. Blair Walsh made all five of his field goal attempts, while making four of his five extra point attempts.
Defensively, the Vikings didn’t give up a single touchdown until late in the third quarter, when they were already up 32-3. Eli Manning threw three interceptions, including one that Harrison Smith returned for a touchdown, and the Giants were lucky to not have more turnovers as they recovered both of their fumbles. Tom Johnson had a big day for the Vikings, sacking Manning twice, with Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison adding sacks as well.
No matter what, the Vikings were going to have to beat the Packers in Week 17 to win the division, but now they at least don’t have to worry about any crazy scenario where they could miss the playoffs.
If the Vikings win next week in Lambeau, they will clinch the division and the number three seed in the NFC. Their opponent in that scenario would be the Seahawks, who, at best, can tie the Packers but would lose the tiebreaker since they lost to the Packers in Week 2. The Packers would travel to Washington in the other playoff matchup.
If the Vikings lose, the matchups will depend on what Seattle does. If Seattle wins, they will tie Minnesota at 10-6, and they will be the fifth seed since they beat the Vikings in Week 13. In that case, Minnesota will play on the road in Green Bay for the second straight week. If Seattle loses, the Vikings get the fifth seed and travel to Washington, and Green Bay will host Seattle.