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Week 8 around the NFC North: It’s anyone’s division... except for the Bears

It’s not a good sign when Jay Cutler is laughing at you, Vikings.

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

As mentioned in our daily open thread, Monday night’s game changed the entire outlook of the division. Just two weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings were undefeated, the Green Bay Packers were wondering what had happened to their MVP quarterback, while the Lions were putzing around .500. But with two straight losses for the Vikings, everything has changed and nothing is certain in the NFC North. Here’s a look at what happened in Week 8 of the division.

Minnesota Vikings (5-2) - Lost to Bears, 10-20

The Vikings were one of three NFC North teams to lose in Week 8, but they suffered, by far, the most notable defeat. Though it’s admittedly hard to win any division game on the road (just ask the Lions), this loss was completely unacceptable for a team that was looking like the best in the conference just two weeks ago.

The Vikings offensive line continues to be a disaster. Offensive tackle Jake Long was recently added to replace Andre Smith, but he was absolutely abused on Monday. Sam Bradford was sacked five times against the Bears, pushing his total to 11 sacks in the past two weeks.

But perhaps more concerning for Minnesota was their defensive performance. The Vikings were considered one of the most dominant defenses in the league, but they allowed a season-high 403 yards of offense against the Bears, including 158 rushing yards at 5.4 a carry.

Two weeks in a row now, the Vikings were taken to task and thoroughly dominated for four quarters. Not only have they lost their reputation as the top team in the conference, they may not even be considered the top team in the division anymore. Just look at the crazy things their fans were saying after Monday’s loss:

Next week: vs. Lions (4-4) - Sunday - 1 p.m. ET

Chicago Bears (2-6) - Beat Vikings, 20-10

On the other side of the coin, the Bears finally got something to cheer about. Jay Cutler was back on Monday night and he looked as efficient as ever. The Bears offense suddenly woke up and realized Alshon Jeffery was still on the team. Jeffery pulled in four catches for 63 yards and his first touchdown of the season. But the big breakout performance came from rookie running back Jordan Howard, who rushed for a career-high 153 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, the Bears completely blanketed the Vikings offense. In the first half alone, the Bears forced Minnesota into four straight three-and-outs. Their defense was led by their pass rush, which forced five sacks on the day—two from their star defensive end Akiem Hicks. Hicks already has 4.0 sacks on the year, which is just 0.5 sack behind his career high.

The Bears may still be way behind in the division race, but this performance is definitely something they can build upon for next year.

Next week: Bye. Week 10 at Bucs (3-4)

Green Bay Packers (4-3) - Lost to Falcons, 32-33

Aaron Rodgers did just about everything he could to convince the world he was back. Rodgers threw for four touchdowns, finished with a 125.5 passer rating and even added a career-high 60 rushing yards, but it wasn’t enough to lift the Packers over the soaring Falcons.

The Packers offense seems to be back on track, although it’s important to note that this performance was against one of the worst defenses in the league. Jordy Nelson had his second-best game of the year, totalling 94 receiving yards and a touchdown, while Davante Adams continues to be Rodgers’ favorite target. In the past two weeks alone, Adams has hauled in 25 catches on a whopping 30 targets.

But Green Bay’s defense continues to be their Achilles’ heel. Matt Ryan was nearly perfect against the Packers secondary, completing 80 percent of his passes for 8.2 yards per attempt, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Packers took the lead late with under four minutes to go, but the defense couldn’t slow Atlanta, and the Falcons took the lead for good with 31 seconds to go.

The good news for the Packers is that all three of their losses have come against teams with five wins or more. The bad news is that their wins have come against teams with a collective record of 12-18.

Next week: vs. Colts (3-5) - Sunday - 4:25 p.m. ET

NFC North standings:

1. Minnesota Vikings - 5-2
2. Green Bay Packers - 4-3
3. Detroit Lions - 4-4
4. Chicago Bears - 2-6