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NFC North Week 8 recap: Lions move into 3rd place, Packers alone in 1st

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It’s wild card or bust for the Lions.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Chicago Bears David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings defense holds strong, beat Washington at home, 19-9

It looked for a moment that the Vikings might fold on the national stage during “Thursday Night Football,” but their defense held Washington to single digits and gave up only 216 total yards. Case Keenum had a pretty strong start and moved the ball well, but he entered concussion protocol and had rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins enter in his relief. It wasn’t pretty for Haskins, who threw only five passes with one resulting in an untimely interception.

Minnesota’s offense didn’t score a ton of points, but the were efficient for the most part. Kirk Cousins managed to complete nearly 90 percent of his passes (23-for-26) for 285 yards while Dalvin Cook had another strong day on the ground with 23 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown.

If you’re a Vikings fan, you probably would have liked to have seen more points in the red zone, but when your defense is playing that well, it’s hard to complain.

Looking ahead, Minnesota has a pretty tough schedule, but at 6-2, they’re in great shape to at the very least nab a wild card spot.

Next game: @ Chiefs (5-3)

Chicago still in search of a kicker and a quarterback, lose at home, 17-16

It was deja vu at Soldier Field. The Bears, in a tight game, lost on the leg of their kicker in the final seconds and even gave us an “audible dong” on one of their missed kicks.

Let’s check in on how Bears fans are handling this loss.

Yikes.

Giving some credit to the Bears, their offense was actually somewhat better in this game than most of the season. Mitchell Trubisky was hitting some throws and earned himself his highest PFF grade of the season (56.8 passing grade)—yes, that’s still bad. Maybe that’s the type of performance you look at and say, y’know what, maybe we should extend the guy for another four years.

The Bears also got their running game to take off on Sunday and ran for 162 yards on the ground, with David Montgomery earning 135 of those, including a 55-yard scamper.

The Bears have an extremely tough remaining schedule, and they’ve got themselves a deep hole to dig out of with a lot of issues still to fix. You almost hate to see it (nah).

Next game: @ Eagles (4-4)

Packers survive late against Chiefs, 31-24

No matter how you feel about the guy, Aaron Rodgers continues to shine in today’s NFL. He had a near perfect game against the Chiefs with three touchdowns and zero interceptions and is currently ranked fourth in passer rating among all quarterbacks. The Chiefs, who are not usually known for their defense, actually had the fourth-ranked pass defense in terms of DVOA, but they could not handle Green Bay’s passing attack. It really sucks to say all of this.

Despite all of this, Kansas City put up a real fight at home without their star quarterback. Matt Moore did just about all he could do with zero turnovers and a couple of touchdown passes, but the defense’s inability to stop the two Aaron’s (Rodgers and Jones) proved to be too much for the Chiefs in the end.

At 7-1, the Packers are all but guaranteed a playoff spot, barring a major collapse. Their schedule is not necessarily that difficult either, so I’d expect them to be in contention for receiving a top-two seed in the playoffs.

Next game: @ Chargers (3-5)

NFC North Week 9 Standings

1. Green Bay Packers (7-1)
2. Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
3. Detroit Lions (3-3-1)
4. Chicago Bears (3-4)

The only change here is the Lions laddering up over the Bears, who are now in their rightful place. For a playoff opportunity, the Lions may need to catch up to the Vikings quickly, especially if they want to receive the No. 5 seed overall. The Lions have a couple winnable games coming up on the road against the Raiders and Bears before facing a tough test at home against the Cowboys.

I believe the Lions will have to go at least 7-2 in their final nine games to make a push for a playoff spot. It’s definitely doable, but it’s not going to be easy.