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NFC North recap: Detroit Lions move into second place

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We’ve got them right where we want them.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Packers beat Vikings in home opener, 21-16

Packers

It’s a scary time to be a Packers hater, because this team looks like the real deal again following two straight seasons of losing football. The franchise was once reliant on its high-powered offense, but it’s been their defense that has impressed the most. In two games, the Packers defense has allowed a total of just 19 points. Granted, these games have been against the Mitchell Trubisky-led Bears and the Vikings—who have thrown for a total of 328 passing yards in two games—but it’s clear that the Packers have made great strides to improve their defense, especially in the secondary.

On Sunday, the Packers got out to an early 21-0 with over 14 minutes left in the second quarter. Although the Vikings made it close late in the game, the Packers relied on their defense to close things out for their second-straight win of the season.

The offseason additions that the Packers made to their defense line this year are already paying huge dividends for the team. Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, both acquired during free agency, account for 25 of the team’s 59 total pressures.

In the secondary, both Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, who are also new additions to the team, have top-five defensive grades at their positions via Pro Football Focus.

On offense, Aaron Jones had a nice game on the ground with 116 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries (5.0 ypc). Aaron Rodgers threw for just 209 yards, but finished with an efficient 101.2 QB Rating.

Next game: vs. Broncos (0-2)

Vikings

The Vikings are off to a rough start when it comes to passing the football, but the running game has been surprisingly great. With a healthy Dalvin Cook, Minnesota is third in the league in total rushing yards.

When they were forced to throw the ball while trailing in Green Bay, Kirk Cousins looked awful. Currently, he is the lowest graded player on offense for the Vikings, and Garrett Bradbury—the team’s first-round rookie center—has a pass blocking grade of 0.0 from PFF. Yes, you’re reading that right. A big fat zero.

Also, while the Bears seem to have maybe found their kicker, the Vikings are still struggling to find theirs. Dan Bailey is one-for-two on field goals for the season and missed an extra point against the Packers.

Defensively, Minnesota is as frightening as ever. Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen have already tallied 15 pressures apiece, which accounts for more than half of the team’s total pressures. Though the defense did a poor job out of the gate against the Packers, they did a decent enough job of keeping the team in the game with a chance to win before the offense laid a giant turd.

Next game: vs. Raiders (1-1)

Bears beat Broncos with help from the officials, 16-14

The Bears held a 13-3 lead over the Broncos with a few minutes remaining in the third quarter and it looked like Denver was down and out. The Broncos’ offense had just one drive move for over 50 yards before they managed to kick a field goal and make it a one-possession game early in the fourth quarter.

The very next drive for the offense was a promising 16-play, 74-yard drive that ended in an interception and sucked the life out of the Denver crowd. They didn’t give up, though. As the Bears continued to struggle on offense and keep the Broncos in the game, Joe Flacco took his final opportunity and made the most out of it, finding his favorite target Emmanuel Sanders for a touchdown. The elite quarterback then went right back to Sanders for the successful two-point conversion to take the lead.

Down by one, the Bears had just 31 seconds remaining on the clock to try and win the game. On Trubisky’s very first dropback, the Bears were handed this gift by the officials that likely changed the outcome of the game:

The officiating was awful on both sides during this game, but this was easily the worst, and during the most crucial point of the game.

All credit goes to the Bears defense, though. Even with their likely regression, the defense could still end up being the best in the league.

Next game: @ Redskins (0-2)

NFC North Week 2 Standings

1. Green Bay Packers (2-0)
2. Detroit Lions (1-0-1)
3. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
4. Chicago Bears (1-1)

As I noted in last week’s recap, if the Lions took care of business at home, they’d be in second place in the division and that’s where they are.

The Packers sit atop the division and will face the Broncos at home, giving them a pretty good shot at going 3-0 to start the season. The Lions will have to win some really tough ones coming up if they want to keep pace with Green Bay and challenge the rest of the division for the NFC North crown.