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NFC North Week 9 recap: Lions back to the bottom as Vikings trend upward

There’s no place like home.

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Packers defeat 49ers in blowout fashion, 34-17

“Thursday Night Football” featured a laughable matchup between the Packers and 49ers this week. This would have been must-see television last year, but a series of unfortunate blows continue to hit San Francisco, crippling their chances at competing. They’ve already dealt with multiple injuries to their stars early in the year and on Thursday they were missing three of their top receivers—all on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

With everything that the 49ers were struggling through, this one was over basically before it even started. The Packers were seven-point favorites in this contest and covered comfortably. At halftime the Packers held a 21-3 lead with Aaron Rodgers throwing a touchdown pass to three different receivers. The lead increased to 34-3 before the 49ers chalked up a couple of garbage time touchdowns to make things look slightly closer than it really was.

Rodgers took advantage of San Fran’s depleted defense and posted a near-perfect statline (305 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 147.2 passer rating). Wide receiver Davante Adams was the main benefactor of Rodgers’ stellar performance and caught 10 of his 12 targets for 173 yards and a touchdown.

The Packers were also without some of their key starters with Rick Wagner, Krys Barnes and Jaire Alexander all inactive. Barnes has since been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list along with backup quarterback Jordan Love.

They host a favorable matchup next week against the 1-7 Jaguars and look to increase their lead on the rest of the division.

Next game: vs. Jaguars (1-7)

Vikings walk all over the Lions, win comfortably at home, 34-20

This was an ugly one, but I don’t have to tell you that. After a brutal start to the year, the Vikings have seemingly turned things around and look like a contender again, but is it too little too late?

Minnesota is back to its bread and butter of running the football first and letting everything else come to them. On 34 rushing attempts, the Lions surrendered 275 rushing yards for 8.2 yards per carry and two touchdowns.

It doesn’t help when the Lions continue to trot out 10 guys instead of 11, but I don’t think it would have even mattered at this point. The Lions couldn’t have stopped Dalvin Cook if they had 12 guys out there on every play. They were that bad.

Running the ball effectively meant that Kirk Cousins only had to throw the ball 20 times, and he certainly made a fool of the Lions secondary when given the chance. He distributed the ball to six different receivers and even former Lion Ameer Abdullah got in on the action for a touchdown.

While the offense certainly did its job and then some against the Lions, the defense also came up huge to solidify a victory. Matthew Stafford was not himself on Sunday and threw two awful interceptions to the Vikings in crunch time. Vikings safety Eric Wilson—hey, I went to high school with that guy—was a difference maker notching 13 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 0.5 TFLs and a QB hit.

The Vikings are doing their best to get out of the hole they dug themselves. At 3-5, they’ve still got a long way to go, but it helps that they have a soft schedule coming up.

Next game: @ Bears (5-4)

Bears lose their third straight to the Titans, 24-17

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Bears have some serious issues on offense.

If you look at the box score, you might actually think that Nick Foles had a pretty decent game. 36 completions on 52 attempts. 335 passing yards. TWO touchdowns and zero interceptions. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, most of those yards and all of those touchdowns came on the Bears’ final two drives of the game and they scored exactly zero points in the first half. Not great.

This is a very bad football team that is somehow 5-4 with a chance to make the playoffs. They’re boring to watch and just as boring to write about. The Lions are at least (probably) heading in a direction where they might start another rebuild, whereas the Bears are probably going to finish 8-8, miss out on the playoffs and keep the current regime for another year. I wouldn’t want to be a part of either situation.

Back to the game, the Bears gave themselves a shot late in the game, but could not retrieve the ball on an onside kick with a minute left. They did a nice job of limiting the damage from the Titans’ running game, but their two costly fumbles in the second half prevented them from threatening any real comeback.

Next game: vs. Vikings (3-5)

NFC North Standings after Week 9

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

The Lions fall back down to a share of last place, while the Packers and Vikings are the only teams trending upward. This is also your weekly reminder that no one has a shot to challenge the Packers for first place in the North because they are simply on another level. The only team that looks as good or maybe even better than the Packers are the Vikings, but they’ve got a lot of ground to make up if they want to win the division title.

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears fall down to third place in a matter of weeks. They’ve reached the meat of their schedule and still have the same issues on offense that they’ve had since Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy arrived. Don’t be surprised the Bears decide to clean house along with the Lions by the end of the year if they suffer a cataclysmic collapse.