Now that Week 4 has concluded and we’re nearly a quarter-way through the season, let’s take a look at how the rest of the division is shaping up.
Vikings win in London over the Saints in thrilling fashion, 28-25
Welcome back to Sunday morning football. The first overseas trip of the year was a banger of a matchup, to say the least.
Without key starters like quarterback Jameis Winston and running back Alvin Kamara, the New Orleans Saints were forced to roll out backup quarterback Andy Dalton and use a running back committee of Latavius Murray and Mark Ingram.
The Vikings got out to a quick start capping off a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with a 15-yard pass from Kirk Cousins to running back Alexander Mattison. The offense struggled a bit for the rest of the half, but thanks to a Dalton fumble late in the second quarter, the Vikings were able to add another field goal and take a 13-7 lead into halftime.
After adding on another couple of field goals on stalled offensive drives, the Vikings gave the Saints enough time to find their footing offensively, and the Saints managed to score touchdowns on two consecutive drives, giving them a 22-19 lead with nine minutes to go in the game.
The Vikings responded with their own touchdown drive scored by Justin Jefferson to recapture the lead.
On the very next drive, the Saints found themselves with a tough decision to make on fourth-and-9 at the Minnesota 42-yard line. The Saints decided to trust in the leg of Will Lutz, who nailed his 60-yard field goal attempt to tie the game at 25-25, much to the British crowd’s delight.
Minnesota would follow up with their own field goal, gaining a 28-25 lead, but allowing enough time for the Saints to attempt another 60+ yarder to bring the game into overtime.
And just like that, the Vikings escape with a win.
Next game: vs. Bears (2-2)
Bears offense sputters on the road, Giants win, 20-12
The Bears have an offense problem, and that’s going to happen when your starting quarterback is completing as many passes as he has rushing attempts. Justin Fields has had a very, very bad start to the year. He has completed 50.7 percent of his throws and has just 471 passing yards in four games. Sunday’s game against the Giants was more of the same.
Fields was fairly effective running the ball as he finished with 52 rushing yards on seven attempts, but through the air, he continued his struggles. He finished the game with 11 completions on 22 attempts for just 171 passing yards.
The Bears did not score a single touchdown in this game. Instead, they tried to keep themselves in the game three points at a time, while relying on their defense. Ironically, the Bears were beaten by their own game, as the Giants would only need to attempt 13 passes all game and instead ran the ball down the Bears’ throats for 262 rushing yards on 44 total attempts from the team. Running back Saquon Barkley chipped in for most of the damage (146 yards), but it was QB Daniel Jones that punched in two rushing TDs that put them in the driver’s seat.
Next game: @ Vikings (3-1)
Packers hold off potential upset vs. Patriots, win in overtime, 27-24
If you think the Patriots are just going to roll over for anyone with their third-string QB in the game and Matt Patricia calling plays on offense, well think again, I guess.
Backup quarterback, Brian Hoyer, who started in place of injured Mac Jones, was taken out of the game after suffering a head injury when sacked on the second drive of the game. Fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe came in and did about as good of a job as you can ask for someone in his position.
The Packers let things get a little closer than they should have and trailed by a touchdown late in the game, but a connection from Aaron Rodgers to Romeo Doubs tied things up and brought the game into overtime.
Each team had at least one chance to score in OT. After stopping the Packers, the Patriots had the ball at the Packers’ 46-yard line but elected to punt on fourth-and-5 and never saw the ball again. You have to wonder if they would have gone for it had they not been down to their third-string QB.
The Packers will head to London next week to play the Giants.
Next game: vs. Giants (3-1)
Standings after Week 4
After another disappointing loss, the Lions remain alone at the bottom of the division, but the lowly Bears look like they want a piece of the pie. The Vikings and Packers are clearly the favorites to win the North at this point, but neither looks like contenders just yet. 2022 is the year of parity in the NFL.