Around the NFC North

News from around the NFC North and the first place Green Bay Packers and their rivals the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings.

Chicago Bears:  Another blown opportunity in Chicago as ‘Mr. Automatic’ Robbie Gould missed a long but makeable field goal which would have won the game late in the fourth quarter.   The win by the Redskins was their first road win of the season.

The faint hope of a Chicago Bears playoff run has now evaporated.  The disappointing Bears have not played well at home this season but will try to end the season on an upbeat note, as they can still clinch a non-losing season by closing out with three straight wins. 

First year head coach John Fox and his staff have done an exceptional job in Chicago with an aging and talent-starved roster.  As a result OC Adam Gase is rumored to be a leading head coaching candidate for next season.  If the Lions clean house as expected look for Gase to be considered for the head position in Detroit.

Key injury news:  Marquess Wilson and Martellus Bennett were both added to season-ending IR list.  Prized rookie WR Kevin White has not played the entire year due to injury and is not expected to be activated for the final three games.

Bennett may have played his last game for the Bears.  He has been frustrated by his role on the team and has been hobbled by various injuries throughout the year.  Owed a $5M base salary next year he is considered to be a prime candidate to become a cap casualty if not traded prior to next season which would seem unlikely.

Betting odds:  The Bears are 4.5 – point underdogs on the road.

Last Week:   Lost to Redskins at home

This Week:   At Minnesota

Season Record:  5 - 8

Place in NFC North:    Third

Detroit Lions:  Lions fans can finally put the 2015 season in the rear-view mirror as the latest Detroit loss officially eliminates the team from post-season consideration.

With the latest pratfall the Jim Caldwell experiment is also just about run its final course.  Caldwell and his entire staff will undoubtedly be shown the door by owner Martha Ford shortly after the season’s conclusion.

After a marvelous job of revitalizing Jay Cutler in Chicago, Bears OC Adam Gase is said to be a prime candidate to replace Caldwell.  The feelings appear to be mutual as Gase started his pro coaching career in Detroit.  Former NFL general manager Ernie Acorsi is currently consulting the team (i.e. owner Martha Ford) on a new GM and coaching hires and is said to hold Gase in high regard.  The move makes sense with the Lions having so much invested in quarterback Matthew Stafford and would be looking for a revitalization of their stagnant passing game.

Key injury news:  TE Brandon Pettigrew was placed on season-ending IR with a torn ACL.  It is the same tendon torn as a rookie in 2009 and the third overall.  As a purely blocking TE it may signal the end of Pettigrew’s time in Detroit.

Betting odds:  The Lions are three-point underdogs in New Orleans.

Last Week:   Lost at Rams

This Week:   At Saints

Season Record:    4 - 9

Place in NFC North:  4th - Last

Minnesota Vikings:   The Vikings loss at Arizona coupled with the Packers victory against the Cowboys knocked the Vikes from a first place tie with the Packers.  The Vikings played the Cardinals tough though with several key players missing time due to injury and now have something positive to hang their hats on going forward.

Even with the loss the odds of the Vikings making the playoffs are still high.  According to Vegas odds-makers the Vikings still have a 22% chance at the #3 seed and a 63% chance at the #6 seed, along with a 5% chance at the #5 seed.  With the reeling Bears coming to town this Sunday, the Vikings will look to keep their playoff chances alive in the two-team NFC North race.

The Vikings - Giant game will be flexed in Week- 16.  After the Giants defeated the Dolphins on Monday night, the Giants and Vikings contest will slide to prime-time Sunday Night Football December 27, taking the place of a Steelers-Ravens game.

Key injury news:  The Vikings were without four key starters against the Cardinals whom they hope to have return for their stretch run.  Vikings NT Linval Joseph (foot) SLB Anthony Barr (groin), FS Harrison Smith (hamstring), and SS Andrew Sendejo (knee) were all inactive in Arizona.

Betting odds:  The Vikings are 4.5 – point favorites at home. 

Last Week:   Lost at Arizona

This Week:   Bears at home

Season Record:   8 - 5

Place in NFC North:    Second

Green Bay Packers:   The big news in Green Bay this week after a convincing victory over the Dallas Cowboys was the return of play-calling duties by head coach Mike McCarthy. Cranking out 435 total yards of total offense through a balanced attack included a season-high 230 rushing yards while controlling the football for nearly 38 minutes - just what the doctor ordered for a team needing an injection of confidence heading into the final three regular season games. In a role reversal the rushing total for the season jumped to the eighth best in the league at 120.8 yards per game vs. the 23rd ranking passing team. There is however plenty of work to be done with this offense especially in the passing game.

McCarthy explained his decision to take over the play-calling duties from assistant head coach Tom Clements by saying, "The decision was made because I feel as the leader of this football team I've got to make sure to maximize all of the opportunities and resources to give our team the chance to win." (But) personally, it didn't feel very good; it didn't feel good at all. That's a challenge with these types of decisions, but professionally, it was what I felt I needed to do."

It was announced on Monday that a key cog in their defense will be spending at least the next four years in Green Bay. DE Mike Daniels was due to become a free agent after the 2015 season but agreed to a four-year $42M contract with $12M signing bonus. 

There are still 15 players – 7 on defense 8 on offense - who are slated to become unrestricted, restricted or exclusive rights free agents after the season’s end.  Key players who will not be under contract include RB James Starks, QB Scott Tolzien NT B.J. Raji, DT Letroy Guion, CB Casey Hayward, LB Mike Neal, LB Nick Perry, and safety/special teams ace Chris Banjo (exclusive rights).  Long snapper Brett Goode and kicker Mason Crosby are also slated to hit the open market.

Key Stats:  The Packers offense jumped to 18th place with a 345.8 YPG average.  The scoring offense ranks 12th at 24.3 PPG.  The Raiders offense is 15th in scoring and ranks 20th in average yards per game at 344.5.   The Packers defense is the 6th stingiest at 18.8 points per game but is giving up an average 350.2 yards good for 18th in the league.  The Raiders defense is 9th worst in points allowed per game at 25.2 and eighth worst in yards allowed per game.  Raiders QB Derek Carr already has 3,313 total passing yards, ranking ninth in the league.  He leads Aaron Rodgers who is 14th with 3,175.

Key injury news:  Top CB Sam Shields left the Cowboys’ game with a concussion and there is no update as to his possible status for Sunday’s game in Oakland.  WR Ty Montgomery who has missed most of the season due to injury and TE Andrew Quarless (IR designated to return) are unknowns heading into week 16.

Betting odds:  Green Bay is a three-point road favorite.

Last Week:   Beat Dallas at home

This Week:   At Oakland 

Season Record:    9-4

Place in NFC North:    First (alone)

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Comments (22)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
dobber's picture

December 16, 2015 at 07:46 am

Key stretch (obviously) starts for the Packers this week with a road game against a beatable team...especially with Minnesota getting two straight home games against very beatable teams (Chi, NYG).

If the Packers are really righting the ship, they need to show it with a win at Oakland, because the following week (at AZ) doesn't look good. That said, I don't see a W for the Packers this week unless the pass rush comes back with a vengeance...a la Minnesota a couple weeks back.

Other games: Lions lose, Vikings win.

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ray nichkee's picture

December 16, 2015 at 10:18 am

Its time to root for da bears. There. I said it. Now I have to go wash my mouth out with soap.

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4thand1's picture

December 16, 2015 at 06:11 pm

GOBEARSGO!

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brewers_rule's picture

December 16, 2015 at 12:05 pm

The irony of cheering for the Vikings to win to keep the heat on the improving Packer squad to not let up their intensity down the stretch is something that I find very confusing to deal with. C'mon Vikings! Stop sucking so much and win so the Packers leave absolutely anything and everything on the field the next 3 weeks & maybe get the 2nd seed bye.

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Bohj's picture

December 16, 2015 at 12:30 pm

It seems most probable that we get the 3 seed. If that's the case, I would want it to play out this way:

6 Vikings
3 Packers > 3 Packers
.................... 2 Arizona > 3 Packers
....................................................... > Pack
..................... 1 Carolina > 5 Seattle
4 Giants > 5 Seattle
5 Seattle

This way, we don't have to play a hot Seattle team in the first round. I want us battle tested before we play them. And to get that game at home would be absolutely awesome. That would mean two home games.

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dobber's picture

December 16, 2015 at 02:06 pm

This team won't be battle-tested if it earns the #3? ;)

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TommyG's picture

December 17, 2015 at 08:20 am

Seattle is getting scary. Since the bye that club is averaging something like 37 points and Wilson has a nearly perfect QBR. and that's with them missing Lynch and Rawls, their TE (graham?), and their best receiver is Baldwin. That team is hot right now. I hope they spend the next few weeks running out of gas.

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bandnerd007's picture

December 16, 2015 at 01:00 pm

Anyone else get the feeling Martellus Bennett could follow Peppers to GB? I'd love that if there aren't many decent TEs likely to be available in the draft.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

December 16, 2015 at 01:21 pm

Man, don't get me excited like that. I still remember his hype before leaving Dallas.

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Dan Stodola's picture

December 16, 2015 at 07:04 pm

I think you mean before leaving the NYG. He did next to nothing in Dallas in 4 yrs had 80 rec total and 4 TD in 4 yrs (all as a rookie). He then had one good year in NY. But Dallas didn't want him back and either released him or let him walk, don't remember. He wasn't sought after when he left Dallas tho.

He resureccted his career in NY, before going to Chi.

He would be a nice addition, but I wouldn't hold your breath. Probably too expensive for Thompson's tastes.

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ray nichkee's picture

December 16, 2015 at 02:06 pm

I was going to post that too but I restrained myself. If he gets cut and still gets 5mil he would be right up TTs alley. Everybody wants a ring, right? I've always liked his performance. Not great but steady.

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4thand1's picture

December 16, 2015 at 03:00 pm

cowdouche will say he's always hurt, ray.

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4thand1's picture

December 16, 2015 at 07:07 pm

you suck

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Clay the 1st's picture

December 16, 2015 at 11:43 pm

Honor your promise.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

December 17, 2015 at 02:14 pm

This.

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ray nichkee's picture

December 16, 2015 at 09:14 pm

X

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FrozenTundra's picture

December 16, 2015 at 08:54 pm

OK I'll say it. I love Cow coming back. When he was gone this board was like Tom Clements offense. He unites all the true fans. It's fun again.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 16, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Does raise the humor level.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

December 16, 2015 at 10:42 pm

You don't by chance have an Obama sticker on your prius, do you?

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ray nichkee's picture

December 17, 2015 at 12:41 am

I've had the exact same car for sale for 6 months now. All my other cars are long gone by now. I don't know why. Bad investment. I've sold 3 geo metros in that time.

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Phillthy's picture

December 17, 2015 at 03:02 am

Gotta agree with ya bud. I enjoy COWS contrast, you guys sway waaaay too much together.

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dobber's picture

December 17, 2015 at 09:47 am

Moooo.

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