NFC North Notebook: Week 7

Well, the half-way point of the season is not quite here, but it is coming into focus, and that means of course that we’re starting to get a pretty good idea of who is for real and who isn’t.  The picture is kind of bleak for Minnesota at 1-5, and the Bears at 3-3 are an every-week question mark – this week one of the league’s most inconsistent teams leaves Chicago and takes their show on the road.  To England.  Awesome.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have a 5-1 Detroit team that can only be derailed by their mad-scientist coach and his grade school tantrums, but other than that they look like a pretty solid team.  Then there’s Green Bay, who are quite possibly the quietest 6-0 the world has ever known.  Mathematically, their playoff ticket is all but punched already, and they’ll spend the holiday season jockeying for their first round bye.  We like their chances in that race, too.

Let’s see how these teams will stack up in Week 7:

Packers (6-0) @ Vikings (1-5): This should not be much of a contest, to be frank.  The Vikings are starting rookie QB Christian Ponder.  The Packers will counter with Super Bowl MVP QB Aaron Rodgers.  We’ll give that one to Green Bay.  Minnesota has shown a chronic inability to stop the passing game, and Rodgers simply has too many targets (Jennings, Nelson, Finley, etc.) to be easily contained.  Unless the Vikings come up with the collective defensive stand of their lives, they’ll be in for a long day, even at home.  We like the Packers by about 2 touchdowns on the road.

Lions (5-1) vs. Falcons: I think that Jim Schwartz let us in on a little secret about Detroit last week when he freaked out and chased Jim Harbaugh down the field: the Lions can say what they want, but they STILL don’t believe they’re as good as all the hype and their record says that they are.  And you know what? They’re right!  They really aren’t as good as their 5-1 record indicates, they certainly don’t have the class, poise, or experience needed to run deep into the playoffs, and they’re going to be a sideshow for the time being while their young talent develops.  That being said, they are very talented, so it will be interesting to see how a Week 6 loss to the 49ers affects them this week.  I think that the Falcons will continue to expose the Lions defense, particularly on the ground, and I think that the Lions lose a close one to drop to 5-2.

Bears (3-3) vs. Buccaneers (@ London):  Here’s a fun fact for you: In their 3 wins, the Bears are averaging 34.5 ppg.  In their 3 losses they are averaging 14.3 ppg.  That’s a huge gap in point scoring, and it underscores the mystery that has been Chicago all year long.  This team would seem under normal conditions like a horrible candidate for the NFL’s annual European Vacation, but here’s the thing: neutral fields will likely do nothing but calm the nerves of these otherwise split-personality Bears.  I believe that the travel (and conditions) will be tougher on Tampa by far, and we may get one of the strongest Bears showings of the year, even after crossing the Atlantic to do it.    (Oh and by the way, the Bears are only covering about 900 more miles this week than the San Diego Chargers, who will inconspicuously make the trip to New York.  The travel won’t be that big of deal.)  We like the Bears by a touchdown in this one.

So there you have it, with our predictions there will be a 7-0 Packers team, the Lions checking in at 5-2, Chicago at 4-3, and the Vikings at 1-6.  This division has shaken out quickly this season, so enjoy this weekend with your team, and let us know how right or wrong we were.

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