The Green Bay Packers had one of the most successful bye weeks one can ask for this past weekend. All four teams ahead of the Packers in the NFC Conference standings lost or tied on Sunday, which means Green Bay made up plenty of ground even though they did not play.
The Packers are currently fifth in the conference standings with a 6-3 record. However, the Atlanta Falcons (8-1), Chicago Bears (7-2), San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) and New York Giants (6-4) all dropped a game to allow Green Bay the ability to make a legitimate push to the front of the line.
More importantly, the Packers have a realistic chance of taking over as the leader of the NFC North division by the end of Week 11. Green Bay will play the Detroit Lions in Michigan while the Bears will take on San Francisco in California on Monday Night Football. This means that if the Packers can defeat the Lions and the 49ers can beat the Bears, then Green Bay will be tied with Chicago with a 7-3 record. And since the Packers defeated the Bears 23-10 in Week 2 that would mean they own the tiebreaker.
Obviously, Green Bay and Chicago still have to worry about the Minnesota Vikings (6-4) who have turned the division into a three team race. However, the Vikings do not appear to have the quarterback play to keep up with the Packers and Bears. So for all purposes we are going to assume two of the games oldest teams will be fighting for the honor of the top spot in the division.
The Packers remaining opponents have a combined record of 37-30, while the Bears will face opponents who are 38-28-1. Both teams have their fair share of difficult games, as the division will simply come down to who plays better down the stretch.
The Packers are 18-5 in November and beyond against division opponents under head coach Mike McCarthy. On the other hand, the Bears have played well late in the season in recent years when Jay Cutler is healthy. However, the concussion Cutler suffered in a loss against the Houston Texans Sunday night could certainly have an effect on the outcome of the season.
Green Bay and Chicago will face each other one more time on Dec. 16 in a critical matchup that could very well determine who will win the division for the second time in the last three years. As long as the Packers can remain toe to toe with the Bears over the next several weeks, they should have a realistic shot at a second consecutive NFC North title.
Michael is a MLB and NBA Featured Writer for Rant Sports, but covers topics for various teams in baseball, basketball, and football. Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelTerrill and on Facebook.