The NFC North race has been a great one all year and it was shaping up to go down to the wire with the Green Bay Packers as the favorites to win it. However, things are now drastically different with Aaron Rodgers out for at least three weeks and Jay Cutler likely coming back after just one missed game. And with the way the remaining schedules look for the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Packers, the division is completely up for grabs at this point.
All three teams have nothing but winnable games left on their schedules, including matchups for each team against the other two. That bodes well for the surprisingly competitive Lions as the only two teams with winning records left on Detroit’s schedule are the Bears and Packers. Assuming the Lions win at least half of those games, they’ll at least be in the Wild Card hunt, if not in the middle of the division title race at season’s end.
The Bears also have a relatively easy schedule with the Dallas Cowboys as the only interesting game left besides the Packers and Lions. Regardless of Cutler’s health, the Bears should win at least five of those games in a worst-case scenario with the way Josh McCown has played through one and a half games.
For the Packers, things are not getting tense as the injuries that kept piling up have now come to a head that has caused frustration to boil over in Green Bay. This team’s remaining schedule is the same as Chicago’s as it pertains to teams with winning records and the Cowboys, but the extent of Rodgers’ absence and the severity of his shoulder injury could make all of the Packers’ remaining games tough tests instead of winnable contests.
If Rodgers can return in three weeks, the Packers should be fine before the thick of their schedule starts in December. However, if No. 12 is out for any extended period of time, Green Bay could easily miss the playoffs altogether with the Lions, Cowboys and Bears still waiting on Thanksgiving and beyond.
With the way McCown is playing right now and the uncertainty surrounding Rodgers’ injury, the division is the Bears’ to lose right now, especially if they beat the Lions in Week 10. From there, it’s all an easy road until mid-December for Chicago, which should mean a division title for the Monsters of the Midway.