It was a week devoid of statement wins, but the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers all took care of business in Week 6, which means the division is every bit as up for grabs as it was a week ago.
The Vikings continue to sink to the bottom of both the division and league standings, and while it’s early in the season, it’s hard to imagine the Vikings aren’t looking right now at just auditioning Josh Freeman for next season. With the top of the division so strong, even if the Vikings start to play better, they won’t overtake all three teams (if any).
So let’s look at where we are in the NFC North after six weeks, and then break down how each team’s performance was flawed.
Detroit — 4-2 (2-1 NFCN)
Chicago — 4-2 (1-1 NFCN)
Green Bay — 3-2 (1-0 NFCN)
Minnesota — 1-4 (0-2 NFCN)
Like last week, the Lion lead the division on account of a tiebreaker over the Bears, and the Packers are reliably charging back.
However, there has yet to be a clear power player in the division thus far. All three teams have showed flashes of greatness, but nobody is dominant. Any of the three teams at the top of the division look like they could reasonably win or lose against any team, any week.
That’s going to make the next two-thirds of the season very exciting.
A win over the Cleveland Browns doesn’t look like much, but this was a team that had won as many games in a row as the Lions had won all year long. The Browns put up a stiff fight, even scoring a flurry of points to lead 17-7 at halftime. But the Lions outscored them 24-0 in the second half to seize control of the game.
Despite a good-looking final score, the Lions have some issues. The pass rush was inconsistent, which allowed Brandon Weeden (!) to pick apart the secondary, which actually looks worse each week.
In addition, while Stafford looks to be more comfortable and more accurate each week, his receivers are dropping passes at an alarming rate. And that’s not because of a lack of Calvin Johnson. Johnson is one of the culprits.
Still, 4-2 is a good place to be with a banged-up offense. When Johnson and Nate Burleson return to health, the Lions should improve greatly.
Next Game: 10/20 vs. Cincinnati (4-2)
A win is a win, but squeaking by the 0-5 (now 0-6) New York Giants on account of a dropped pass probably isn’t the statement the Bears were looking for.
Still, they’re 4-2 and the defense is as good as it’s ever been, especially when it comes to forcing turnovers. That alone will carry them to wins this season. In fact, with the offense playing hot and cold as it has a tendency to do, they’ll need the defense to carry them to wins more often than not.
This is a team with a lot of big questions, but at this point in the season, which team in the NFC North isn’t? The Bears, like the Lions and Packers, display a lot of good, but nothing consistently great.
Next Game: 10/20 at Washington (1-3, at Dallas Sunday night)
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are getting it done with their running game and defense, or as you know them, the things the Packers aren’t supposed to be able to do well.
You would think that would make them a juggernaut team, but they still don’t appear to be firing on all cylinders. Aaron Rodgers was only 17/32, but still managed to put up over 300 yards and a touchdown. Still, this is third consecutive game Rodgers has looked shaky, but the Packers are 2-1 in those three games, so maybe they’re just fine.
That said, receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones both left the game against Baltimore and did not return. Rodgers might be preparing for the “Tom Brady Experience,” in which he has to make do with one good receiver and a good running game. Of course, if Eddie Lacy keeps running for 100 yards a game, maybe the Pack won’t have to key off the pass anymore.
Next Game: 10/20 vs Cleveland (3-3)
Vikings fans probably don’t want to hear that their season is over. And after only five games, it isn’t.
To keep pace with the rest of the NFC North, they needed to match them with a win. They had a bye week to prepare for the 1-3 Carolina Panthers, and they lost 35-10. At home.
So for those keeping score at home, no, Matt Cassel is not the answer. But after today’s performance, there’s a reasonable chance that the Vikings will spend much of the remainder of the 2013 season trying to figure out if Josh Freeman is. If he isn’t, a quarterback has to be a primary focus for them next offseason (maybe it should be anyway).
Next Game: 10/21 Monday vs. New York Giants (0-6)