Around the NFC North: Week 15

The Vikings didn't do the Chicago Bears any favors this past weekend. The Packers will taste only their second losing season in 17 years. The Lions are on the brink of history for all the wrong reasons. How does all that affect the Bears? Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at

Detroit Lions

14 down. Two to go.

Two more losses, and the Lions will become the first NFL team to go 0-16.

"No one wants to be part of that," quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. "No one wants to have their name attached to it. But we can't let that consume us. We understand what the situation is. But we can't get to 1-14 without playing New Orleans, and that's what our focus has to be on."

The Lions' home finale is Sunday against the Saints.

The scary part is that the Saints have one of the NFL's top passing attacks, and the Lions have one of the NFL's worst pass defenses. The Lions still have only four interceptions – only one by a defensive back – and their secondary is banged up.

QB Dan Orlovsky
Domenic Centofanti/Getty

But the Saints are also 1-6 on the road, and even though the Lions are 1-21 in their past 22 games, they cling to how close they have come at times, especially the last two weeks. They lost to Minnesota 20-16, and at Indianapolis 31-21.

"You change 15 plays this season, 20 plays this season, we're probably a .500 team," Orlovsky said. "People can look at me and say I'm crazy. I'll point the 15 plays out to them."

Sunday's loss to the Colts was typically brutal. The Lions tied the game in the fourth quarter but stumbled down the stretch. They did a lot of good things, especially on offense, but they also made too many mistakes, failed to take advantage of opportunities and didn't get some key calls.

"It's the way this season's gone for us," left tackle Jeff Backus said. "I mean, it's just been one big disappointment, and this is just another one you can add to it.

"To play them down to the wire pretty much and come away losing is, I mean, it's frustrating. But it's a loss, and we're 0-14, and somehow we've got to find a way to win sometime in the next two weeks because we're running out of time."

Green Bay Packers

The Packers were eliminated from playoff contention in fitting fashion Sunday.

The host Jacksonville Jaguars' 20-16 comeback victory was the third straight game and the fifth time this season that Green Bay lost when it had the lead or was tied in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

"We've just come so close in a whole bunch of games, and we just can't get over the hump," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "The same thing happens every week. It seems like it happens the same exact way."

A 2-yard touchdown run by Maurice Jones-Drew put the Jaguars ahead with less than two minutes left.

Green Bay's wait-till-next-year fate was sealed when Aaron Rodgers had a pass intercepted in the waning seconds.

A mostly solid first season for Rodgers as a pro starter has been sullied by an inability to orchestrate a late-game victory. The Packers are 0-6 in games decided by four points or less.

Rodgers also threw a late interception when he tried to rally Green Bay against the Carolina Panthers, who won 35-31 on Nov. 30.

QB Aaron Rodgers
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

"I get paid to make plays, so I need to make plays," Rodgers said. "I haven't been doing that as well or as often as I want to be or should be. I take it on myself. It's disappointing. I've got to make the throws."

Saddled with a four-game losing streak for the first time since it opened the 2005 season with an 0-4 record, Green Bay, at 5-9, is assured of a losing record for only the second time in the last 17 years.

A season removed from opening eyes with a 13-3 record to win the NFC North followed by a narrow defeat to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game, the Packers have fallen on hard times. They have lost six of their last seven games – all since the team's bye week in late October – and will finish third in the NFC North.

"I don't question the character of our football team," head coach Mike McCarthy said after the latest stinging defeat. "I understand preparation is different than game day. I applaud their work ethic. They are prepared for games. They put great effort. [But] we're losing tight games.

"We're going to continue and sit down and continue to talk about this play and that play, and it's the difference between winning and losing right now. We're not making it. We're not making enough plays."

Minnesota Vikings

Vikings head coach Brad Childress might have an interesting decision to make about who starts at quarterback.

Tarvaris Jackson, who replaced the injured Gus Frerotte (lower back) in Arizona, put together a second very solid performance in a 35-14 victory over the Cardinals.

Jackson completed 11 of 17 passes for only 163 yards but also threw four touchdowns, no interceptions and had a passer rating of 135.5. This came a week after Jackson helped the Vikings rally to a victory over the Detroit Lions after Frerotte was injured late in the first half.

"I'm not going to go there," Childress said when asked about his quarterback situation. "It's a luxury to have two guys, and I've said all along it's probably going to take two guys to get it done."

But only one can start, and with the Vikings now having won four in a row and on the verge of clinching the NFC North, Childress finds himself in an interesting situation.

Jackson was supposed to be the starter this season but he was benched after the Vikings opened the season with losses at Green Bay and against Indianapolis at home.

Frerotte, a 37-year-old who signed as a free agent during the offseason to help mentor Jackson, took over as the starter. He wasn't great statistically, but he did post an 8-3 record as a starter and helped the Vikings climb to the top of the division.

QB Tarvaris Jackson
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

"Tarvaris did a great job [against Arizona]," said receiver Bernard Berrian, who caught a 41-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. "He made the right reads, right decisions with the ball. He didn't turn the ball over. He wasn't really off on anything really either. Just coming in and getting that confidence back is the biggest thing."

One key question is when Frerotte will even be able to return. He expressed optimism about his situation Sunday, but he reportedly has a broken bone in his lower back and could miss at least two games.

That means he might not be able to play this Sunday against Atlanta at the Metrodome. A victory by the Vikings in that game, or a Chicago loss Monday night in Green Bay, would give the Vikings their first-ever NFC North title.

So who will be the starter long term? Even Jackson doesn't want to get involved.

"I'm really not thinking about that," he said. "If Gus is not ready, I'm going to do the same thing I did last week and getting ready to play, relaxing and having fun."

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