NFC North breakdown: Week 10

The Vikings have their bye, but Green Bay and Chicago rejoin their rivalry while Detroit faces a winning Dolphins team.

Detroit Lions (6-2)

The Detroit Lions are coming off a bye week and preparing to host the Miami Dolphins, who are currently 5-3 and have a 3-1 record on the road. The Dolphins are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, riding a three-game winning streak and coming off a 37-0 victory against the San Diego Chargers.

This game should be a battle of defenses; both are ranked in the top-five in the NFL – Detroit No. 1 and Miami No. 3. The strengths of both, however, are opposite. Miami’s defense excels against the pass, allowing only 201.1 yards per game (No. 2 in the NFL). Detroit’s defense, meanwhile, is No. 2 against the run, allowing an average of 74 yards per game.

It will be interesting though to see how well the defenses hold up against the offenses of their opponent. The Lions will have a hard time holding the Dolphins to just 74 yards on the ground because Miami is currently averaging 137.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the league.

The Lions defense might not be the only one having a hard time, however, as Miami’s pass defense will have to go up against the likes of Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate and the return of star receiver Calvin Johnson. The Lions passing attack is currently averaging 259.1 yards per game, and a majority of those yards are without Johnson. His return will benefit Stafford more than anyone, as he will be able to sling the ball down the field and rely on Johnson to come down with it, as he has done throughout his career. The return of Johnson should also open up more things for Tate, who really emerged as a receiver in Johnson’s absence.

This game could likely come down to who performs better in the other aspects of offense – the No. 19-ranked passing attack of the Dolphins, or the No. 31-ranked rushing attack of the Lions.

The Lions rushing attack will be given an extra boost coming off the bye week, as Reggie Bush should be healthy and ready to play. Although he does not always perform like a star running back, he has the ability to change games in the blink of an eye.

Green Bay Packers (5-3) vs. Chicago Bears (3-5)

Coming off the bye week, the Green Bay Packers have to be one of the healthiest teams in the NFL. Their only listed injury is to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a hamstring injury during the Packers’ loss to New Orleans, and there is no reason for Packers fans to panic because Rodgers is listed as probable and says his hamstring is fine.

The Packers will face off against the Chicago Bears – who are now in last place in the division – in Green Bay. The mere fact that the game is being held in Green Bay may give the Bears a better chance of winning the game because they have not won at Soldier Field so far this year.

A fact that may surprise people in this matchup is that the Bears actually have a better passing attack – in terms of yards – than the Packers do. This is most likely because the Bears fall behind teams, forced to throw the ball often. The Packers defense has been able to produce 10 interceptions this year, too, which means the offense is working with a short field.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler cannot be looking forward to facing this opportunistic defense because he has been known throughout his career as someone who will turn the ball over. This year has not been any different, throwing eight interceptions, two of which came from the first time these two teams met.

Even though he has been known to throw interceptions, Cutler has been known for something else, and that is making big plays with his arm. Chicago’s passing offense in ranked 11th in the NFL, averaging 251.1 yards per game, and almost all of that has come from Cutler, who has thrown for 2,093-yards and 17 touchdowns.

The Packers passing offense is ranked just two spots behind Chicago and that is because of Aaron Rodgers, considered one of the best in the NFL – throwing for 2,092-yards (one yard less than Cutler) and 19 touchdowns (two more than Cutler).

If Cutler can refrain from turning the ball over in this game, it could come down to the play of each team’s defense. The Chicago Bears defense, although not very good, is relatively balanced, ranking 13th against the rush and 23rd against the pass. Green Bay has seen more drastic results, ranking ninth against the past and 32nd against the rush.

With both teams coming off a bye, it seems more likely that the Packers will win here, but with the rivalry between these two teams, anything can happen.

Minnesota Vikings (4-5)

The Vikings head into their Week 10 bye riding a two-game winning streak and feeling better about themselves. Their defense is ranked No. 9 in total defense and No. 4 against the pass.

Their offense still needs to improve, however, as they are ranked 29th overall. They could be getting a boost on offense though as their Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph is expecting to be able to return to action in Week 11 against the Bears.

Last week the Vikings beat the Redskins at the end of regulation, 29-26. Two out of their last three games have come down to the end of regulation, and the third went into overtime. The Vikings are 2-1 in those games, and are no longer the dwellers of the NFC North basement, passing by Chicago.

Along with the possibility of Rudolph returning, the Vikings could also be getting their All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson back on the team after Peterson agreed to a plea deal in his child abuse case. His potential reinstatement comes down to the decision of Roger Goodell.

If the Vikings are able to gain the pieces they have been missing for most of the season, and continue to play the way they have the last two weeks, they have a chance to win a few more games this season with four of their final seven games against teams with losing records (they play the Chicago Bears twice).

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