NFC North breakdown: Week 11

The Lions won late again but face a more difficult task this week. The Packers, too, have more of a challenge, while the Vikings and Bears are clinging by a string.

Detroit Lions (7-2)
For the third week in a row the Detroit Lions were down late in the fourth quarter and still managed to find a way to win.

After jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first half over the Miami Dolphins, the second half was a different story. Miami was able to slowly chip away at that lead throughout the third and fourth quarter until they were finally able to take a 16-13 lead with 4:19 left to play in the game.

It was up to Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense to drive down the field to either win or tie the game. Their first drive, however, did not go the way they hoped as Stafford threw three incomplete passes and then the Lions were forced to punt.

Their defense was then able to hold the Dolphins to a three-and-out to give the offense another chance, and this time they would take full advantage of it.

With 3:13 left to play in the game, the Lions were able to drive the length of the field and score the game-winning touchdown. The drive took 11 plays and lasted 2:44. After that, it was just up to the defense to stop the Dolphins offense from scoring for 29 seconds, and when you have the No. 1 defense in the nation, that is no problem.

It was Week 11 in 2013 that began the Lions’ downfall. They were 6-3 heading into week 11, lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and ended up finishing the season 7-9.

The drive to end the season strong starts out this week when the Lions square off on the road against the team with the best record in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are 8-1 this season, and the only team in the NFL with only one loss.

One thing that the Lions have going for them is that the Cardinals will be without quarterback Carson Palmer, who tore his ACL last week in their win over the Cowboys. The Cardinals do have a very capable back up in Drew Stanton, though, who is sporting a 3-1 record on the year so far.

The outcome of this game could very well be decided by the play of each quarterback, as these defenses rank second (Lions) and third (Cardinals) in the league in rushing defense. And with their starting quarterback on the injured reserve, that is not a good sign for Arizona.

Green Bay Packers (6-3)
The Green Bay Packers continued to ride the strengths of their team last Sunday in their win against the Chicago Bears – their offense was impressive and their defense created turnovers.

The Packers defense picked off Bears quarterback Jay Cutler twice during their game, which brought their total up to 12 interceptions and has them tied for fourth in the league, and only two picks behind the league-leading Arizona Cardinals.

Aaron Rodger once again led Green Bays’ offense, and Rodgers did what Rodgers does. He threw for 315 yards, averaged 11.7 yards per pass attempt, and threw for six touchdowns. He was also complemented nicely by a running game that totaled 132 total rushing yards.

This game was never really close, as the Bears did not score a point in the game until the Packers already had a 45-0 lead on them. The Packers will find it hard to have that same kind of success this week as they are going against the 7-2 Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles took a big hit a couple weeks ago when their starting quarterback Nick Foles went down with a broken collar bone, but backup quarterback Mark Sanchez has stepped up and done a great job. He threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns and helped lead his team to a 45-21 win over the Carolina Panthers.

This game will be a matchup against two of the best teams in the NFC, and with it being such a tight playoff race this year both teams need this win. The Packers need it to keep pace with the Detroit Lions and to stay in the wild card race, and the Eagles need it to stay ahead of the Dallas Cowboys for first place in the division.

This game will more than likely be won through the air with both teams being ranked in the top 10 for passing offense – the Eagles are No. 5 and Packers are No. 10. But both of these teams are represented by talented running backs that have the ability to break out at any time. Even though Eddie Lacy for the Packers and LeSean McCoy for the Eagles have not had the years people expected from them, they will still be relied on heavily throughout this game.

Minnesota Vikings (4-5) vs. Chicago Bears (3-6)
These are two teams that are seemingly heading in opposite directions. The Chicago Bears have lost their last two games, allowing their opponents to score 50-plus points on them in each game. The Minnesota Vikings, on the other hand, have won two games in a row, and were able to win both of those games in the fourth quarter or overtime.

By no means should anyone automatically hand this game over to the Vikings, though. These two teams always seem to have close games against each other. At least that was the case last year when in their first meeting the Bears won 31-30, and in their second meeting the Vikings won 23-20 in overtime.

When it comes to the offensive side of the ball, the strength of these two teams is opposite. Minnesota has a strong running game behind Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. It ranks 10th in the league and could even get a further boost if Adrian Peterson is allowed to play in the near future.

The Bears’ strength is more in the passing game, where they rank 12th in the nation. It is no wonder when you realize that they have the strong arm of Jay Cutler throwing to the 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall, the 6-foot-3 Alshon Jeffery, and the 6-foot-6 Martellus Bennett.

The defenses, like the offenses, are worlds apart. Minnesota’s appears to be on the rise and getting stronger, where the Bears defense seems to be struggling. The Vikings have the No. 9 defense in the nation and No. 4 against the pass, whereas the Bears have the No. 26 defense in the NFL.

After their loss on Sunday, the Bears’ hopes of making the playoffs basically disappeared, but the Vikings still have an outside shot and need this win. After two humiliating losses, the Bears would like nothing more than to come out and squash the playoff dreams of a divisional opponent.

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