Around the NFC North – 2018 Playoffs

In a season of high expectations for most of the NFC North, the Chicago Bears rose from the ashes to seize the division and be the only team representing the division in the NFC playoffs.

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears entered the final week of the regular season with the NFC North already in hand and the outlying possibility of overtaking the Los Angeles Rams for the second overall seed in the conference with a win and a Rams loss to the San Francisco 49ers.  On the road in a tough environment in Minnesota, the Bears came to play with a chance to knock the Vikings out of the playoff and avoid a potential home and home matchup with the Vikings in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.

The Bears defense stifled the Vikings offense from the start and their offense was able to make key plays to put the game out of reach in the second half.  The Bears offense rolled behind the performance of running back Jordan Howard, who gashed the Vikings for 109 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.  Running back Tarik Cohen added another rushing touchdown as well.  The Bears 24-10 victory didn’t help their playoff seeding in the end with the Rams winning, but knocking a division rival out of the playoffs certainly had a sweet effect for the team.

The Bears dominated the NFC North in 2018 with a 12-4 record and their season truly came out of nowhere.  The quick turnaround to success for the team can be attributed to many things: new head coach Matt Nagy, a great free agency period this past offseason and some successful drafts in recent history.  Heading into the Wildcard round of the playoffs this coming weekend, the Bears host the defending champions Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field this Sunday in the late afternoon contest.  With a lot proven during the regular season, the Bears defense will likely keep them in games in the playoffs.  How far they’ll go likely hinges on head coach Matt Nagy, second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings entered the final week of the regular season with their playoff hopes on the line in a win and in scenario against the division rival Chicago Bears.  Right out of the gate, the Vikings offense sputtered against the vaunted Bears defense and the struggle continued throughout the entire game.  Down 13-3 at the half and pulling within 13-10 at the game entered the fourth quarter, the Vikings defense couldn’t hold back the Bears in the final period of play and the Vikings fell by a final score of 24-10.  In a scenario where a Philadelphia Eagles loss would help backdoor the Vikings into the playoffs, the Eagles took care of the Washington Redskins in the same timeslot this past Sunday to earn the final spot into the NFC playoffs.

An 8-7-1 finish was surely a disappointing season for the Vikings and their fanbase when expectations were Super Bowl or bust after being on the cusp last season.  $84 million man Kirk Cousins was signed to be the player that put them over the hump in the playoffs this season, but he won’t get his chance in his first season under center for the Vikings.  As of Monday morning, fans and media of the Vikings were left questioning the quarterback and the coaching staff for answers as to where things went wrong in 2018.  Truly a heartbreaking story!

Detroit Lions

With their season faltering and looking to show some pride and save some face at the end of the season, the Lions stormed into Lambeau Field this past Sunday and stuck it to the Packers to the tune of a 31-0 shutout.  The Lions offense came out rolling early in the game and their defense stifled the Packers offense from the start.  The game turned early in the second quarter as the Lions trotted out for a short field goal attempt.  After sneaking a tight end out wide with no Packer defender following, a direct snap to Lions kicker Matt Prater led to an easy touchdown pass to up 14-0 and knock the wind out of the Lambeau Field crowd.  The Lions controlled the rest of the game against an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team.

The Lions overall record of 6-10 to finish the season was certainly disappointing for new head coach Matt Patricia.  After rumors swirled early in the season that Patricia’s strict approach to coaching and aggressive practices during training camp had upset the veterans on the Lions squad, it appears that the first year coach will get a second season at the helm of the team.  The head-scratcher of a year that the Lions had in 2018 featured losses to the New York Jets and the San Francisco 49ers early in the season, with the team turning around and dominating the New England Patriots.  Following that game, the team couldn’t gather any momentum through the rest of the season.  With several more years on quarterback Matthew Stafford’s contract, many are wondering if his big payout was worth it due to his up and down play over the last couple of seasons.

________________________

Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

NFL Categories: 
0 points

Comments (25)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
dobber's picture

January 02, 2019 at 11:45 am

My greatest joy from the 2018 season might just be that the Vikings--also sitting at home after being a preseason SB darling--shelled out that huge, guaranteed contract for a QB who comes up small in big games and showed them just how much the stars aligned for them with Case Keenum in 2017.

11 points
12
1
ricky's picture

January 02, 2019 at 01:54 pm

Cousins contract is indeed the gift that will keep on giving for the forseeable future. The Bears were dominant this year, similar to Philly last year. Are they true contenders, or did they just have an amazingly healthy year, with a lot of players having "career years"? The Lions, even though the beat the Packers twice, are still a dumpster fire. The Packers are in need of a shake-up along the lines of Wolf/Holmgren.

6 points
6
0
Bearmeat's picture

January 02, 2019 at 03:24 pm

That is absolutely my greatest joy from the 18 season. A close second is TT's "retirement" and MM's firing.

A close third will be when the Bears lose to PHI this weekend. :)

3 points
4
1
HankScorpio's picture

January 02, 2019 at 07:39 pm

Maybe they can take the next Christian Ponder or Teddy Bridgewater to develop over these next 2 years.

-1 points
0
1
LeotisHarris's picture

January 02, 2019 at 09:21 pm

I've been telling my Vikings fan friends to keep their chins up. They're only a couple of high-powered free agent signings away from 8-8 next year.

2 points
2
0
NickPerry's picture

January 03, 2019 at 04:45 am

LOL...Except they only have about $7 million in cap space as of right now. They spent boatload of money signing and resigning FA to be and finished 8-7-1 and that was with a gift or two from the officials.

1 points
1
0
TheBigCheeze's picture

January 02, 2019 at 12:32 pm

watching the purple puke losers get their butts kicked on national television in their metro-DUMP, made our dismal season easier to accept....all is now good in the football world.....

5 points
5
0
splitpea1's picture

January 02, 2019 at 12:26 pm

Vikings: It's not the first time they thought they were one player away...

Lions: You think the Packers need a change of culture, take a look at these guys. But at least they showed up to play the final game.

Bears: Might not be a popular sentiment here, but they look pretty impressive to me. They would almost certainly need home field advantage to make it to the Super Bowl, though. Maybe the Packers should think about tilting their roster to compete with this team, because I don't think they're going away any time soon. The only good thing its that they've already expended their high draft capital. And like others have expressed here, I hope the Packers give Fangio a chance to interview.

5 points
5
0
ILPackerBacker's picture

January 02, 2019 at 12:49 pm

The queens WERE one player away
they picked the wrong player

was pretty obvious and predicted by a lot of people
including those who wanted teddie out years ago

2 points
2
0
egbertsouse's picture

January 02, 2019 at 01:34 pm

I’m happy to report from the burbs of MSP that on Sunday morning everybody in the stores and malls were wearing purple jerseys. By Monday morning there was no purple to be seen......

5 points
5
0
num1pakrfan's picture

January 03, 2019 at 07:54 am

That's the way its always been. Lived up there for 4 years in the early 90s. Yeah, you've got your diehards, but most are fair weather types. They're quick to bury their heads in the sand.

1 points
1
0
Jonathan Spader's picture

January 02, 2019 at 02:20 pm

"The quick turnaround to success for the team can be attributed to many things: new head coach Matt Nagy, a great free agency period this past offseason and some successful drafts in recent history."

Player health and Khalil Mack were the 2 biggest keys to the Bears turn around. In 2016 and 2017 they were one of the most injured teams in the NFL. I really hope Vic Fangio takes a HC job somewhere in the AFC. Without him the Bears take a big step back like when Shanahan left ATL for SF. Nagy really hasn't made the offense for the Bears look imposing they do just enough to not lose.

Can you imagine what 2018 would have looked like if the Packers not the Bears had landed Mack? I'm still pissed at Gruden.

2 points
2
0
Leatherhead's picture

January 02, 2019 at 05:42 pm

Obviously, adding Roquan Smith and Khalil Mack to a defense that had ranked around #10 the year before made it one of the best groups in the NFL.

But their offense also made jump from below average last year to better than average this year. Trubisky improved in his second year. Cohen is pretty good. They don't beat themselves with mistakes.

I figured the Vikings weren't as good as 13-3 and would be more like 9-7 this year. I figured the Lions wouldn't finish above .500, I figured the Bears and Packers would both win more games in 2018.....so I was half right.

This is a very evenly balanced division, and we could finish first or last in 2019.

0 points
1
1
HankScorpio's picture

January 02, 2019 at 07:47 pm

"You definitely can build long-term success in the pass-happy NFL via a powerful defense. This AFC CG appearance is just the first step on a long journey"

--Jacksonville Jaguars, January 22, 2018

1 points
1
0
Doug Niemczynski's picture

January 02, 2019 at 02:36 pm

I definitely would agree on giving V. Fangio an interview for the head coaching position.

1 points
1
0
Rossonero's picture

January 02, 2019 at 02:55 pm

I was very happy to see the Queens go down in flames on Sunday.

I'm amazed at how healthy the Bears have been this season. Sure, their WRs are a little banged up now and they lost their slot CB, Bryce Callahan, but otherwise, they've been incredibly healthy.

I'm curious to see how the Bears D performs in 2019. This is because we saw two dominant defenses of 2017, the Vikings and Jags, have a sharp decline in 2018 -- and with basically the same personnel. I haven't dived into it enough to figure out what happened, but both teams pretty much had the same defenses as 2017.

0 points
0
0
NickPerry's picture

January 03, 2019 at 04:59 am

I think a year of film and an offseason to study 16 plus games helps bring those dominant defense from the year before back to earth. BUT Fangio's unit's normally don't slip to much (CRAP)….Let's hope that changes in 2019.

1 points
1
0
Rossonero's picture

January 03, 2019 at 09:44 am

Good point. At least his defenses in SF sure didn't have declines. I don't know why that'd happen in Chicago....only thing that might slow them down are injuries.

0 points
0
0
Guitar dan's picture

January 02, 2019 at 03:16 pm

Ha! It was great to see the Vikings season go down in flames at home to da Bears!

Toot your damn horn now Vikings

Still no Lombardi Trophy, too bad

Haha :)

0 points
1
1
Pierre's picture

January 02, 2019 at 10:10 pm

All the NFC North teams are now better than the Packers and with Detroit and Minnesota sweeping them. Not looking good for GB going forward to make the playoffs with how much Rodgers has declined playing the QB position this season. Time will tell if a new coach will reign him in and get him playing more effectively to reclaim the NFC North or whether the years will be a continued downward spiral until a new QB is found for this Packer team.
I’d trade Rodgers to Jacksonville and build a great defense in Green Bay with the savings. It’s only a matter of time before it’s another Farve situation.

1 points
1
0
Ryan3468's picture

January 02, 2019 at 11:23 pm

The Bears weakest link is their quarterback. They will go down in flames if their defense can’t bail them out against a really talented team with a legit quarterback.

1 points
1
0
NickPerry's picture

January 03, 2019 at 05:11 am

I think the Bears will beat Philly with the injury to Foles but we'll see. BUT if they beat Philly I'm guessing the Rams will eat the Bears alive at home.

The game I want to see is the Seahawks vs the Cowboys. I HATE the Dallas Cowboys and will love to see the shots of Jerry Jones in misery in the final seconds of the Cowboys season.

Here's hoping to a KC vs Rams or Chargers Vs Rams SB. Either one would be an awesome game.

0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

January 03, 2019 at 08:08 am

Pulling for Chargers/Saints, myself.

1 points
1
0
PAPackerbacker's picture

January 04, 2019 at 04:10 am

I'm pulling for a Saints/Chiefs SB.

-1 points
0
1
HankScorpio's picture

January 06, 2019 at 07:00 pm

Well. that's a wrap on the NFC North for the 2018. Shame about the Bears being one and done on the double-doink FG miss. Just a darn shame.

0 points
0
0