Around the NFC North – Week 17

With the Chicago Bears having the division locked up, the Minnesota Vikings are fighting for their playoff life in the final week of the season in a huge divisional rivalry game.

Chicago Bears

As the playoffs draw closer, the Bears are gathering momentum having won eight of their last nine games and the streak continued in San Francisco this past Sunday with a 14-9 win over the 49ers.  In the victory, Chicago’s defense continued to stifle opposing offenses by holding the 49ers in check all game and allowing three field goals during the second quarter.  A second-quarter touchdown pass from quarterback Mitch Trubisky and a third-quarter touchdown run from Jordan Howard put the game at 14-9 and the Bears defense held the rest of the way, highlighted by a key interception by Danny Trevathan in the fourth quarter with San Francisco driving deep into Chicago territory.

Following a brawl after a late hit on Trubisky that got three players ejected from the game, the Bears fumbled in 49ers territory.  With the chance to drive the winning touchdown with less than two minutes to play, the Bears defense once again held Nick Mullens and the 49ers offense at bay and sealed the game with a turnover on downs.

The win put the Bears at 11-4 on the season and also has them locked in the three seed at worst in the NFC playoff picture.  In traveling to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in the season finale this Sunday, the Bears still have plenty to play for to finish the year.  Sitting just one game back of the Los Angeles Rams, who currently occupy the two seed in the NFC, the Bears have a shot at overtaking the Rams for the second seed and a bye week in the playoffs should they lose the 49ers this Sunday and the Bears win. 

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings picked up a much-needed win on the road this past Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit with their 27-9 win over the Lions.  After falling behind the Lions 9-0 on three first-half field goals, Minnesota scored 27 unanswered points to put the game out of reach and seal the win for the Vikings.  To get rolling at the end of the second quarter, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins found Stefon Diggs for a touchdown with a minute and a half remaining in the first half.  After the Vikings defense forced a three and out, Cousins got the Vikings near midfield for one last desperation heave before the half ended and he found tight end Kyle Rudolph on a Hail Mary throw to the end zone.  The touchdown put the Vikings up 14-9 entering halftime and the Vikings never looked back in the second half.

An efficient day from Cousins, who threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions, and a solid effort from running back Dalvin Cook gives the Vikings momentum as they look to carry forward much needed energy to their season finale against the Bears this Sunday at home.  Now sitting at 8-6-1 on the season, the Vikings are in the driver’s seat for the final playoff spot in the NFC.  They can clinch the sixth seed with a win or tie over the Bears or a Philadelphia Eagles loss to tie against the Redskins.  The only chance of the Vikings missing the playoffs is a loss to the Bears and an Eagles win over the Redskins this Sunday.

Detroit Lions

The Lions continued to skid at the close of the 2018 season with a 27-9 home loss to the rival Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday.  Now having lost four of their past five contests, the Lions defense came out ready to play to begin the game by forcing the Vikings to four three and outs to start the game.  With the Lions offense unable to close the deal by finding the end zone three times in the first half and rather settling for field goals, the Vikings broke the back of the Lions by scoring two touchdowns in the final minute and a half to play in the first half.  Where the Lions were able to move the ball in the first quarter and generate some offense, the Vikings offense generated 336 yards of offense over the final three quarters where the Lions were only able to gain 133 yards over that same span.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the Lions offense struggling mightily, starting quarterback Matthew Stafford was replaced by backup Matt Cassel for the final two drives of the game.  Since the departure of wide receiver Golden Tate and the season-ending injury to wide receiver Marvin Jones, Stafford and the Lions offense haven’t been able to put much together to help the team win.  In two games against the Vikings this season, the Lions offense failed to find the end zone even one time.  Now sitting at 5-10 overall on the season and having the worst record in the NFC North locked up, the Lions will travel to Green Bay this Sunday to take on the Packers in the final game of the season for both teams.

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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

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Comments (20)

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Bearmeat's picture

December 26, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Go Bears. Then Go Eagles the following week, and Seahawks over Cowboys. Then Go Rams over the Seahawks.

As for the AFC? Don't care. Just not the Pats. Preferably not the Steelers.

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PAPackerbacker's picture

December 26, 2018 at 01:26 pm

Since the Packers are out of the playoffs I will root for the Saints in the NFC and the Chiefs in the AFC. to make the Super Bowl. But the Ravens and Colts could upset the apple cart in the AFC. And those Seahawks are playing great football at the right time in the NFC. Should be some great games coming in the post season.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

December 26, 2018 at 01:36 pm

Bears were the most injured team in the NFL last year have been really healthy this year. They are still inept on offense even though they have a punishing defense. I'm hoping that with a good draft and good health the Packers can come roaring back in 2019. If Rodgers can get back to form, OL gels and improves, key players make a second year jump and we can stay relatively ely healthy there's a good chance the Packers will surprise teams in 2019. Yes it's a lot of its but football is filled with ifs.

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Bearmeat's picture

December 26, 2018 at 01:46 pm

The Bears have limited salary cap flexibility, and very little draft capital for the next 3 years. Plus, as you say, they got very lucky with injuries this year. They'll regress badly next year unless Mitch becomes a top 10 QB - which IMO is very unlikely. He reminds me a lot of Rex Grossman....

GB is on its way back.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

December 26, 2018 at 02:00 pm

Aka the Bears still suck!

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Johnblood27's picture

December 26, 2018 at 02:10 pm

Bares better win it all this year, they blew their wad.

They have nowhere to go but down.

Gadget plays dont carry the day when they are your best plays, lots of time and tape this off-season and like the above posts say, they have very little flexibility to improve through player acquisition.

Weaknesses will get picked at next year with no help on the way.

The queens are about to see how it feels to not be able to afford to keep all the players you want to. I see a nice regression coming.

LOLions. Nuff said...

All GBP next season.

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Lare's picture

December 26, 2018 at 02:28 pm

Would like to see the Vikings knocked out of playoff contention and the Bears being one-and-done. At least then their troll fans would be less inclined to spend all their time crowing on Packers sites.

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Samson's picture

December 26, 2018 at 04:19 pm

At this point in time, both the Bears & Vikings have more talent (especially on the "D") & are better coached than the Packers.
Gute & the new HC along with free-agency and a knock-out 2019 draft will close the gap. -- However, the Pack need some luck to challenge in season 2019. --- It's called reality cheerleaders.

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Bearmeat's picture

December 26, 2018 at 07:40 pm

You're not wrong. But by 2020, if they nail this hire... you could be. will be...

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jgando12's picture

December 26, 2018 at 07:23 pm

God, I hate the Seahawks.

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dobber's picture

December 26, 2018 at 08:26 pm

So many teams to despise...so little time...

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Bure9620's picture

December 26, 2018 at 08:22 pm

Pagano and Caldwell interviewing is less than inspiring..........makes me question MM as a "Football Guy" he claims to be. I would take Philbin over either

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dobber's picture

December 26, 2018 at 08:39 pm

Caldwell satisfies the newly-modified "Rooney Rule".

He and Pagano both are among those 'really good guys' in coaching, but I don't want to see either in GB.

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Bure9620's picture

December 26, 2018 at 10:13 pm

Yes Caldwell satifies the Rooney rule but so would Eric Bieniemy or Kris Richard or David Shaw when their seasons are over... or heck even Joe Whitt Jr., these interviews do not inspire confidence.

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dobber's picture

December 26, 2018 at 08:52 pm

It makes me wonder if they already know who they want, and whether that person is either...
A. a college coach who will be free after an upcoming bowl game.
B. someone already with the team.

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Bure9620's picture

December 26, 2018 at 08:57 pm

Thats possible, I think Fitzgerald interviews next week, NW plays in the Holiday bowl on the 31st.

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canadapacker's picture

December 26, 2018 at 08:50 pm

I am not saying this as I told you so or as medal or anything but you can checkone of my week old posts. I said it because I meant it as an old timer Pack fan into golden age (Starr) followed by the doldrum age. AR needed to play for the teammates, for himself and to get a win for the organization and not to tank for draft picks. We now have one game ahead of us - BEAT the pussycats. There are some teams that I just dont like - firstly the Vikes, next the Bears - but the Lions -who I usually just laugh at but really I dont like them much either. So I hope we mash the Lions.

I also hope that the Vikes and Bears play some good old smash mouth down and dirty football. I hope that the refs just let them play as hard as they want to as long as they want to and that the winning team hobbles into the NO on crutches.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

December 27, 2018 at 01:12 am

No need to worry. If you were trying to take credit for something, I have no idea what it is.

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Spock's picture

December 27, 2018 at 07:23 am

TGR. Lol, seconded.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

December 27, 2018 at 09:01 am

@TGR I'd love to see an article on NFC North cap space in 2019. From what I can tell Packers are in great shape. Bears appear to be just fine not sure why people are saying they will be strapped for cash. Lions seem fine. Vikings seem strapped. I need to look into who are FAs that need to be resigned more.

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