Week 14 NFC North Review: The Gap Widens

Matthew Stockman

The Packers extended their lead in the NFC North this weekend, thanks to some help from a division rival.

In a somewhat unusual quirk of scheduling, there were only two games in week 14 that involved NFC North teams because each of the four teams played a division rival. The Chicago Bears traveled up to Minnesota to play the Vikings, and the Detroit Lions came to snowy Green Bay in an attempt to win in Wisconsin for the first time since Brett Favre was a rookie (and played for the Falcons).

@ Minnesota Vikings 21, Chicago Bears 14

Oh hello, Adrian Peterson. I like you a lot more when you're tearing the Bears' defense to shreds instead of the Packers'. Unlike last week in Green Bay, the Vikings were the ones who jumped out to a big lead early, on the backs of two Peterson touchdown scores. That allowed Christian Ponder and the Vikings' offense to go into full-blown "don't lose the game" mode, as Peterson ended up with 31 carries on the day.

It's worth pointing out that Jay Cutler was Jay Cutler on Sunday. By that I mean that he threw to Brandon Marshall early and often (10 catches, 160 yards and a score) while forcing a few balls and getting intercepted multiple times. Both of Cutler's picks led directly to touchdowns. the first came on the Bears' first drive of the game; with his team down 7-0, he was intercepted by Josh Robinson, who returned the ball to the five yard line to set up Peterson's second touchdown. The second Cutler pick was taken back to the end zone by Harrison Smith for the score that would prove to be the difference in the game.

With the loss, the bears fell to 8-5 and a half-game back of the Packers, who played Sunday night.

@ Green Bay Packers 27, Detroit Lions 20

I'm not going to say I told you so...but I did pick the exact score of this game on the radio on Saturday. Look it up. Anyway, the Packers dug themselves a 14-0 hole in the first half, just like the Bears did. The difference was that the Packers got one lucky play thanks to a little Lambeau magic (Mike Daniels' fumble recovery) and pulled themselves together at halftime to roar back for a solid win.

The return of an effective running game was the big story of the Packers' comeback, as Alex Green and company looked better than in any other game since Cedric Benson suffered his injury earlier in the season. Aaron Rodgers didn't throw a touchdown, but he did run one into the end zone to start the second-half attack, and DuJuan Harris followed it up with a run in which he described that the offensive line "opened up (the defense) like the Red Sea" in front of him.

With the events of Sunday behind us, we see that the Packers have a full game lead on the Bears in the division, and due to tiebreakers, Green Bay can clinch the NFC North with a win next Sunday in Chicago.

Standings

Team W L T GB
Green Bay Packers 9 4 0 -
Chicago Bears 8 5 0 1
Minnesota Vikings 7 6 0 2
Detroit Lions 4 9 0 5
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