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NFC North Rundown, Week 7: Vikings take over first place as Bears’ defense rolls

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Special teams and defense loomed large in divisional rivals’ victories in week seven.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Following a disappointing 26-17 loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers head into a long-awaited bye week hoping to get healthier and more in tune on offense with Brett Hundley at the helm. With the loss, Green Bay fell to 4-3 and second place in the NFC North.

The Minnesota Vikings became the new leader of the division with a home victory against Baltimore and stand to improve their standing with a win against Cleveland this week before their own bye. While Minnesota’s special teams keyed the Vikings to success, defensive points led Chicago to an improbable win.

More on those stories and what to expect from the Detroit Lions fresh off their bye week in today’s roundup.

Chicago Bears (3-4)

Won 17-3 vs. Carolina; Next at New Orleans

One year later, rookie Eddie Jackson is celebrating rather than suffering.

One year to the date of losing the rest of his senior season at Alabama with a broken leg, the safety Jackson became the first player in NFL history to score two defensive touchdowns of 75 yards or more in a win over the Panthers.

John Fox is arguably having one of his best coaching seasons.

While Green Bay fans question the Packers’ coaching without Aaron Rodgers, the Bears can attribute much of their success in recent weeks to Fox. Under Fox, Chicago’s veterans are buying in and seeing game-changing plays from its youngest players.

By 2020, there should be more answers in the Deshaun Watson vs. Mitch Trubisky discussion.

While Watson continues to impress in his limited starts in Houston, Trubisky has energized an overachieving Chicago team despite completing just four of seven passes on Sunday. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune offers that the 2020 season, after the Bears can secure additional offensive weapons, should provide a better indication of which quarterback was the better draft option.

Detroit Lions (3-3)

Bye; Next vs. Pittsburgh

Coming off an open date, here are five keys for Detroit to make the playoffs.

Michael Rothstein details five areas in which the Lions must grow and improve in order to be a playoff team this season.

Lions activate former Packer defensive lineman Khyri Thornton.

Coming off a six-game suspension for substance abuse, Thornton was given a second chance with the Lions after signing a two-year deal in the offseason. Detroit released quarterback Brad Kaaya to make room for Thornton.

Jim Caldwell not concerned with Ziggy Ansah’s declining stat lines.

In the final year of his rookie contract, Ansah has totaled four sacks this season. But with three sacks coming in one game and Pro Football Focus showing a lack of pass rushing impact outside the box score, Ansah’s production has fans pleading for more. Caldwell says he’ll evaluate Ansah after the season.

Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

Won 24-16 vs. Baltimore; Next vs. Cleveland

Improved offensive line is fueling the Vikes’ win streak.

Minnesota’s offensive line has not only helped produce the eight-best rushing offense in the league, it has not allowed a sack in 10 quarters. The protection has been a big boost for a team without opening week starters at the skill positions.

Minnesota loses a starting safety to a one-game suspension.

The Vikings will be without Andrew Sendejo this week after the safety made significant contact with the head/neck area of Mike Wallace on Baltimore’s second drive of the game. Sendejo has three days from Monday’s ruling to appeal the suspension.

The Vikings’ kicking game powers the team to victory.

Kai Forbath knocked home all six of his field goal attempts, including kicks from 52 and 51 yards, to lead Minnesota’s scoring. Ironically, Forbath missed an extra point in the contest in which he became the first Vikings kicker since Gary Andersen 19 years ago to convert six attempts.