With a win that snapped a three-game losing streak, the Green Bay Packers moved to 5-4 and maintained their tie for second place in the NFC North. The Packers remain two games behind the Minnesota Vikings, who dominated Washington en route to a 7-2 season record. While the surging Vikings have some level of control over the division with seven games remaining, the Packers are just one game back in the wildcard race.
The Packers’ Sunday victory over the Bears sparked headlines calling for head coach John Fox’s removal in Chicago after 2017, especially after a poorly-challenged play that stripped the Bears of a key red zone opportunity. Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions moved to 5-4 despite a lackluster showing against Cleveland that raises questions as to how consistent and capable Detroit really is.
A few of those stories and more in today’s divisional update.
Chicago Bears (3-6)
Lost 23-16 vs. Green Bay; Next vs. Detroit
With an extra week to prepare for the Packers, the Bears looked sloppy and vanilla against Green Bay despite being favored to win. Jeff Dickerson argues it is a reflection on Chicago’s head coach.
A costly challenge by John Fox at the goal line took potential points off the board for Chicago and gave the ball back to Green Bay. Fox says the team’s replay booth agreed with his decision to challenge the play, but would not elaborate further on the issue to avoid criticizing NFL officials.
Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, and newly-acquired Dontrelle Inman earned increased snaps this week for Chicago. Their presence helped quarterback Mitch Trubisky as he targeted wide receivers on 24 of his 35 attempts, a much higher rate than in weeks past.
Detroit Lions (5-4)
Won 38-24 vs. Cleveland; Next at Chicago
After starting and finishing strong against the Packers, the Lions’ offense sputtered on its first two series as Detroit was held to -3 yards and Cleveland took a 10-point lead. It was an all-too-familiar situation for Detroit.
The Lions have gotten significant production from defensive and special teams returns for touchdowns in 2017, the team’s most through nine games since 1971.
Mitch Albom suggests that Detroit’s inability to thoroughly put away a winless Browns team, in addition to allowing 201 rushing yards and long drives, makes it hard to label Detroit a “good team.”
Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
Won 38-30 at Washington; Next vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Division II product ranks third in the league with 793 receiving yards and fifth in receptions after hauling in eight passes for 166 yards and a score in a win against Washington. He continues to break out this year for Minnesota.
Will it be Case Keenum or Teddy Bridgewater for the Vikings next week? Keenum threw a career-high four touchdowns but also threw a pair of interceptions on back-to-back drives. It remains difficult for Zimmer to make a quarterback switch after five consecutive wins.
A pair of unheralded defensive players gain recognition, while several All-Pro defenders get called out in this week’s analysis.