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NFC North Rundown, Week 9: Are the Lions back in contention?

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While Chicago and Minnesota took a week off, Detroit picked up a critical road win at Lambeau Field to keep itself in the hunt.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

While the Green Bay Packers opened the second half of the season much like they left off in the first half, the Detroit Lions steamed ahead in a seemingly must-win game on Green Bay’s almost-frozen tundra. The loss leaves Green Bay in a precarious position, tied for second in the NFC North with a 4-4 record and little momentum to build upon heading into another divisional test against rested Chicago.

The Lions, meanwhile, hope to use their resounding 30-17 victory over the Green & Gold as a catapult to a divisional championship. With an offense that caught fire with explosive plays and timely third down conversions all night long, Detroit sets its eyes upon division-leading Minnesota, who had a bye week off.

Observations from last night’s game, as well as what to expect from Minnesota and Chicago in the second half of the season in today’s rundown.

Detroit Lions (4-4)

Won at Green Bay, 30-17; Next vs. Cleveland

Lions’ offense executes near-flawless game plan versus the Green Bay defense.

Behind Matthew Stafford’s 361 passing yards, two 100-yard receiving performances, and a time of possession that favored them by over 14 minutes, the Lions picked apart the Packers through the air.

Despite scoring a touchdown, Ameer Abdullah benched after two fumbles.

Abdullah scored from four yards out in the second quarter, but was benched after two second half fumbles, including one that was recovered by Green Bay. While neither Abdullah or Theo Riddick were impressive in the running game, Riddick’s screen play in the fourth quarter helped seal the deal for Detroit.

Could the Lions really win the NFC North?

Kyle Meinke of mlive.com says yes, due in part to the play of a better-protected Matthew Stafford and an advantageous stretch of games to close the season.

Minnesota Vikings (6-2)

Bye Week; Next at Washington

Roster move is looming to activate Teddy Bridgewater.

Minnesota must make a corresponding roster move to add Bridgewater to the 53-man roster by Wednesday. They have options, from placing a key player on Injured Reserve to carrying four quarterbacks.

Vikings’ defense has limited the impact of opposing running backs in the passing game.

Minnesota’s defense is among the league’s best in both pass and total defense, and that success has carried over to preventing running backs from having room to run after the catch.

Here are five questions for the Vikings after the bye week.

The starting quarterback job continues to be a hot topic of debate, but here are four additional questions facing Minnesota as it prepares for an NFC North title run.

Chicago Bears (3-5)

Bye Week; Next vs. Green Bay

Could Chicago have its first “big” second half in recent memory?

The Bears have finished 2-6 and 1-7 over the second halves of the past two seasons. Here are four reasons why Mark Potash believes Chicago is primed to improve on those records this year.

The Bears try to add depth and playmaking at wide receiver.

Chicago traded a conditional draft pick to the Los Angeles Chargers for wide receiver Dontrelle Inman before the deadline, giving the Bears a potential weapon that amassed 58 receptions in 2016.

Takeaways have greatly increased over the past three games and given Chicago a chance to win ball games.

Eight of the Bears’ 10 forced turnovers this season have come in the last three games and defensive backs coach (former Green Bay defensive coordinator Ed Donatell) is not surprised by his unit’s play.