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NFC North Rundown, Week 15: Vikings wrap up division title

The Minnesota Vikings are crowned as 2017 NFC North champions on the same day Teddy Bridgewater returns.

Cincinnati Bengals v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

All good things must come to an end.

After a stretch of eight-straight playoff appearances, the Green Bay Packers’ comeback bid to reach a ninth one fell short as the Pack dropped a close one to the Carolina Panthers, 31-24. With the loss, the Packers (7-7) were eliminated from postseason contention and fell to third place in the division.

Elsewhere in the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings clinched a divisional championship behind a complete performance from all units. With the game in the bag early in the fourth quarter, it was all smiles in Minneapolis as Teddy Bridgewater saw his first live action in almost two years. As Minnesota continues its quest for a first round bye, their showdown with the Packers this weekend figures to be one filled with bad blood.

More details on the Vikings’ clincher, as well as the steps their rivals might take to catch them next season, in today’s rundown.

Detroit Lions (8-6)

Won vs. Chicago, 20-10; Next at Cincinnati

The positional grades against the Bears are in: defense comes through.

Matthew Stafford and an aggressive Lions’ defense led by Darius Slay earned top billing after Sunday’s win over the Bears.

The offensive line is battered and beaten for the postseason push.

Detroit’s men up front are arguably just as injured now as Green Bay’s were earlier in the season. The Lions played for their playoff lives without three starters for a good portion of Sunday’s contest.

Here are some offseason priorities for the Lions to reach a divisional title.

Forced to wait another year to chase an NFC North crown, Detroit could follow four suggestions in this article to compete for the top spot as soon as next season.

Chicago Bears (4-10)

Lost at Detroit, 20-10; Next vs. Cleveland

Head coaching options beginning to pop up for the Bears.

With John Fox’s almost guaranteed departure within the next three weeks, here are seven candidates Chicago may consider for a head coaching vacancy.

Despite being on the way out, Fox is standing by his quarterback.

Mitch Trubisky tossed three interceptions in the Bears’ loss, but Fox praised the rookie quarterback for his maturity and understanding of the offense on Sunday.

The offense as a whole took a step back after a dominating performance against San Francisco.

A few more details on Trubisky’s errant throws, as well as the penalties on each side of the football that destroyed Chicago, in this week’s three things that stood out.

Minnesota Vikings (11-3)

Won vs. Cincinnati, 34-7; Next at Green Bay

Here are four takeaways from the Vikings demolition of the Bengals.

The defense was as good as ever and Case Keenum was near-flawless as Minnesota cruised to a win over Cincinnati and an NFC North championship.

Bridgewater made his long-awaited return.

With the Vikings comfortably ahead in the fourth quarter, Bridgewater took the field to a roaring crowd for the first time since 2015. Although one of his two passes was an interception, Bridgewater’s once-improbable return was the focal point of the outing.

Some of the Vikings want Aaron Rodgers to play on Sunday.

Defensive tackle Linval Joseph would like to see the “competitor” Rodgers take the field against a Vikings defense that put him out of commission earlier this season.