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NFC North Rundown, Week 9: Division title race is beginning to take shape

One pair of NFC North teams is trending up, while another pair continues to stumble as the season gets over the midway hump.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

With the Green Bay Packers reeling and clinging to their slowly disappearing hopes for the playoffs, the NFC North division has an odd feeling to it.

A surprising 3-4-1 mark in the first half of the season for Green Bay has head coaching rumors in full blast, with Mike McCarthy on the hot seat (APC’s own Jason Hirschhorn talked about that here). The Packers will need to quickly re-route the ship against Miami this week if they are able to make up ground on high-performing Chicago and Minnesota.

As for those Bears, they head into a divisional clash with an ailing Detroit team that made the division’s first coaching change of the season following last week’s loss. Minnesota’s 10-sack game against the Lions further added to the humiliation of the defeat and puts the Vikings in prime position for a division title chase following a bye week off.

More on the troubles in Detroit, including bold comments from Rich Gannon about Matthew Stafford, in today’s rundown.

Detroit Lions (3-5)

Lost at Minnesota, 24-9; Next at Chicago

Detroit Lions ‘pretty embarrassed’ in 24-9 loss to Minnesota Vikings

No Golden Tate, no problem? Not so much. Detroit turned in a miserable offensive game and offered little protection for Matthew Stafford.

Rich Gannon: Matthew Stafford big reason for Detroit Lions losing

In the midst of being sacked 10 times, the Lions QB was called “overpaid” and a master at picking up “a lot of yards and production in garbage time” by the former NFL veteran Gannon.

Joe Marciano fired as Lions’ special-teams coach

The Lions’ special teams coach was severed from the staff midway through his fourth season with the team. Marciano’s replacement has yet to be announced.

Chicago Bears (5-3)

Won 41-9 at Buffalo; Next vs. Detroit

Bears’ defense primed for second-half playoff push

Chicago’s offense did just enough on Sunday, while the Bears received a lift from their defense in the form of Roquan Smith and a trio of secondary defenders. With Khalil Mack expected to return next week, the Bears are in position for a postseason run.

Chicago Bears: Team’s sloppy play a concern, despite win

Though the 41-9 box score would suggest otherwise, the Bears have a few items to clean up before next week, especially from a penalty perspective.

Film Study: Five takeaways from the Bears’ 41-9 rout of the Bills

Third down success, taking shots deep, and having a first round pick all over the field on defense were among the five things that stood out most on Sunday for Chicago.

Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1)

Won 24-9 at Detroit; Bye week next

Vikings, aided by Danielle Hunter, set franchise mark with 10 sacks

After cashing in on a five-year extension in the offseason, Hunter’s 3.5-sack performance helped lead the Vikings to victory.

A Statistical Look at the Vikings Through 9 Games

Kirk Cousins currently has a career-high quarterback rating this season and is one of several storylines when observing Minnesota’s four four games of the season versus its past five.

Chad Beebe’s NFL debut with Vikings ‘a pretty fun day.’ Productive, too.

The son of former Packer Don Beebe, Chad notched three receptions in his first NFL regular season action. It was not quite as productive as his father’s first game, however.