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State of the North Recap, Week 5

It’s the Detroit Lions and everyone else right now.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The NFC North took center stage this week with two primetime games featuring the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. The Packers continued to stumble down the standings on Monday night as the Lions took a 2 game lead in the division with their dominant win over the Carolina Panthers. In Washington, the Bears saw more positive momentum from Justin Fields and their stagnant offense. Elsewhere, the Minnesota Vikings kept things closer than they had any right to be against the Chiefs in the late Sunday afternoon slot.

Current Standings:

Detroit Lions (4-1)

Green Bay Packers (2-3)

Minnesota Vikings (1-4)

Chicago Bears (1-4)

Detroit Lions (4-1)

Week 5 Result: 42-24 win over the Carolina Panthers (0-5)

Week 6 Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)

The Detroit Lions strengthened their grip on the division this weekend, laughing at the incompetence beneath them in the standings. Words I never thought I’d utter for $500, Alex. 10 days after crushing the Packers on Thursday Night Football, the Lions kept the momentum going with a brutalizing win over the Panthers. The Panthers actually kept this one close until the end of the second quarter when the Lions took a 21-7 lead and never looked back. Only one Lions drive didn’t result in points in the first half. Jared Goff and the offense didn’t miss a beat without Jahmyr Gibbs and Amon-Ra St. Brown, as Goff totaled 3 TD’s and David Montgomery punched in another to add to his 109 yards. Returning speedster Jameson Williams played about 50% of snaps and made an impression blocking downfield, but was otherwise quiet.

On the defensive end, Aidan Hutchinson recorded one of the weirder interceptions you’ll see this season and he threw in a sack for good measure. These Lions are starting to click, which usually means disaster is on the horizon. For now, they’re undeniably the cream of the crop in the NFC North. Next week they head to Florida to play a bad, but frisky, Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad.

Green Bay Packers (2-3)

Week 5 Result: 17-13 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders (2-3)

Week 6 Opponent: Bye

The Packers’ offense could have used an exorcism in Sin City on Monday night. The young group once again looked disjointed at best and disinterested at worst. Jordan Love was off-target all night and as a result of his inaccuracy and a bevy of designed screens and checkdowns, even moving past the line of scrimmage was a Herculean task. With Aaron Jones suffering a setback in his injury recovery, the Packers were once again without their top playmaker, and for better or worse, the team goes as he goes. Christian Watson saved his night on a deep shot late in the game, but was otherwise a victim of both his own lack of physicality and Love’s dismal play.

The last play of the Packers’ night, an underthrown end zone interception that should have been a wide-open, game-winning score, was a perfect microcosm of the entire night. While the game was tight for four quarters, an inability to score on one of the worst defenses in the league is obviously cause for concern, no matter the personnel.

On a positive note, the defense was once again stellar. Outside of a much-maligned, out-of-context highlight of Preston Smith getting cooked by Davante Adams, the defense held up their end of the bargain. We did not get to see a matchup between Adams and Jaire Alexander, however, because, well, Adams wasn’t targeted a single time with Jaire in coverage.

The Packers have the bye coming up (they can’t lose this, I’ve checked) to self-scout and prepare for another disgusting AFC North defense, the Denver Broncos. If they can’t score in Mile High against one of the worst defenses we’ve ever seen through 5 games, pack it up. As of now, they sit at 2-3, still very much in the thick of things in the North.

Minnesota Vikings (1-4)

Week 5 Result: 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)

Week 6 Opponent: Chicago Bears (1-4)

The Vikings’ mishaps continued on Sunday as disaster struck from the get-go. Their first play of the game ended in their eighth (!) fumble of the season as Josh Oliver fumbled after a 16-yard gain. The Chiefs’ resulting drive was ultimately the difference in the game as the Vikings lost 27-20. A tight first half ended 13-13 after a Harrison Butker field goal tied things up. The momentum carried over into the second half for Patrick Mahomes and co. as they weathered a brief Travis Kelce exit to score 14 unanswered. Unlike last year’s team, the 2023 Vikings did not have a miraculous fourth-quarter rally in them. With just five seconds remaining, the Vikings entered Chiefs territory and ultimately fell victim to a Mike Danna sack as the clock hit triple zeroes.

The headline of this game won’t be the loss, however. The Vikings played most of the fourth quarter without superstar receiver Justin Jefferson, who has now been placed on IR in a possible death knell for the Vikings’ 2023 season. Up next, the Vikings open their division schedule against the Bears in a game that might cause both teams’ fans to avert their eyes.

Chicago Bears (1-4)

Week 5 Result: 40-20 win over the Washington Commanders (2-3)

Week 6 Opponent: Minnesota Vikings (1-4)

They did it. They finally did it. The Bears avoided going a full calendar year without a win, halting the streak at 14 games and staying off a list filled with unsavory losers. Hours after the passing of franchise legend Dick Butkus, the Bears pounded the Washington Commanders, 40-20. Every offseason fever dream came true for at least sixty minutes as Justin Fields and DJ Moore connected for 230 yards (second most in Bears history) and three touchdowns. The two absolutely feasted on Commanders rookie CB Emmanuel Forbes, who looked lost and outmatched.

Even the defense came to life for the night, joining in on the sack party Sam Howell has thrown on a weekly basis with five of their own plus two turnovers. Rookie Terell Smith was a particular standout, as he forced a fumble early in the second half to halt any momentum the Commanders may have had after an early touchdown drive cut the lead to 16. And thanks to Carolina’s incompetence, as it stands today the Bears still lay claim to the top 2 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. Things aren’t all sunny in the Windy City, however. When the Bears host the Vikings this week, they’ll likely be without their top two backs, as Khalil Herbert suffered a nasty-looking ankle injury and Roschon Johnson left the game with a concussion.

That’s it for this week’s State of the North recap! The Bears, Vikings, and Lions are in action this week with the former two facing off against each other in Chicago to determine last place in the division. Check back next week and keep it locked here to fill the bye-week void with sweet, delicious content.