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State of the North Recap, Week 4

The Packers suffered their first division loss of 2023 while the rest of the division faced ups and downs.

Syndication: The Post-Crescent Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

NFC North. NFC Central. The Black and Blue division. The Midwest’s football haven has gone by many names throughout its 56-year history. From the 1970s Minnesota Vikings and the 1980s Chicago Bears, to the 90s, 00s, and 10s Packers, the division has seen a great deal of upheaval to go along with its rich history or Hall of Fame talents. Fran Tarleton, Walter Payton, Aaron Rodgers, and more are all essential pieces of the fabric of the league. Now, quite possibly more than ever, a vacuum exists in what has become one of the league's worst divisions. Legends exiting and prospects failing have left the North in shambles, so much so that the Detroit Lions are favored to win the division for the first time in ages.

With so much changing day in and day out in the 2023 edition of the North, we figured there’s no better time to take a weekly look at what’s going on around the division. We’ll recap each game, check out the state of each team, and look forward to upcoming matchups as we attempt to sort out the messy blob of mediocrity that is this year’s NFC North. Without further ado, let’s dive into our Week 4 Recap of the NFC North.

Current Standings:

Detroit Lions (3-1)

Green Bay Packers (2-2)

Minnesota Vikings (1-3)

Chicago Bears (0-4)

Detroit Lions (3-1)

Week 4 Result: 34-20 win over the Green Bay Packers

Week 5 Opponent: Carolina Panthers (0-4)

No one here needs reminding, but the Detroit Lions cruised to a victory last Thursday night against the Packers. The Lions dominated at the line of scrimmage, often turning the Packers’ weak defensive fronts into mush with a beat-em-up approach that gave David Montgomery three touchdowns. After the Lions raced out to their largest halftime lead at Lambeau in over two decades, the Packers briefly rallied in the second half on the back of chunk plays and pass interference calls. Ultimately, the Lions’ lead was too large and Detroit came away with their fourth straight win over Green Bay. This also marked the Lions’ sixth straight NFC North win, their longest streak since 1995.

This week the Lions will stay at home as the Carolina Panthers are coming to town. As mentioned above, the Panthers are one of the worst teams in the league. Standing a 0-4, they are a mess schematically and should pose no threat to the Lions.

Detroit will be getting Jameson Williams back after the second-year wideout had his suspension for gambling cut short by new league policy. This will be just his seventh game in the league as his 2022 campaign was shortened due to an ACL injury suffered at Alabama. The Lions plan on bringing the SEC speedster along slowly but hope he can bring a necessary vertical threat to break the top off of defenses sitting down on Amon-Ra St Brown and Sam LaPorta. For more on the Lions this season, check out the awesome folks over at Pride of Detroit.

Green Bay Packers (2-2)

Week 4 Result: 34-20 loss to the Detroit Lions

Week 5 Opponent: Las Vegas Raiders (1-3)

The Packers’ up-and-down season continued last Thursday night as their propensity for slow starts turned into embarrassment. A makeshift offensive line led to an erratic Jordan Love and a dismal running game early in this game, and the Lions’ massive halftime lead proved too much to overcome. For the second straight week, Green Bay faced a massive deficit. This time, a Derek Carr/Jameis Winston combo was not welcoming them on the other side.

Thus far, the Packers have been a league-average team by nearly every metric, and that plays out on the field. On the bright side, the team is headed into a bye week after this week’s Monday night matchup, giving everyone time to rest up. Christian Watson made his return felt in very limited snaps with one crucial first down and a wide-open touchdown.

The Packers received reinforcements during Tuesday’s practice, as Eric Stokes, Elgton Jenkins, and Jaire Alexander all participated. This was Stokes’ first practice since his Lisfranc injury halfway through last season. To slow down Davante Adams on Monday, Alexander’s presence will be necessary, and the return of Elgton Jenkins could bring stability to an offensive line in desperate need of it. If Aaron Jones and Christian Watson return to their regular workloads, the Packers’ offense may finally start to take shape. For more on the game, keep it locked here all week.

Minnesota Vikings (1-3)

Week 4 Result: 21-13 win over the Carolina Panthers

Week 5 Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)

The Vikings notched their first win of the season on Sunday against the hapless Carolina Panthers, in a (for some reason) hard-fought battle. The dreaded regression boogeyman continues to slap Minnesota across the face. Things started out disastrously for the Vikes in this one, as Kirk Cousins was picked off on the goal line and then sent to the nether realm in an attempt to stop Sam Franklin from scoring (the attempt failed).

The Panthers mostly stayed quiet after that, as Brian Flores’ blitz heavy defense met its dream match in a flustered Bryce Young and a withering Panthers o-line. A last gasp effort brought them to the Vikings’ 9-yard line with two minutes left, but Bryce Young was sacked for a fifth and final time, effectively ending the drive.

Next up for the Vikings (14th in DVOA) is a meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs (8th in DVOA) in the late Sunday window. Corner Byron Murphy has already doomed the Vikings, claiming he’ll have some Taylor Swift-related trash talk ready for Travis Kelce. You can go ahead and cash the over on receiving yards. For more on the matchup and how Taylor Swift plays into it, check out the awesome folks at Daily Norseman.

Chicago Bears (0-4)

Week 4 Result: 31-28 loss to the Denver Broncos

Week 5 Opponent: Washington Commanders (2-2)

I mean…. Where do you even begin? The Bears came into this season with a renewed sense of optimism after trading the #1 overall pick and acquiring Panthers receiver DJ Moore. They envisioned Moore as the piece to unlock Justin Fields. His AJ Brown. His Stefon Diggs. That… has not happened. The Bears now sit at 0-4 and often look like they’ve never practiced together, let alone played an NFL game. After an embarrassing first three weeks, things improved for Justin Fields and the offense this week. They scored 28 points as the Broncos’ defense proved to be the perfect salve a week after giving up 70 points to the Miami Dolphins.

But of course, Bears gonna Bear, and a win was not in the cards for the league’s most snake-bitten team. Chicago gave up 21 unanswered and 17 in the fourth quarter, losing on a Will Lutz game-winning field goal with 1:46 left on the clock. The most pivotal play of the game came midway through the fourth quarter after the Broncos had closed the gap to seven. A disastrous sack fumble was returned for a touchdown to tie the game, as Justin Fields continues to make costly mistakes even on his best days.

Unfortunately for Bears fans everywhere, and fortunately for haters like myself, the league’s worst team will be featured on Thursday Night Football against the Washington Commanders this week. The Commanders’ pass rush will certainly be licking their chops as they face one of the worst offensive lines in the league. For more on the Bears and tomorrow night’s game, check out Windy City Gridiron for excellent coverage.

That’s it for this week’s State of the North! We’ll be back next week to check in on all the NFC North action in week 5!