The NFC North is officially a one horse race: as if there was ever much question throughout the past month. All four teams were in action this week as the Packers and Vikings squared off in Green Bay, while the Bears and Lions took center stage on Sunday and Monday Night Football, respectively. Detroit recovered nicely from their wake up call vs Baltimore in week 7, while Chicago was outgunned and outmanned against the Los Angeles Chargers. In Green Bay, the Packers were embarrassed by the Vikings, who experienced a massive loss of their own. Let’s get into this week’s recap.
Detroit Lions (6-2)
Week 8 Result: 26-14 win over the Raiders (3-5)
Week 9 Opponent: Bye
The Lions pummeled the Raiders on Monday Night, sowing further discord in Vegas in front of a national audience. Late in the fourth quarter Davante Adams smashed his helmet against the bench, all but saying “please drag me out of Hell.” The stressor in this instance was his quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, who finished 10 of 21 for 126 yards. Jimmy G had just missed Adams on an island deep down field — and he missed bad. It was that kind of night for the Raiders thanks to a ferocious Lions defense that produced six sacks and an interception. Outside of a Josh Jacobs touchdown late in the first half, there was very little cause for celebration in Vegas.
The Lions’ offense, on the other hand, had a shaky night despite a stellar breakout from their rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs broke free from small snap counts and inconsistent usage to tally 26 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown, fulfilling draft night visions and giving Detroit another dangerous weapon. The offense did turn the ball over three times, including a head-scratching Jared Goff interception that lead to a Raiders score. Despite losing the turnover battle, this one was never really in doubt. The Lions shut the door for good on Gibbs’ 27-yard touchdown run in the third and will go into the bye with a comfortable 2-game division lead.
Minnesota Vikings (4-4)
Week 8 Result: 24-10 win over the Green Bay Packers (2-5)
Week 9 Opponent: Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
No mention of the Vikings’ dismantling of the Packers can be complete without addressing the elephant in the room: Kirk Cousins’ season, and perhaps his time in Minnesota, is over. Cousins left the game in the fourth quarter after taking consecutive sacks, with the torn Achilles diagnosis revealed later that day. It is unclear when the injury happened, but the Vikings turned to rookie QB Jaren Hall to close this one out.
Despite a brief scare after Preston Smith forced Hall to fumble, the Vikings had no issue shutting the door on the Packers’ season. Before exiting, Cousins was 23 of 31 for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns. He carved through the Packers’ third down defense like one of his infamous steaks, and orchestrated the Vikings’ 24-3 lead midway through the third quarter. The young pass catchers also came up big, continuing to pick up the slack in light of Justin Jefferson’s absence. Jordan Addison finished with 7 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, while T.J. Hockenson added his own score to complement 6 catches for 88 yards.
The Vikings sit at .500 and will now look to Josh Dobbs, who they acquired from Arizona on Tuesday, to lead them to a second consecutive playoff berth amid a weak NFC. That’s five teams for Dobbs in the past year as he quickly becomes the NFL’s preeminent journeyman. Here’s to hoping he has a wonderful airline card to stack up miles from all these moves.
Green Bay Packers (2-5)
Week 8 Result: 24-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings (4-4)
Week 9 Opponent: Los Angeles Rams (3-5)
This was the first meeting in this rivalry since 2006 to feature both teams under .500, and the Packers sure lived up to that billing. The offense once again looked listless — like they had never seen a professional football field. The Packers are the youngest team in the league, but moments like below are simply inexcusable.
never seen this before and i'll never see it again. a dropback with no routes pic.twitter.com/wHq0jvdIMJ— Luke Braun (@LukeBraunNFL) October 30, 2023
As our own Justis Mosqueda discussed with Pack-A-Day Podcast’s Andy Herman, Matt LaFleur’s seat is warm. If the Packers win five or fewer games, it’s a chair adorned in large cartoonish fire.
The offense got off to its typical sluggish start, only gaining their first 1st down late in the 2nd quarter. The second half was, as usual, better, but still barely watchable. Jordan Love hit Romeo Doubs on the goal line for the team’s first and only touchdown. Penalties also continued to be a thorn in the side of both sides of the ball. It’s tough to win a game when you are flagged 11 times for 99 yards, much less one with a young, inexperienced group. Despite the hopeful late game fumble and a short, six play Vikings drive that ended in a punt, the Packers finished this one as they started: like a plastic bag floating through the wind, its purpose long gone.
At Tuesday’s trade deadline, Brian Gutekunst flexed his job security by trading Rasul Douglas to the Buffalo Bills for a 3rd round pick, a tacit agreement with many fans that this team is headed nowhere and that it’s time to recoup value where we can. Douglas has been the team’s best cover man this year and will be sorely missed.
Next up is the Los Angeles Rams, who will in all likelihood be starting Brett Rypien in place of the injured Matt Stafford. For fans who would like to improve (worsen?) the Packers’ current 5th overall draft spot, that development could spell doom and lead to a cheap win. No matter what happens, know this: it will be ugly.
Chicago Bears (2-6)
Week 8 Result: 30-13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers (3-4)
Week 9 Opponent: New Orleans Saints (4-4)
The Chicago Bears are finally on even ground with the Packers, although this may not be what Bears fans had in mind. The ground is shaky, bug-ridden, and likely to give way at any moment, but dammit, we’re still standing. The Bears had no shot at competing with the Chargers on Sunday Night Football, as rookie Tyson Bagent was thrown into an impossible situation. He did score on a 1-yard sneak, but otherwise couldn’t get it going, throwing for 232 yards and two interceptions. The game can hardly be blamed on Bagent, as plays like Velus Jones’ below occurred far too often. The rudderless Bears team was simply facing too big a talent gap even with the Chargers’ well documented struggles.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears allowed Justin Herbert to complete his first 15 passes, resulting in a 298 yard, three touchdown night. LA scored on their first five drives and said goodnight to the Bears with a touchdown as time expired in the first half to go up 24-7. The Bears have not won consecutive games since the 2021 season.
The Bears were also active on trade deadline day, as they traded a 2nd round pick for Washington edge Montez Sweat in a move that sparked debate across the internet. The move echoes their disastrous deal for Chase Claypool at last year’s deadline in that this franchise seems to have no direction. However, Sweat should be a good piece for years to come if the Bears can get a deal done with him this spring. Up next, the Bears will take on the imposing defense of the New Orleans Saints in what will be Tyson Bagent’s third start of the year.
That’s it for this week’s State of the North! With the Lions on bye, the three misfits will look to hold down the fort and not wreck anything in the meantime. Check back next week for a recap that could be filled with three losses and thousands of broken dreams. An exciting prospect, indeed!