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State of the NFC North, Week 10 Recap

The North came close to an undefeated week as Josh Dobbs ruled headlines.

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions were back in action this week to lend a bit of credibility to not only the division but this column. They won their first shootout of the season, proving themselves capable in any scenario. But the biggest story continued to be the astrophysicist quarterback taking the league by storm, Joshua Dobbs. He led the Minnesota Vikings to a convincing victory over the New Orleans Saints and vaulted them into the thick of the playoff race. Elsewhere, the Chicago Bears pulled out the victory over the hapless Carolina Panthers, and the Green Bay Packers ruined the division’s undefeated week by running out of juice in Pittsburgh. Let’s check out each Week 10 game a bit more in-depth.

Current Standings:

Detroit Lions (7-2)

Minnesota Vikings (6-4)

Green Bay Packers (3-6)

Chicago Bears (3-7)

Detroit Lions (7-2)

Week 10 Result: 41-38 win over the Los Angeles Chargers (4-5)

Week 11 Opponent: Chicago Bears (3-7)

The Lions continued to prove they could win in any way possible against the Chargers this weekend. After an embarrassing beat down at the hands of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in week 7, the Lions have regrouped to win two straight and maintain a 1.5-game lead on the Vikings in the North.

Dan Campbell loomed large as he made gutsy call after gutsy call on fourth downs to keep possession and deliver the win. The biggest of which came with 1:47 left in the game. After Justin Herbert and the Chargers tied the game at 38 with 3:34 left, Jared Goff completed a 3rd and 14 at the LA 38-yard line to set up 4th and 2. Campbell made the call to put the ball in his quarterback’s hands, and Goff delivered, hitting Sam LaPorta for the 1st down and setting up the game-winning field goal.

Amon-Ra St. Brown finished with 156 yards and the combo of Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery proved lethal on the ground with 193 yards. The explosive performances came as both teams traded blows all day. The Lions taking the lead, the Chargers tying things up. Over and over. Although they scored touchdowns on their final five drives, in what’s becoming the theme of the Chargers’ season, all the fireworks were not enough.

This week the Lions will square off against the Bears in a matchup of first and worst. This will be just the second division game of the year for Detroit and their first meeting with Chicago. Although the Bears’ run defense has been stout since week 5, expect the Lions to roll in this David Montgomery revenge game (just let me craft the narrative, please).

Minnesota Vikings (6-4)

Week 10 Result: 27-19 win over the New Orleans Saints (5-5)

Week 11 Opponent: Denver Broncos (4-5)

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Yes, another chapter was written in Joshua Dobbs’ storybook run this weekend, as the Vikings held on late to beat the Saints. The 27-19 score here doesn’t illustrate just how in control Dobbs and the Vikings were all day. The offense took things Higher to kick things off, scoring on four of their first five drives to race to a commanding 24-3 lead. Although Jameis Winston filled in admirably after Derek Carr exited the game midway through the third, he failed to complete the comeback after two fourth-quarter interceptions.

The theme of this Vikings season has been perseverance, and Sunday was no different. TJ Hockenson gutted out a rib injury and became Dobbs’ favorite target on the day, seeing a whopping 15 targets and catching 11 of them for 134 yards and a touchdown. Alexander Mattison and Jordan Hicks left with injuries in the third quarter. It didn’t matter. Dobbs forged ahead, charting a new path for journeymen all across the league. Ok so maybe he didn’t do that, but he was really impressive again! “The Passtronaut” finished 23 of 34 for 268 and a touchdown and added 44 yards and a score on the ground. This is Dobbs’ third straight game with at least one passing and one rushing touchdown, a streak only bested by Justin Fields, Kyler Murray, and Michael Vick.

Next on the slate is a resurgent Denver Broncos team that is developing a knack for crushing the dreams of great quarterbacks after consecutive wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills.

Green Bay Packers (3-6)

Week 10 Result: 23-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)

Week 11 Opponent: Los Angeles Chargers (4-5)

The Packers are slowly but surely rounding into the team many believed they would be this offseason. A litany of close losses was to be expected with such a young team, but the hope was that this Packers squad would show steady, week-to-week improvement. It’s taken a while, but maybe the dream is still alive. On Sunday they faced the 5-3 Steelers, who have had their fair share of offensive woes. The difference? In classic Mike Tomlin fashion, Pittsburgh is pulling games out of their backside, having been outgained every week.

The Packers' defense did not give up many points once again, but was gashed on the ground over and over, with wide-open holes that make you say, “Yeah, I could absolutely get five yards in an NFL game for $10 million.” While the defense kept things close and prevented big plays, the Steelers were in control outside of a few near mistakes.

On the offensive side of the ball, who the Packers’ “guys” are seems to become clearer by the week. As Christian Watson once again struggled to establish any sort of connection with Jordan Love, Dontayvion Wicks and Jayden Reed stepped up with increased snap counts and production to boot. Wicks caught three of four targets for 51 yards while Reed hauled in all five of his targets for 84 yards and a TD. Reed is pacing the team right now with 417 yards, and received high praise from Mike Tomlin this past week.

The first-half execution was leaps and bounds above this team’s past outings, thanks in no small part to the offensive line holding up against TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith, allowing just one sack. Love orchestrated a penalty-free touchdown drive to start the game, and put up 13 points in the half. However, the emergence of new weapons couldn’t get Green Bay over the hump in the red zone as they only converted one trip into a touchdown. The Steelers' scoring on their first three drives ultimately proved too much, and the Packers’ mistakes did them in.

This week the Packers face off against a Chargers team reeling after another strange, tight loss, this time against the Lions. Jordan Love and the offense will need to find an even better rhythm this weekend, as there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Joe Barry will cook anything up to stop even a depleted Chargers offense. This is certainly the offense’s biggest test and one that could set the tone for the rest of the season.

Chicago Bears (3-7)

Week 10 Result: 16-13 win over the Carolina Panthers (1-8)

Week 11 Opponent: Detroit Lions (7-2)

The Bears continued our national punishment by taking the stage in primetime once again, this time against the 1-7 Carolina Panthers. This was presumably a promotion for the most recent Saw film. Let me be the first to say WOW. Those folks have outdone themselves. This was the scariest trap yet.

Tyson Bagent likely finished his run as a starter on a high note on Thursday night. The rookie only threw for 162 yards, but stayed mistake-free in a low-scoring rock fight where turnovers could’ve made all the difference. The Bears outgained the Panthers 295-213, ruled time of possession, and gained 21 first downs to Carolina’s 12. And yet, because the Panthers struck first with a 79-yard Ihmir Smith-Marsette punt return touchdown, the Bears trailed until D’Onta Foreman’s touchdown midway through the third. The Panthers drew within three, but Eddy Piniero missed a 59-yard game-tying attempt at the 1:40 mark, and the Bears came away with the victory.

Montez Sweat rewarded the Bears’ contractual belief in him with three quarterback hits and contributed to a great showing from Chicago’s league-worst pass rush. According to PFF, second-round rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson only gave up three receptions for 23 yards on six targets. Despite playing every defensive snap, Stevenson did not give up a first down. With backfield mate Kyler Gordon performing well as of late, the Bears may have three building blocks for their (next) rebuild (once again).

What’s important in this one is that the Bears, who own Carolina’s first-round pick, boosted their shot at the number one overall selection with a win. One would hesitate to call this game a step in the right direction, but you can only beat the teams in front of you. It’s a cliche for a reason, folks.

If Justin Fields returns this week against Detroit, it will be the start of a brutal welcome back that includes two games against the Lions, and bouts with the Vikings and Cleveland Browns. While this week’s Lions game doesn’t promise to be competitive, it will be refreshing for Bears fans to see Justin Fields at the helm again despite Tyson Bagent performing serviceably when tossed into the fire.

That’s it for this week’s State of the North! All four teams are in action this week, including a division showdown in Detroit. Will the Packers continue their small improvements? Will Joshua Dobbs ever cool off? Check back next week to find out and recap all the action.