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State of the NFC North, Week 12 recap

The NFC North shined in primetime this week as the Packers and Bears prevailed in big spots.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The North’s bottom two teams came through in Week 12 as the Packers took down the Lions to kick off Thanksgiving and the Bears trudged through an ugly Monday night to claim victory over the Vikings. Packers quarterback Jordan Love had another brilliant outing to celebrate Turkey Day, and despite not being rewarded with the ceremonial turkey leg, his performance was calm and collected against the division-leading Lions.

For Detroit’s part, the cracks in Dan Campbell’s rock-solid foundation continued to show, as a middle-of-the-pack quarterback and an inexperienced defense showed their warts for the second straight game. In Minnesota, the Passtronaut came crashing back to earth. As Dobbs settles into the purple and gold, his play gets shakier, with the performance against Chicago resulting in four turnovers and a Bears win without scoring a touchdown. Let’s dive into each game and check out the standings below.

Current Standings:

Detroit Lions (8-3)

Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

Green Bay Packers (5-6)

Chicago Bears (4-8)

Detroit Lions (8-3)

Week 12 Result: 29-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers (5-6)

Week 13 Opponent: New Orleans Saints (5-6)

The Lions didn’t have much to be thankful for to kick off the holiday season. Despite being favored on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2016, a disastrous effort from Jared Goff sent the leaders of the North into a 60-minute spiral that brought doubts about their status as a contender to the forefront of the NFL landscape. From the first snap, the Lions looked outclassed by Jordan Love and the ascending Packers offense.

The secondary that has shown some glaring problems as of late was torched over the middle of the field numerous times. At the line of scrimmage, the Packers dominated. Helping the Packers dictate the flow of the game was Jared Goff, who lost three fumbles for the first time in his career and had defenders in his face all day. After a three-turnover day against the Bears, it’s clear the Lions have quite a bit to clean up for the stretch run.

The Lions have now lost on Thanksgiving every year since 2016. On the bright side, this matchup was the most-watched early game in Thanksgiving Day history! Next up is a visit to New Orleans to take on the Saints, whose injury-riddled receiving corps may be the perfect salve for the maligned Lions' defense.

Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

Week 12 Result: 12-9 loss to the Chicago Bears (4-8)

Week 13 Opponent: Bye

It would be an understatement to say the Vikings had a rough one this Monday night. The optimist would say they ground out a close game and had a chance until the very end. The realist would say that a series of offensive blunders led to one of the ugliest games of the season, one in which the Vikings should have never been close to winning.

Josh Dobbs may be headed for the bench just weeks after taking the league by storm and producing one of the most thrilling stories of the season. Head coach Kevin O’Connell was noncommittal on Dobbs’ future after the upcoming bye week, saying “We’re going to take a look, really evaluate the inventory of plays we have of Josh,” before discussing his other two healthy quarterbacks, Jaren Hall and Nick Mullens. Dobbs threw for just 185 yards and tossed four interceptions on Monday, but did throw his lone touchdown to take the lead with just under six minutes to go. Unfortunately, even after Anthony Barr recovered a Justin Fields fumble to ice the game, the Vikings went 3-and-out, giving Fields and the Bears time to lead one last drive to win the game with seconds left on the clock.

Up next for the Vikings is a much-needed bye week, followed by a matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders that should see the return of star wideout Justin Jefferson.

Green Bay Packers (5-6)

Week 12 Result: 29-22 win over the Detroit Lions (8-3)

Week 13 Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs (8-3)

On paper, the Packers had no business winning a nationally televised game against a top NFC team. Aaron Jones, Dontayvion Wicks, Luke Musgrave, and Jaire Alexander all missed this one. Missing three weapons on offense would ordinarily be a death knell, but Jordan Love had other plans. After opening their first drive with a shot play to Christian Watson, the Packers jumped on the Lions 7-0 and never looked back.

That galvanizing shot nearly didn’t happen according to Matt LaFleur. After the game, LaFleur said “As a matter of fact, I almost changed the first play call. I was mulling it over quite a bit. I texted Jordan this morning and told him I was going to change it to something else, and he said he wanted this call.”

The play was symbolic of where the Packers sit right now at 5-6. The faith in Jordan Love is beginning to pay off despite early frustrations, and the offense is starting to click at the perfect time. He finished this one 22-32 for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns.

On defense, Rashan Gary was unstoppable. His three sacks and two forced fumbles were the difference in the game, perplexing Jared Goff all afternoon. Jonathan Owens also got in on the fun, returning one of Goff’s fumbles for a touchdown early on to signal that the Lions had quite a fight on their hands.

The Packers came up with four 4th down stops, stymying Dan Campbell’s penchant for aggressive calls. The dagger came on a fourth down fake punt attempt from the Lions’ own 23. Lukas Van Ness and Karl Brooks, along with the entire defense, snuffed it out fast. The Packers would score on the ensuing drive on a gorgeous Christian Watson end zone grab to go up 29-14.

Don’t look now, but the Packers are just a half-game out of the wild card. If this is the Jordan Love we see for the rest of the season, they’ll have as good a shot to get there as any of the teams in the middle of the NFC pack.

This Sunday night, the Packers will look to pass another massive test against the Kansas City Chiefs’ stellar defense and, of course, Patrick Mahomes.

Chicago Bears (4-8)

Week 12 Result: 12-9 win over the Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

Week 13 Opponent: Bye

Milestones are being set in Chicago, folks. Records are being shattered. The unthinkable is being done. And no, none of it is good. The Bears became the first team this season to win without scoring a touchdown. Somewhere, Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes just erupted in cheers.

Much like your typical Iowa outing, the Bears’ defense was lights out the entire night. Montez Sweat and the entire front seven made Josh Dobbs’ dream run with Minnesota look more like a nightmare, forcing him into throwing four interceptions. Sweat finished the night with 1.5 sacks and 1 TFL and is living up to his hefty contract thus far.

The win stopped a 12-game NFC North losing streak for the Bears and continued a recent run of strong defensive outings. Although Justin Fields fumbled in a crucial spot in the fourth quarter, he managed to shake off an ineffective game and lead the Bears into field goal range, where Cairo Santos knocked through the game-winner. That was just about the only positive to glean from a woeful offensive performance.

16 of Justin Fields’ passes were behind the line of scrimmage, which is simply not a way to put up points consistently. Whether the blame lies on Fields or offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, there’s a disconnect and a lack of trust here, and it doesn’t seem like an issue that’s getting fixed anytime soon. That being said, shout out to DJ Moore! One of the few passes past the LOS went to Moore for 36 yards on the game-winning drive, setting the Bears up in prime position. Through inaccurate or inexperienced quarterbacks, Moore continues to stand out.

Next up for the Bears is the bye, followed by a Week 14 rematch against the Lions at home.

That’s it for this week’s State of the NFC North recap! With the Bears and Vikings on bye next week, we’ll be here to recap all the action from the Packers’ Sunday night showdown and the Lions’ chance to get back on track against the Saints.