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State of the NFC North, Week 13 Recap

The Vikings and Bears were on bye this week while the Packers and Lions held down the fort with close wins.

Syndication: Green Bay Press-Gazette Tork Mason / USA TODAY NETWORK

The North had a relatively quiet week with two teams on bye and the Lions shutting down a reeling Saints team. That is, until Jordan Love and the Packers became the talk of the NFL world on Sunday night. The Packers capped off an undefeated week for the NFC North and firmly entered the NFC Wild Card race, now sitting as the 7th overall seed. The Lions, while still a bit disjointed, looked more like themselves against the Saints, jumping out to a 21-0 lead and holding on for the victory. They remain in the driver’s seat of the division, with the Packers still in the rearview mirror, but very far behind. Let’s get into this week’s recap by checking out where things stand going into Week 14.

Current Standings:

Detroit Lions (9-3)

Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Chicago Bears (4-8)

Detroit Lions (9-3)

Week 13 Result: 33-28 win over the New Orleans Saints (5-7)

Week 14 Opponent: @ Chicago Bears (4-8)

Jared Goff got back on track in Week 13 as the Lions dispatched the Saints with little trouble. The Lions led wire to wire in a game that looked a lot closer than it was. Detroit raced out to an early 21-0 lead before stomping out the embers of a Saints comeback late. Sam LaPorta was an absolute star once again. The rookie tight end posted a 9-140-1 line and continues to put together one of the best rookie tight end seasons in recent history. The Lions’ 21 first-quarter points were actually a franchise record; nothing new for a Detroit team off to its best start in over 60 years. Goff finished an efficient 16/25 for 213 yards and 2 touchdowns, a welcome return to the level of play that vaulted Detroit to a division lead in the first place.

It’s no secret that the Lions’ defense has been a mess the past few weeks. Finding a consistent presence opposite Aidan Hutchinson has been a struggle. To remedy this, Detroit brought in veteran edge Bruce Irvin in November, hoping for any kind of spark. On Sunday, they got it. Irvin played only 11 snaps but made his presence felt immediately, with a sack and a roughing the passer penalty that knocked Derek Carr out of the game with multiple injuries. Relying on a 36-year-old to breathe life into your pass rush may not be a long-term strategy, but against the Saints, it went swimmingly.

The Lions suffered one key injury in this game, losing their starting center Frank Ragnow to a knee issue in the second quarter. As of right now, the injury doesn’t look serious, but for an offensive line that has given up more pressure in recent weeks, the situation will be worth monitoring.

Up next for the Lions is a rematch with the Bears in Chicago. After a scare in their last matchup, the Lions will want to put their stamp on this one early and prove they have nothing to worry about at the top of the North.

Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

Week 13 Result: Bye

Week 14 Opponent: @ Las Vegas Raiders (5-7)

The Vikings enter Week 14 healthy and ready to make a playoff push. The headlines for this game will center around a quarterback and wide receiver duo who will need to build chemistry on the fly. Josh Dobbs remains the starter after a reevaluation of the position, and Justin Jefferson finally returns from his lengthy stint on IR. Getting the superstar back into the fold is as good an addition as you can get headed into a tight playoff race.

Head Coach Kevin O’Connell spoke about using the bye week to examine the importance of staying true to who his team is, while also playing to his new quarterback’s strengths. Adjustments are surely on the way to make Josh Dobbs more comfortable for the next 5 weeks. O’Connell also spoke on cleaning up turnovers after two recent close losses. Against the floundering Las Vegas Raiders and rookie QB Aidan O’Connell this week, the Vikings will have a perfect get-right opportunity.

Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Week 13 Result: 27-19 win over the Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)

Week 14 Opponent: @ New York Giants (4-8)

He is Him. This recap could end there because that’s all that needs to be said. After a first half of the season filled with doubts across the sports media landscape and Packers fans alike (guilty), Jordan Love has silenced critics en masse over the past 6 weeks. It all culminated in a Sunday night game as a touchdown underdog against the AFC’s number one seed, who just happens to sport a top-ten defense and a hall-of-fame quarterback. Win in this spot and you can win anywhere. And boy, did Love deliver.

Love finished this game 25/36 for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns, with hardly any meat left on the bone. Love acknowledged that he has this one circled for a while, seeing as how his first NFL start came in Arrowhead two years ago, a 13-7 loss in which he faced an insurmountable amount of pressure. He lived up to his own lofty expectations, leading touchdown drives on three of the Packers’ first four possessions and perhaps stunning a stellar Chiefs defense. After early season woes that saw them take uppercut after uppercut to start games, the Packers offense is the one delivering blows and forcing defenses to react: an ominous portent for the rest of the NFC Wild Card race.

Defensively, Joe Barry and the Packers put on a bend-do-n’t-break masterclass. Patrick Mahomes ended up on the ground in multiple red zone drives, sacked by Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, and even Lukas Van Ness. The unit’s play of the game came with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter though. At midfield with a chance to take the lead and make Jordan Love play from behind, Keisean Nixon intercepted Patrick Mahomes and stomped out yet another drive. An all-around effort from a team getting hot at just the right time.

Next up is a Monday night matchup with the Giants, who have strung together decent performances recently. Make no mistake though, this one should not be close. As long as the Packers don’t play with their food, we can expect a great night from Jordan Love and co.

Chicago Bears (4-8)

Week 13 Result: Bye

Week 14 Opponent: Detroit Lions (9-3)

The Bears got healthy during the bye week, with only four players on Wednesday’s injury report for their upcoming duel with the Lions. Rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson is back in the lineup to provide a boost against the Lions’ standout weapons that took over the last matchup between these teams. As was the case before the bye, the next 5 games are Justin Fields’ audition not just for the Bears, but the league as a whole. Chicago is likely to have the first pick in the NFL Draft, and will need to know everything about their current and future prospects at the quarterback position. Chief among the problems to solve is a dismal number of sacks and an offensive philosophy far too dedicated to throwing behind the line of scrimmage. We’ll see if anything the Bears found during the week off can help them in that regard.

That’s it for your Week 13 recap! All four teams are in action this week as we head into the final stretch of the season. Week 14 promises to be a big one for the NFC Wild Card race, so check back next week to read about all the action.