Around the NFC North: Rodgers and Packers Romp, Trubisky and Bears Embarrassed
The Vikings took care of business this week, using an offensive explosion to beat the Lions and secure their first NFC North victory in three tries. For the third consecutive game, Kirk Cousins played at an extremely high level and led the Vikings to a win.
After being buried a few weeks ago for his poor play, Cousins has suddenly become a fringe MVP candidate and made the Vikings look like a serious threat in the NFC. Both Cousins and Dalvin Cook are among the 12 players with the lowest MVP odds, according to multiple sportsbooks.
Here's what the NFC North standings look like right now:
Let's run through the other three teams in the division to see where they stand after seven weeks, and look ahead to what's next.
Detroit Lions (2-3-1)
Game result: Lost 42-30 at home to Vikings
This has been a tough three-game stretch for the Lions, who are probably better than their record says they are. After starting 2-0-1, they had Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on the ropes in Week 4. They led 10-0, 23-20, and 30-27 in that game, holding Mahomes without a touchdown pass only to allow him to scramble for a game-extending run on fourth down and escape with the victory.
Then, after their bye, the Lions went to Green Bay and were robbed of a victory by the officiating crew. They played very well on offense against a strong Vikings defense, but couldn't stop Cousins or Cook often enough to win in a shootout. The combined record of the three teams they've lost to on this streak is 16-5.
The Lions aren't going to make life easy for teams going forward. Matthew Stafford is playing arguably the best football of his career and belongs in the MVP conversation as well. The Lions have the second-easiest remaining schedule of any team in the NFC, so they'll have a chance to get back in the wild card race. Can the struggling defense do enough to keep them in games?
Upcoming games: vs. NYG, @OAK, @CHI, vs. DAL, @WSH
Chicago Bears (3-3)
Game result: Lost 36-25 at home to Saints
Let's get one thing out of the way immediately: this game wasn't nearly as close as the final score suggests. The Bears gave up 27 unanswered points and trailed 36-10 late in the fourth quarter before scoring a touchdown, becoming the first team this season to recover an onside kick, and scoring another touchdown. Prior to garbage time, the Bears' only touchdown came on a Cordarrelle Patterson kickoff return.
Mitch Trubisky was back for this game after missing a few weeks with the shoulder injury he suffered against the Vikings, and his return went about as poorly as it possibly could have. Trubisky was woefully inaccurate, going 4 for 13 on passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield. He was content to check down time and time again; Trubisky threw just 3 of his 54 pass attempts into tight windows, per Next Gen Stats.
Yeah, the Bears threw the ball 54 times. With just 7 runs. After drafting a running back in the third round this year.
The Bears defense picked a bad time for its worst game of the season, giving up over 400 yards of offense at Soldier Field to old friends Teddy Bridgewater and Latavius Murray.
The Bears are a mess right now. It's getting more and more difficult to hold out hope that Trubisky has what it takes to be "the guy," but they don't have many other options. They can't bench him for Chase Daniel unless they're fully moving on from Trubisky. They could try to trade for someone like Andy Dalton or Marcus Mariota? This was just one week and the defense is still loaded with stars, but they can only do so much with quarterback play like this.
Upcoming games: vs. LAC, @PHI, vs. DET, @LAR, vs. NYG
Green Bay Packers (6-1)
Game result: Won 42-24 at home vs. Raiders
Uh oh. The Packers look extremely dangerous right now. Aaron Rodgers threw for 429 yards and 5 touchdowns, adding a sixth on the ground, and the Packers made sure the Vikings weren't the only NFC North team to score 42 points in Week 7.
When Rodgers is playing like this, the Packers are one of the best teams in the NFL. He had a perfect passer rating against the Raiders, despite playing without his best receiver, Davante Adams. He spread the ball around to eight different receivers, making good decisions and delivering the ball with pinpoint accuracy.
The concerning thing about this game for the Packers was the play of their defense. The Raiders actually out-gained them 484 to 481 on the day, and the difference in the game came down to turnovers. Trailing 14-10 after the two-minute warning of the first half, Derek Carr dove for the pylon but lost the ball into the end zone for a touchback. The Packers drove down and scored, completely changing the complexion of the game heading into halftime. Carr also threw a pick in the second half, and the Packers didn't turn the ball over once.
Rodgers showed why he remains maybe the most feared QB in the league, but the Packers aren't just going to waltz to the NFC Championship Game. The defense is struggling right now, and the Packers have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the division.
Upcoming games: @KC, @LAC, vs. CAR, @SF, @NYG