Sat, 04 Feb 2023

NFC NORTH: Where all four teams stand heading into Week 13

Detroit Lions
01 Dec 2022, 19:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

It's wild to think that there's only six weeks left in the regular season. Minnesota (9-2) is nearly impossible to catch for the division title with a five-game lead over Detroit with six to play. The Lions, Packers and Bears will need hot finishes the last month and a half of the season to keep themselves in the playoff picture in the NFC.

Here's a look at where things stand and some of the key headlines as we enter the stretch run to the end of the season:

MINNESOTA

Record: 9-2

Remaining schedule: vs. New York Jets (7-4), at Detroit (4-7), vs. Indianapolis (4-6-1), vs. New York Giants (7-4), at Green Bay (4-8), at Chicago (3-9)

Headlines:

1. Justin Jefferson for Offensive Player of the Year?

The oddsmakers in Vegas have Miami wide receiver Tyreek Hill (+250) as the favorite with Hill having a legit shot to challenge Lions Legend Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yards mark of 1,964 set in 2012. Jefferson has the second best odds (+275) with 81 receptions for 1,232 yards and five touchdowns on the season.

2. Thielen a good role model

Jefferson has had the advantage of having a player like wide receiver Adam Thielen to show him the ropes early in his career. Jefferson is the man for the Vikings now, but Thielen's still doing his thing. Thielen's scored the 52nd touchdown reception of his career on Thanksgiving, tying him with Anthony Carter for third in team history. Only Moss (92) and Cris Carter (110) have more receiving touchdowns for the Vikings.

3. Finding a way

The Vikings are 9-2 because all three phases of their football team have come up big for them late in close games. This week it was the defense. In a back-and-forth game with seven lead changes and five ties, the Vikings' defense delivered in the fourth quarter with back-to-back three-and-outs, a crucial sack late and a turnover on downs inside the final two minutes. New England was 0-for-3 in the red zone in the game.

DETROIT

Record: 4-7

Remaining schedule: vs. Jacksonville (4-7), vs. Minnesota (9-2), at New York Jets (7-4), at Carolina (4-8), vs. Chicago (3-9), at Green Bay (4-8)

Headlines:

1. Getting better

This young Lions team played toe-to-toe with Buffalo on Thanksgiving, losing 28-25 on a last-second field goal. That coming off a three-game win streak prior to Thanksgiving. This team is playing much better ball right now.

"I was proud of our guys, we fought," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said after the Buffalo game. "Took it all the way to the end, had an opportunity and we fell short. But I was proud of them, the way we played. We're getting better, we're still getting better."

2. Jameson Williams time?

Detroit started Williams' 21-day practice window last week and there's a chance Williams makes his NFL debut this week against Jacksonville. Lions fans have been eagerly awaiting what the No. 12 overall pick and all that speed he possesses will bring to the Lions' offense.

3. No. 1 vs. No. 2

This week marks the first time 2022 No. 1 draft pick Travon Walker of the Jacksonville Jaguars meets No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson of the Lions. The two pass rushers won't face each other directly on the field, but they'll always be compared to one another as the top two picks in the draft. Walker has 37 tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits in 11 games. Hutchinson has 31 tackles, four tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits in 11 games.

O'HARA: What we learned from Week 12O’HARA’S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Breaking down the Lions' remaining six gamesTIM AND MIKE: Week 12 observationsGREEN BAY

Record: 4-8

Remaining schedule: at Chicago (3-9), Bye week, vs. Los Angeles Rams (3-8), at Miami (8-3), vs. Minnesota (9-2), vs. Detroit (4-7)

Headlines:

1. Aaron Rodgers injury

Not only did the Packers lose to the Eagles Sunday night, but they lost Rodgers in the second half due to a rib injury. Rodgers did not rule out returning to practice this week and playing in Chicago next Sunday, if everything checks out medically with the injury. Backup Jordan Love came in and led the Packers to 10 late points to keep the Packers in the game.

2. Packers' defense is reeling

The Eagles' offense racked up 500 yards, including 363 rushing, the most rushing yards the Packers have allowed in a game since 1977.

"That's tough to stop anything if you have 15 missed tackles," Packers head coach Matt LaFleur told Packers.com after the game. "It's hard to look at that number. We've got to be better. We have to have a better plan and we have to go out and execute better. That just can't happen in this league."

3. Playoff chances on life support

The Packers haven't missed the playoffs since going 6-9-1 back in 2018. But at 4-8, it's realistic to think the Packers probably have to run the table the rest of the way to give themselves a shot at 9-8. They still have to play Miami on the road and host Minnesota and Detroit, two teams that beat Green Bay at home in their previous matchups this season.

CHICAGO

Record: 3-9

Remaining schedule: vs. Green Bay (4-8), Bye week, vs. Philadelphia (10-1), vs. Buffalo (8-3), at Detroit (4-7), vs. Minnesota (9-2)

Headlines:

1. Bears lose two team leaders

Safety and defensive captain Eddie Jackson suffered a non-contact injury to his left foot Sunday and was and was taken to the locker room on a cart. In the third quarter, wide receiver Darnell Mooney - the team's leading receiver - left with an ankle injury and did not return. The NFL Network reported Mooney may require season-ending surgery. Those are two big losses for the Bears.

2. No Justin Fields

The Bears have lost five straight after losing 31-10 to the Jets on Sunday without quarterback Justin Fields, who sat out with a separated left shoulder. Chicago looked like a completely different team without Fields, who has been good for them despite the team's record. The Bears showed Sunday just how important a player he is for them. They had no shot Sunday without Fields.

3. Claypool settling in

Wide receiver Chase Claypool, who the Bears traded for at the trade deadline, had only 32 yards on five catches in his first three games with the Bears. He caught two passes for 51 yards against the Jets, including a shot down the right sideline for 31 yards over Jets talented rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner. Chicago will be looking for more of that moving forward.

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