Vikings and Packers
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Vikings and Packers are already separating themselves as the top two teams in the NFC North.

The Minnesota Vikings are 3-0. They are one of only five teams that will head into Week 4 undefeated. They have already won two games on the road. Things are looking pretty good, despite a horrible visit from the injury gremlin, and Vikings fans have plenty to be excited about heading into a little softer stretch of their schedule.

The path to the NFC North championship has to be paved in victories over our worst enemies, however, and today we take our weekly look around the division to see what’s up.

GREEN BAY PACKERS (2-1)

A week after Mike Zimmer’s defense had the NFL world asking, “What’s wrong with the Packers?” the Detroit Lions defense seemed happy to provide old No. 12 a confidence boost. Eddie Lacy got one, too, in the form of a 100-yard performance.

The Green Bay offense had one of the best first halves of the Aaron Rodgers era on Sunday, with their quarterback ending the day with a four-touchdown performance. Two of those touchdowns were to Jordy Nelson, and the rhythm was as quick as it was dangerous in front of the home crowd.

“He looked at me after [Nelson’s second touchdown] and just kind of smiled, head butted me and said, ‘I’m back,’” said right guard T.J. Lang following the game. “So it’s definitely good to see him go out there and get back to his dominant fashion.”

The Packers have a lot of key players injured as they head into the rare early bye week. On one hand, that might seem like good timing in terms of healing those guys that are ailing, but it also means the momentum gained against Detroit has to be paused until their October 9 game against the New York Giants.

The Giants, of course, will play the Packers in that game on a short week after playing the Vikings this coming Monday Night.

One thing appears certain already in Week 3: The two best teams in the NFC North are the Packers and the Vikings. They remain, as they always do, the number one enemy of the Minnesota Vikings.

DETROIT LIONS (1-2)

Speaking of Detroit, their too-little too-late comeback effort showed that their offense has plenty of firepower when things are clicking. Despite clear deficiencies, Detroit features some building blocks that make them a potential spoiler for anyone on their schedule in 2016.

The thing about the Lions is that their roster simply lacks depth to be taken overly seriously through a 16-game season, despite Jim Caldwell’s willingness to blame the coaches for Sunday’s losing effort.

As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press noted following the game, the Lions need to be able to withstand injuries before they’ll be true contenders, and that takes more than one season to accomplish under a new regime.

“The Lions dressed up the final score and made it look presentable with a few big plays by Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones, but Sunday’s loss at Lambeau Field proved they still have a ways to go to be serious contenders in the NFC.

Down their two best defensive players, Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy, the Lions lacked the talent, depth and wherewithal to hang tough against a team that was in just as dire an injury strait.

The Packers, playing without four defensive starters, scored points on six of their first seven possessions — the only exception coming when time ran out in the second quarter — and shredded a Lions defense that was hamstrung by a lack of personnel at key positions.

The Lions couldn’t generate a pass rush against Aaron Rodgers, couldn’t cover Jordy Nelson downfield and couldn’t get their own running game going in time to give their offense a chance.”

The Vikings play Detroit twice in the month of November, including on Thanksgiving, and if the Lions continue to get bit by the injury bug, they might be back to being the “same old Lions” by that point in time.

CHICAGO BEARS (0-3)

The Dallas Cowboys hosted the Chicago Bears this week with Tony Romo and Jay Cutler unable to take the field. That isn’t really news or analysis… but it is interesting nonetheless; who would’ve thought that would be the case two months ago?

All of that aside, the Bears are still terrible. Awful. Horrid.

In addition to a hobbled quarterback, a canyon-like void left by Matt Forte, a horrid offensive line, and a very suspect defense the Chicago Bears apparently lack heart.

Greg Gabriel of CBS, who once believed the Bears would be improved in 2016, is already admitting that he was wrong and this team will continue to be terrible throughout the season.

“With the addition of veteran free agents like Akeim Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman, Josh Sitton and others, the Bears looked promising on paper. The problem is, the game isn’t played on paper. It’s played on the field, and this team doesn’t play with any intensity or enthusiasm, which was once again demonstrated in a listless 31-17 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night that left the Bears at 0-3”

Gabriel continued:

“The season is only three games old and the Bears have suffered injuries to key players, but that can’t be used as an excuse. Every team suffers injuries and loses key players. The Cowboys lost their starting quarterback in the preseason and are playing with a bunch of no-name defensive ends due to suspensions, but they still kicked the Bears’ butt.

If they’ve overcome adversity, why can’t this Bears team? I believe the answer is this Bears team has no heart and no leadership. That’s inexcusable.”