NFC North
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

The Minnesota Vikings came out of Week Five victorious, and enter the bye week unbeaten, hoping to find some relief when it comes to their excessive injury report. Most pressing, the offensive line continues to fall apart with Andre Smith being the latest to join the Injured Reserve following an announcement that he’ll have surgery to repair his triceps.

The Vikings have an extra week to heal up and sort things out, which will include looking at some free agent blockers, but under the guidance of Mike Zimmer the team continues to find a way to win. They are the last undefeated team of 2016. They are tops in the NFC North.

They are the team to beat and our NFC North enemies get five more tries at it before the season is out. So, we take our weekly look around the division to see what is going on with our greatest foes.

GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-1)

Beaten only by the Vikings thus far, Aaron Rodgers edged out the New York Giants in front of the home crowd Sunday night by a score of 23-16.

The Packers offense jumped to an early lead, but soon became stymied by a mediocre Giants defense, and despite the win the conversation in Wisconsin continues to center around questions about what could possibly be wrong with Rodgers and the Packers offense. They didn’t score a touchdown through the entire second half, a frustrating string of events that Packers fans simply are not used to witnessing.

Due to those miscues on offense, however, observers may be prone to overlook an aspect of Green Bay’s makeup that has clear signs of improvement and proficiency: Their defense.

“Talk about Minnesota; talk about Seattle,” said Julius Peppers after the win. “Continue to talk about the rest of the guys. Just let us continue to grow. But to answer your question, I think the sky’s the limit. We have a lot of guys that can get on the field and can make plays. The depth I think is a plus. The young guys getting experience, the playmakers are out there. It’s a great mixture of experience, youth, playmakers, role players. We’ve got the right ingredients.”

Green Bay’s defense isn’t quite in the same echelon as Minnesota (or Seattle), but Peppers does have a point. Their team no longer relies solely on their passing attack, and their defense is actively helping them win games.

The Vikings bested Green Bay with a home-field advantage, but that remains their only loss so far, with plenty of football left to play. With that defense seemingly coming to life via gradual steps, and everyone waiting for Rodgers and company to shake their funk, Green Bay remains Minnesota’s biggest obstacle in the season to come.

DETROIT LIONS (2-3)

The Vikings are the NFL’s only remaining unbeaten team, but that is thanks to an assist from Detroit, who beat the odds and shocked Philadelphia with a 24-23 victory. This affirms that the Lions are a streaky team that aren’t going to show up every Sunday… but can do some real damage when they do.

Entering Week Five, Detroit actually had more penalty yards assessed against them than they had rushing yards on offense. That is not a formula that equates to wins, by any means, but that was not the case as they hosted the Eagles.

The team totaled only 80 yards on 27 rushing attempts, a paltry 3.0 yard average, but they also played their most disciplined football of the year. They were charged with only two penalties for 18 yards, won the turnover battle, and didn’t implode. Those few items alone allowed a more conservative than usual Matt Stafford to throw for 180 yards and three touchdowns.

The victory is a great start to their three-game stretch of home games that could keep them in the NFC North mix. Up next are the L.A. Rams and Washington Redskins.

CHICAGO BEARS (1-4)

The Bears lost which is something we should all get used to hearing as 2016 grinds on. They’re terrible.

Still, there are a few bright spots to note, such as Brian Hoyer’s two touchdown and no interception performance – turning in a quarterback rating of 120.0. Another was Jordan Howard’s 118 yards on 16 carries for an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Wide out Cameron Meredith caught nine passes for 130 yards and a score.

Still, those stats were aided by Indy’s incompetent defense, and the Bears ultimately lost by a score of 29 to 23.

One thing that continues to plague the Bears is their kicker Connor Barth. Even he admitted he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears check out free agent options after he missed his third field goal (of eight) on the season. The Bears let Robbie Gould go just prior to the season and brought Barth in to replace him.

“No. Nothing surprises me these days,” Barth said of the situation. “It’s the NFL. I just have to go back to work. Those are kicks I usually make. I got to make them.”

In an already miserable season, the Bears cannot afford to let three points slip through their fingers on a weekly basis, and it will be interesting to see how they approach this problem.