AnalysisNFC North

Key Matchups for Each NFC North Week 9 Game

Green Bay Packers (5-2) @ San Francisco 49ers (4-4) (Thur. 8:20 PM EST, FOX)

The Packers run defense doing anything

The 49ers will be without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running backs Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, wide receivers Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne and tight end George Kittle. As Vikings fans saw last week, teams can run against the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay has allowed over 120 rushing yards in four games this season. That might be San Francisco’s saving grace on Thursday. 

Kyle Shanahan has proven that he can plug and play just about any running back into his system. JaMycal Hasty and Jerick McKinnon can certainly fill the void in the backfield. Shanahan has also proven he can run against Mike Pettine’s defense, as the 49ers have averaged 190 rushing yards in their three matchups. 

Kenny Clark hasn’t looked like himself this season, and Green Bay needs more production from its front seven to make sure the 49ers don’t steal a win. The Packers should win this game, and certainly need to, to keep themselves in the race for the top seed in the NFC. 

Detroit Lions (3-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (2-5) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, FOX)

Dalvin Cook and Vikings offensive line replicating their Week 8 performance

Minnesota was cooking last week against the Packers, much in part to Dalvin Cook’s performance. Now the Vikings face the Lions who had their own share of issues against running backs in Week 8. In Detroit’s loss to the Colts, Indianapolis running back Jordan Wilkins averaged close to 4.5 yards per carry, while Nyheim Hines caught two touchdowns out of the backfield. 

Cook’s ability to do both certainly presents issues for the Lions linebackers. Cook will probably play well, but Minnesota’s offensive line also needs to find its play from last week. Ezra Cleveland’s continued emergence at the right guard spot will play a key factor.  

Don’t be shocked if the Vikings put in a few more deep shots to Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson off of play action. Another solid offensive performance and the Vikings might just find themselves back in the hunt. 

Chicago Bears (5-3) @ Tennessee Titans (5-2) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, FOX)

Bears defense limiting the big plays 

This matchup features strength versus strength, weakness versus weakness. As much as the Bears offense has struggled this season, they should find success versus a Titans defense that lacks a pass rush and solid coverage. However, the game probably won’t be decided by that, but rather the amount of big plays Tennessee can produce against Chicago’s stout defense. 

Last week, the Bears didn’t let Alvin Kamara beat them. However, this week they can’t use the same game plan. A lot of the time during the second half, Chicago threw two linebackers in coverage at Kamra. 

That won’t work against Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown. Henry isn’t as dynamic a receiver as Kamara, but is probably the toughest tackle in football. Chicago has been leaky against the run all season. 

Meanwhile, Brown creates so much yardage after the catch in the middle of the field that the linebackers might find themselves in certain mismatches against the talented receiver. 

Chicago doesn’t appear to be the team that will allow Tennessee to beat them with deep play action passes. The Bears will need to make tackles and limit the amount of space Henry and Brown get to create big plays. 

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Brady Vernon

Brady Vernon is a recent graduate of Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree through Gonzaga University. He is an avid sports fan with aspirations of being a NFL Beat Reporter or a role in a NFL front office. Follow him on Twitter @BradyVernon

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