Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure

We turn to our NFC North experts to give you the scoop on what's happening around the Black and Blue Division. The Packers and Lions currently sit at 3-0, with the Bears 1-2 and the Vikings 0-3.

Chicago Bears

LAST GAME: The Bears lost their second game in a row this week, falling 27-17 to the Packers. The offense was atrocious for most of the afternoon. The line never opened holes for Matt Forte< and he ended the game with just 2 yards on nine carries. Jay Cutler was off-target for most of the game, throwing two interceptions and sailing a number of balls high. And the receivers dropped numerous crucial passes. The Bears' defense gave up the most points to Green Bay since the 2008 home opener, allowing TE Jermichael Finley to carve them up to the tune of seven catches, 85 yards and three TDs. Two late turnovers kept the team in the game but mental miscues sealed the deal for Chicago, who fall to 1-2 on the season.

LOOKING FORWARD: After facing three of the best teams in the NFL to start the year, Chicago gets a bit of a break facing the Carolina Panthers this week at home. The Panthers are 1-2 and coming off their first win of the season. The team is in rebuilding mode under first-year coach Ron Rivera but they boast the most electrifying rookie in the league, QB Cam Newton. He's thrown for more than 1,000 yards in his first three games and leads the team in rushing. The Panthers' defense ranks 14th in the league against the pass and 25th against the run, so Cutler and Co. should be able to move the ball better than they have to start the season.

FUN STAT: The Bears' offense has passed the ball 82 times the past two weeks, compared to just 24 rushing attempts. The team lost both games. The coaching staff has preached balance but it's yet to happen on game day. Last week, the team abandoned the run out of necessity, as Green Bay allowed just 3 rushing yards up until the second-to-last play of the game, when Cutler took a fumbled snap and scrambled for 10 meaningless yards. Had the 3 rushing yards stood, it would have been the lowest rushing total for Chicago since 1952.

Detroit Lions

LAST GAME: The team's come-from-behind win over the Vikings was inspiring, especially considering their lack of success in Minnesota. Matthew Stafford's second-half revival (314 second-half passing yards and a pair of touchdowns) spoke volumes toward the team's resolve, especially considering how previous Lions teams would have wilted under such pressure, but that doesn't mean the team is without concern. Their running game was again absent (20 yards), and they looked lost for an entire first half against an 0-2 opponent.

LOOKING FORWARD: The Lions need to begin running the ball better, something that isn't lost on coach Jim Schwartz. The Lions used a short passing game to compensate for struggles in the run department, but that isn't a long-term solution. Expect rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley to play a handful of snaps against the formidable Cowboys (2-1) on Sunday, which might be Detroit's first true test -- the team's opponents to date have a combined 2-7 mark. Fairley will help fortify a strong defensive front that has taxed the playing time of second-year player Ndamukong Suh.

FUN STAT: Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (six TD receptions) is on pace for a record-setting 32 touchdown campaign. LaDainian Tomlinson holds the mark for most TDs in a regular season (28), and while it might be unlikely Johnson reaches that mark, it's entirely possible that he challenges the receivers record held by former Vikings Randy Moss, who nabbed 23 in 2007 with the Patriots.

Green Bay Packers

LAST GAME: The defending Super Bowl champions improved to 3-0 by beating the rival Bears in Chicago 27-17. Aaron Rodgers further stated his case as the best quarterback in the NFL by completing 28-of-38 passes for 297 yards, with three touchdowns — all to tight end Jermichael Finley — and his first interception of the season. Maybe more importantly, though, the Packers' defense showed signs of progress. The Packers led the league in opponent passer rating last season but had given up 400-plus-yard games in each of the first two games. While Chicago's Jay Cutler threw for 302 yards, the Packers picked him off twice and kept him in long-yardage situations by demolishing their running game to the tune of just 4 yards before a next-to-last play scramble by Cutler lifted that number all the way to 13.

LOOKING FORWARD: The Packers potentially will be 7-0 at the bye week, with Denver (1-2), Atlanta (1-2), St. Louis (0-3) and Minnesota (0-3) being a combined 2-10 entering this week's games. Only the Broncos aren't in last place in their divisions. That relatively easy schedule should let the Packers get through some of their early-season troubles, especially a 31st-ranked pass defense that absolutely must be fixed before they face Detroit on Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. That also should provide some time for Charlie Peprah to settle in as the new starting safety in place of injured Nick Collins (neck).

FUN STAT: Rodgers' passer rating against Chicago was 111.4. That's his worst of the season — a figure so good that it would rank second in the league. In 50 career starts, he's recorded 28 games with ratings of at least 100. That's a league record at the 50-start milepost. For the season, he's thrown eight touchdowns, and leads the league with 71.8 percent accuracy and a rating of 120.9. The completion mark would set in an NFL record and the rating is just below Peyton Manning's record 121.1 set in 2004.

Minnesota Vikings

LAST GAME: The Vikings have pulled off the improbable, extending their NFL record by starting the season with three straight losses after holding double-digit halftime leads in each of them. As one player's sad humor attested, the first halves are getting better, which, of course, means the second halves are getting worse. A 17-7 halftime lead in San Diego turned into a 24-17 loss. A 17-0 halftime lead at Mall of America Field against Tampa Bay turned into a 24-20 loss. And their 20-0 halftime lead against Detroit turned into a 26-23 loss, giving the Lions their first win in Minnesota since 1997. Despite knowing the dangers of the second-half letdown, the Vikings can't seem to overcome them, with penalties and ineffectiveness on offense and defense.

LOOKING FORWARD: The Vikings know the percentages – less than 3 percent of those who start the season 0-3 make the playoffs – but right now they are just trying to recover from a vice grip that continues to close on them. After facing a team with numerous offense weapons in three straight games, the Vikings get a bit of break since the Chiefs are without Jamaal Charles, and Kansas City's passing game wouldn't appear to be able to expose the Vikings like the Chargers, Bucs and Lions were able to do.

FUN STAT: The Vikings have trailed for less than 7 minutes of the nearly 182 minutes of football they have played, but they remain winless. If we are starting up the projected numbers after only three games, the Vikings are on pace to outscore their opponents 288-112 in the first half of games and be outscored 341-32 in the second half of games. If individual paces are more your thing, Jared Allen is on pace to break the single-season sack record with 24. The record is 22.5 by Michael Strahan 10 years ago (of course, fans back then will remember that Brett Favre helped Strahan to that record with a "bro-in-law" sack on the Packers' final possession of the in the final game of the regular season).


Jeremy Stoltz is publisher of Bear Report, Nate Caminata is publisher of Roar Report, Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and Tim Yotter is publisher of Vikings Update.

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