We have reached the halfway point in the National Football League season and certain things are starting to shape up, while others are a giant mess. One thing we do know is that the NFC North is wide open and completely up for grabs.
The Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers are all tied atop the Divisional Standings with identical records of 5-3. All three teams are 2-1 in the division and are all 3-1 on their home field. The Minnesota Vikings have a very minimal chance as they sit at 1-7, it’s likely Adrian Peterson and company will not be going to the playoffs.
The division became a little more open this past Monday. The Bears defeated the Packers in Green Bay, but the biggest story didn’t come from a win. The monumental headline coming from that game was a loss for the Packers, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a fractured collarbone in his non-throwing shoulder. Rodgers is expected to miss at least three weeks. He is the guy who makes the Packers go.
The Packers might be able to weather the storm with a very favorable schedule over the next three weeks. This week Green Bay hosts the Philadelphia Eagles, then on to New York for a showdown against the Giants, only to come back to Lambeau Field to take on a divisional foe (Vikings). Those three teams are a combined 7-18 on the season.
The Bears took a step in the right direction with the win at Lambeau Filed on Monday night. Not only did they beat the Packers and make a three-way tie atop the NFC North, but they are also expecting to get quarterback Jay Cutler back from a torn groin muscle injury. Cutler has played well this season throwing the ball to Brandon Marshall a ton, but his backup Josh McCown has played admirably in his place since he was injured. Cutler could return this weekend when the Bears host the Lions in a huge divisional showdown.
The Lions already have more wins this year (5) than they did last year (4). Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is having a fantastic season, including a performance where he had 329 receiving yards, the second most in NFL history. The guy throwing him the ball, Matthew Stafford, is having a pretty good season as well. Playing quarterback in the NFL isn’t so bad when you have someone like “Megatron” to throw to. Detroit is coming off a bye heading into their pivotal divisional matchup in the Windy City.
Winning the division is always important, but for this division, it could be the difference between going to the playoffs and sitting at home. The two wild card spots are important as the NFC is loaded with teams who could win the two spots. It is likely, but not certain that whichever team between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks finishes second in the NFC West will be taking one of those two spots. That leaves one spot left to be filled. The Carolina Panthers have played well in recent weeks and could be a potential wild card team if they cannot catch the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints.
The quarterback position will be the most intriguing thing to watch over the next two months in the NFC North. Can the Packers overcome the odds and be the winner of this division? Can the Bears build momentum after a big victory in Green Bay? Will the Lions have a second-half collapse, or will the team prove that it belongs in the upper echelon of the NFC this season? Only time will tell the answers to these questions, so sit back and enjoy the battle of the NFC North.