At the beginning of the season, it seemed almost stupid to question whether or not the Green Bay Packers (6-3) would make the playoffs. The reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers was returning at the quarterback position along with the threatening receiving core from the 2011-2012 season. They spent the offseason looking for ways to plug up their holes on the defensive side of the ball and spent millions of dollars to get a decent running back on the team.
In preseason, the Packers were the team to beat, especially when compared to their fellow NFC North teams. Since the league went to eight four-team divisions in 2002, the Packers have won five division championships (the same number as the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and Detroit Lions have combined), and have gone to the playoffs seven times (again, the same number as the other three combined). They are the only NFC North team to win the Super Bowl since that time as well (the Bears went in 2006 but lost to the Indianapolis Colts).
The Chicago Bears were the only team that might put some pressure on the Packers. Last season, the Bears defense kept them in games, but their offense struggled to stay consistent and healthy for an entire season. Jay Cutler and the offensive line needed to step it up in order to make the race for the division interesting.The Chicago Bears were the only team that might put some pressure on the Packers. Last season, the Bears defense kept them in games, but their offense struggled to stay consistent and healthy for an entire season. Jay Cutler and the offensive line needed to step it up in order to make the race for the division interesting.
The Detroit Lions (4-5) seemed like they could maybe contend, but penalty problems were predicted to keep them out of the division hunt. Plus, their schedule looked tough and their line up did not look as competitive as the Packers and Bears.
Then there were the lowly Minnesota Vikings (6-4) who were coming off a franchise worst 3-13 season. Last season, the Vikings were all over the place at the quarterback position. After the whole Brett Favre debacle in 2010, the Vikings brought in a declining Donovan McNabb, all before handing the reigns off to rookie Christian Ponder.
But it’s not the Packers who hold the NFC’s second best record after week 10. It is their division rival, the Chicago Bears. The Bears, now 7-2 have shocked many NFL fans with their competitiveness and domination of the league. The Vikings also have been surprisingly competitive and pose a legitimate threat to the Packers division dominance.
With the Bears 13-6 loss to the Houston Texans (8-1), the Packers still have a shot at the division title. Several things must happen, though, in order for them to win out. First, they are depending on a Bears to lose at least two games this season, especially against the San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1). With starting quarterback Jay Cutler out with a concussion, this seems plausible, as the Bears have been riding on their defenses back for the majority of the season.
However, the Packers don’t have a cakewalk schedule the rest of the way. In the last half of the season, the Packers have to face the Lions and Vikings twice, along with the New York Giants (6-4), the Tennessee Titans (4-6), and another key match up with the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
If the Packers want to stay in the hunt for the division, they really can only afford to lose 1 or 2 games for the remainder of the season. They also need to get healthy on all sides of the ball. Aaron Rodgers can’t lead an offense that has no weapons. Do this, and the Packers might just be able to hunt down the Bears and win the division flat out.