LIONS INSIDER

NFC NORTH: Midseason report for all four teams

Posted Nov 3, 2017

This week’s NFC North serves as a midseason report for each of the four teams in the division.

We’ve reached the midway point of the season, and the pecking order in the NFC North has been clearly established. This week’s NFC North serves as a midseason report for each of the four teams in the division.

MINNESOTA

Record: 6-2

Wins: New Orleans (29-19), Tampa Bay (34-17), Chicago (20-17), Green Bay (23-10), Baltimore (24-16), Cleveland (33-16)

Losses: Pittsburgh (26-9), Detroit (14-7)

Remaining schedule: Bye week, at Washington (3-4), vs. Los Angeles Rams (5-2), at Detroit (3-4), at Atlanta (4-3), at Carolina (5-3), vs. Cincinnati (3-4), at Green Bay (4-3), vs. Chicago (3-5)

What went right first half: Defensively, the Vikings are playing some of the best all-around football in the league. There are few weak spots on that side of the ball. Minnesota ranks fourth in points allowed (16.9), third overall (282.1), seventh against the pass (200.8) and fourth against the run (81.4).

On the other side of the ball, the Vikings rank 12th in the NFL averaging 120 rushing yards per game, a huge improvement from 2016, when Minnesota ranked last in the league with just 75.3 rushing yards per game.

What needs to get better: It’s a pretty clear indication a roster is complete and playing well when the only real weakness to pick apart is the punting game. The Vikings are last in gross punting average (41.1) and rank in the bottom third in net punting (39.9).

Stat pack: The Vikings have only allowed one opponent (Pittsburgh in Week 2) to score more than 20 points in a game this season.

GREEN BAY

Record: 4-3

Wins: Seattle (17-9), Cincinnati (27-24), Chicago (35-14), Dallas (35-31)

Losses: Atlanta (34-23), Minnesota (23-10), New Orleans (26-17)

Remaining schedule: vs. Detroit (3-4), at Chicago (3-5), vs. Baltimore (4-4), at Pittsburgh (6-2), vs. Tampa Bay (2-5), at Cleveland (0-8), at Carolina (5-3), vs. Minnesota (6-2), at Detroit (3-4)

What went right first half: Things have changed in Green Bay the last few weeks due to the injury to Aaron Rodgers, but for the purpose of this column, we’ll look at the first half in its totality.

One area where Green Bay was head and shoulders above the rest of the league the first half of the season was in the red zone. The Packers were in the red zone 26 times and scored a touchdown 65.4 percent of the time, or 17 times, which was tops in the league. The Packers kicked field goals another seven times for an overall scoring efficiency of 92.3 percent, which is second only to Tennessee (93.1 percent)

What needs to get better: The Packers have struggled to protect their quarterbacks all season long. Green Bay currently ranks 28th in STATS, INC.’s Protection Index. The 77 quarterback hurries the Packers have allowed are the most in the NFL through the first half of the season. Their 24 sacks are tied for the seventh most allowed in the league.

Stat pack: The Packers sure have a knack for scripting a first offensive drive. The Packers have scored five touchdowns (34 points) on their seven first possessions of the games this year. No other team has more than three touchdowns on their first drive of the game.

DETROIT

Record: 3-4

Wins: Arizona (35-23), New York Giants (24-10), Minnesota (14-7)

Losses: Atlanta (30-26), Carolina (27-24), New Orleans (52-38), Pittsburgh (20-15)

Remaining schedule: at Green Bay (4-3), vs. Cleveland (0-8), at Chicago (3-5), vs. Minnesota (6-2), at Baltimore (4-4), at Tampa Bay (2-5), vs. Chicago (3-5), at Cincinnati (3-4), vs. Green Bay (4-3)

What went right first half: Defensively, the Lions have been an opportunistic bunch. They’ve generated more turnovers in seven games (16) this season than they did all of last season (14). Detroit is one of only four teams this season who’ve already totaled at least 10 interceptions (Baltimore, 12; Buffalo, 11; Detroit, 10; Jacksonville, 10).  

What needs to get better: The Lions just can’t seem to figure out how to run the ball consistently on offense. The Lions are averaging just 82.1 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 28th in the NFL.

They’ve rushed for 100 yards in a game just once this season (134 yards Week 2 in New York), and only four times total dating back to the beginning of last season. Only 36.4 percent of Detroit’s run plays average at least four yards per carry, that ranks 27th in the NFL.

Stat pack: Only Baltimore (6) has scored more defensive and special teams touchdowns than the Lions’ five (three interception & two punt returns).

CHICAGO

Record: 3-5

Wins: Pittsburgh (23-17), Baltimore (27-24), Carolina (17-3)

Losses: Atlanta (23-17), Tampa Bay (29-7), Green Bay (35-14), Minnesota (20-17), New Orleans (20-12).

Remaining schedule: Bye week, vs. Green Bay (4-3), vs. Detroit (3-4), at Philadelphia (7-1), vs. San Francisco (0-8), at Cincinnati (3-4), at Detroit (3-4), vs. Cleveland (0-8), at Minnesota (6-2).

What went right first half: The Chicago defense seems to be at its best when it’s attacking opposing offenses. The Bears rank in the top seven in the NFL in sacks with 23.

When the Bears have decided to blitz this season, they’ve done so with a ton of success. Opposing passers have a passer rating of just 57.6 against the Chicago blitz. They’ve been sacked four times, with just one touchdown and three interceptions.

What needs to get better: Offensively, the Bears have struggled to score points and move the ball consistently, especially through the air. The Bears are averaging just 16.8 points per game, and lead the NFL in three-and-out drives (30 percent of all drives).

The Bears are fourth in the NFL in rushing at just over 130 yards per game, but they’re averaging less than 160 yards per game through the air, and their combined passer rating of 77.2 ranks just 27th in the league.

The Bears run the football and play good defense, but if they’re going to make a run in the second half, they have to begin to take the kid gloves off rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Stat pack: The Bears have lost 264 yards to negative plays. Only Indianapolis has lost more yards (285).