NFC NORTH

NFC NORTH: Issues facing each team down the stretch

Posted Dec 6, 2013

Tim Twentyman looks at where the division stands as the season enters the final quarter

The season has come down to four games for Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay for the division title. It’s a race to the finish, with the Lions having a one game lead over Chicago and one-and-a-half-game stretch over Green Bay.

Here’s where the division stands heading into the last month and the issues that face each team.

DETROIT

Record: 7-5

Remaining schedule: at Philadelphia (7-5), vs. Baltimore (6-6), vs. New York Giants (5-7), at Minnesota (3-8-1)

Biggest issue: Getting out of their own way

The Lions have just about as much talent -- especially on the offensive side of the football -- as anyone in the NFL. The only problem is they haven’t been able to get out of their own way. The Lions have 17 turnovers in their last 20 quarters.

That’s a trend that this team needs to reverse right quick.

Quotable: "Yeah, you just have to limit them," Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of the turnovers. "Some of them, we have to do better job, whether it’s ball security or ball placement on a throw. Some of them have been bad luck. Between the two of them, neither one’s good."

Stat pack: Quarterback Matthew Stafford has throw 10 interceptions the last five games. That’s tied with Andy Dalton for the most in the NFL over that stretch.

CHICAGO

Record: 6-6

Remaining schedule: vs. Dallas (7-5), at Cleveland (4-8), at Philadelphia (7-5), vs. Green Bay (5-6-1)

Biggest issue: Looking up at the Lions

The Bears are only one game back in the win column from the Lions, but Detroit owns the tiebreaker by sweeping the series against Chicago, which means the Bears are really two games back with four to go.

Chicago can't afford any more setbacks and have a tough game vs. Dallas on Monday Night Football this week.

The Bears need to take care of their own business and need help. That’s not an envious position to be in.

Quotable: "We've got to put up a win in the win column," backup quarterback Josh McCown told espn.com. "The standings don't matter if you don't win football games."

Stat pack: The Dallas pass defense ranks 31st in the NFL (294.9 per game).

GREEN BAY

Record: 5-6-1

Remaining schedule: vs. Atlanta (3-9), at Dallas (7-5), vs. Pittsburgh (5-7), at Chicago (6-6)

Biggest issue: Getting Rodgers back

It’s simple for the Packers, really. They have a shot at the division, albeit a smaller one than the Lions and Bears, if, and only if, MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers comes back.

Green Bay has gone 0-4-1 since Rodgers broke his collarbone in the first quarter of a 27-20 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4. They’re coming off a 40-10 drubbing by Detroit on Thanksgiving.

They need their quarterback back.

Quotable: "We're still in it. We need Detroit to lose two out of four, but the biggest part of that is us winning out," Rodgers told Yahoo Sports. "We've got to control what we can control. That starts this weekend. We have to get a W."

Stat pack: Backup quarterback Matt Flynn ranks 38th in NFL averaging 6.4 yards per pass completion.

MINNESOTA

Record: 3-8-1

Remaining schedule: at Baltimore (6-6), vs. Philadelphia (7-5), at Cincinnati (8-4), vs. Detroit (7-5)

Biggest issue: Who plays quarterback? Can they play spoilers?

The Vikings have to figure out these last four weeks if Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman can be their signal caller in 2014 and beyond. If not, they’ll be back on the quarterback market via the draft or in free agency.

Minnesota has the best running back in the game, and a nice core of receivers, but they are proof that inconsistent play at the quarterback position is the quickest killer of a season in this league.

The Vikings are out of the NFC North race, but they can still affect it. They host Detroit the final week of the season and that can has the potential to have an impact on the division title in their final game at the Metrodome.

Quotable: "You have got to believe, you can't tuck your tail and run, you can't give up no matter how it looks you have to continue to fight," running back Adrian Peterson told abcnews.com after Sunday’s overtime win over Chicago.

"That's one thing that we have done all year. Our record doesn't show it, but you guys have heard me say it time and time again; I haven't seen guys quit. When I look in their eyes there is fight there."

Stat pack: Minnesota is 0-5-1 on the road this season.