The NFC North race is rounding the last turn and heading for the home stretch and it’s still too close to call.
By way of their 28-10 victory over the Vikings on Sunday, and with the Packers’ 38-10 beat down at the hands of the Super Bowl champion Giants, the Bears (8-3) hold a one-game lead in the division over the Packers (7-4) with five games remaining.
The Bears still have to play all three division opponents one more time: a rematch with the Vikings in Minneapolis in two weeks, a Week 15 matchup with the Packers at Soldier Field and then a Week 17 road game in Detroit.
The race is far from over.
The Lions' loss to the Texans on Thanksgiving knocked them to 4-7 and four games out of the lead, which seems too much to overcome in so little time.
But they're still fighting for a piece of the wild card picture if they can somehow get to 9-7; however, that would require them to run the table the rest of the way out with games still remaining against the Colts, Packers, Cardinals, Falcons and Bears.
Tough to say the least.
Here's a look at this week's action in the NFC North:
BEARS 28, VIKINGS 10
What did we see:
The Bears snapped a two-game skid with a rather easy victory over their NFC North rivals. They're now 8-3 and sit atop the NFC North all by themselves.
Brandon Marshall had 12 catches for 92 yards, becoming the first Bears receiver to top 1,000 yards since Marty Booker in 2002.
The Vikings (6-5) fell two games behind the Bears in the division race, but have a rematch coming with Chicago in two weeks in Minneapolis.
The Vikings' defense had a disappointing showing against the Bears’ patchwork offensive line. They sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler just once when he tripped over his center's foot. The Bears converted 10-of-14 third-down attempts in the first three quarters.
Quarterback Christian Ponder was shaky again, going 22-for-43 passing with 149 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Injury report: Bears – The Bears lost running back Matt Forte (ankle), receiver Devin Hester (concussion), cornerback Charles Tillman (ankle), guards Chris Spencer (knee) and Lance Louis (knee) and linebacker Lance Briggs (foot).
“I normally don’t write down injuries on a sheet here, but there were so many I had to remember them all,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said after the game via the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s always a concern when they don’t come back in the game.”
Vikings – Safety Harrison Smith and tight end Kyle Rudolph didn’t finish the game for the Vikings after both suffered concussions.
Next up: Bears – vs. Seahawks
Vikings – at Packers
GIANTS 38, PACKERS 10
What did we see:
The Packers’ 38-10 loss Sunday night to the Giants was their worst regular-season defeat in five years (Week 16 at Chicago, 35-7, in 2007).
It was the first time in three years the Packers have lost a game by double digits and is tied for the second-worst defeat in coach Mike McCarthy’s seven seasons— the worst was a 35-0 loss to the New England Patriots in his first year in 2006.
“This is a game that really makes everybody look inside and find out what you’re about,” McCarthy said after the game via the Green Bay Press Gazette.
“I believe in what we’re about as a football team. I haven’t felt like this since probably the first game I coached as a Green Bay Packer head coach. Beaten very thoroughly tonight. Doesn’t taste good, doesn’t feel good.”
The good news for the Packers is that with five games to play, they still have a one-game lead over Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Seattle for the first of the NFC’s two wild-card spots.
Injury report:Defensive tackle C.J. Wilson (knee) and running back Johnny White (concussion)
Next up: vs. Vikings
TEXANS 34, LIONS 31
What did we see:
Another game with a lot of opportunities falling by the wayside for the Lions.
Two Lions possessions in overtime reached Texans territory, but they didn’t score on either (fumble by Brandon Petigrew at the Texans' 35-yard line and missed 47-yard field goal by
Three Lions possessions in Texans territory in the fourth quarter and the Lions failed to score on all three. The first two of those possessions could have given the Lions a two-score lead.
Head coach Jim Schwartz let his emotions get the better of him when he threw a challenge flag on an 81-yard touchdown run by Texans running back Justin Forsett when it appeared Forsett was down by contact on the play. Schwartz’s throwing of the challenge flag negated the review and allowed a bogus touchdown on the board.
Injury report: Safety
Next up: vs. Colts
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
Bears Cruise to a 28-10 victory over Vikings but leave limping
Sean Jensen – Chicago Sun-Times
Reliable Bears receiver Brandon Marshall hit milestone
Adam L. Jahns – Sun-Times
Smith, Idonije come down hard on Allen hit
Vaughn McClure – Chicago Tribune
Brad Biggs: 10 thoughts after Bears win over Vikings
Brad Biggs – Chicago Tribune
Five things we learned: Bears vs. Vikings
Jeff Dickerson – ESPNChicago.com
Anemic offense, relenting defense, spotty special teams doom Vikings
Dan Wiederer – Star Tribune
Cabbing it to the stadium is day’s first oops
Mark Craig – Star Tribune
Vikings’ Christian Ponder takes blame for passing game, but there’s plenty to go around
Brian Murphy – Pioneer Press
In need of “A” game in playoff race, Vikings drop “F” bomb
Tom Pelissero – 1500espn.com
Giant mess for the Packers on Sunday night
Pete Dougherty – Press-Gazette
Offensive line struggles against Giants’ pass rush
Rob Demovsky – Press-Gazette
Whipping raises questions of Packers’ toughness
Tyler Dunne – Journal Sentinel