NFC NORTH

NFC North: It's separation week for the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings

Posted Sep 20, 2013

The Bears remain the only unbeaten team in the division heading into Week 3

It's separation week in the NFC North. The Bears remain the only unbeaten team in the division heading into Week 3 weekend and are looking to extend their lead.

At 0-2, the Vikings are desperate for a win at home vs. Cleveland to keep pace with the Bears, Packers and Lions.

Here's a look at what we know so far from the four teams in the NFC North

BEARS

Record: 2-0

Won: Week 1 -- Cincinnati (24-21); Week 2 -- Minnesota (31-30)

Week 3 opponent: at Pittsburgh (0-2)

Trending up: The Bears have a good matchup this week against a Steelers offense that's scored just 19 points in two games. Only Jacksonville (11) and Cleveland (16) have scored fewer.

Trending down: Quarterback Jay Cutler is completing 68.1 percent of his passes and has a 95.6 quarterback rating in Trestman's West Coast offense, which is good. But Cutler needs to take better care of the football. He's thrown three interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

Stat pack: Cutler has been sacked once in two games. He was sacked nine times in the first two games last year.

Quotable: "We've seen a unique team resiliency, an ability to keep our poise, an ability to just move onto the next play without what happened on the last play inhibiting us," first-year coach Marc Trestman told ESPN.com.

Twentyman: The Bears are a little fortunate to be undefeated, needing two fourth quarter comebacks to secure their two wins. They overcame an 11-point deficit to beat the Bengals. It was a Jay Cutler to Martellus Bennett 16-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left that secured the win over the Vikings. It hasn't been pretty, but give the Bears credit, they've made the plays when they've needed to. The last time the Bears started 3-0 was in 2010 when they advanced to the NFC Championship game.

GREEN BAY

James StarksRB James Starks (Photo: AP IMAGES)

Record: 1-1

Won: Week 2 -- Washington (38-20)

Lost: Week 1 -- at San Francisco (34-28)

Week 3 opponent: at Cincinnati (1-1)

Trending up: Have the Packers found a run game? James Starks became the first Packers running back to reach the century mark -- 132 yards last week vs. Washington -- since Brandon Jackson in October of 2010.

Trending down: The Green Bay defense has allowed an average of 458 yards per game through two weeks, including 359 per game through the air.

Stat pack: The Packers are on pace to have three 1,000-yard receivers this year: Randall Cobb (1,888); Jordy Nelson (1,568) and James Jones (1,424).

Quotable: “That's a pretty high bar there,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the Green Bay Press Gazette about the possibility of having three 1,000-yard receivers. “I think it's possible. We have some great weapons. We've been throwing it around a lot the first two games. It just depends on how teams are going to play us.”

Twentyman: The Packers are who we thought they were. You know what you're getting with them. They're going to score a lot of points and defenses have to try and limit the passing attack and force them to run the football. If they ever get a consistent run game, watch out. The Packers are going to score and teams will just have to out-shoot them most weeks.

DETROIT

Record: 1-1

Won: Week 1 -- Minnesota (34-24)

Lost: Week 2 – at Arizona (25-21)

Week 3 opponent: at Washington (0-2)

Trending up: The Lions offense had just 90 yards in the second half last week after running back Reggie Bush left the game with a knee injury. Even without Bush, things are looking up for the Lions offense this week. Washington has allowed an NFL-worst 511.5 yards per game and the second-most points (71).

Trending down: The Lions have to find a way to make more plays on third down. They're just 33.3 percent on third down through two games. They lost the field position battle in Arizona last week by a considerable margin because they couldn't sustain drives.

Stat pack: Detroit's defense is ranked first in third-down efficiency. Detroit has held opponents to 3-of-21 (14.3%) after two weeks. Next best is Kansas City 8-of-30 (26.7%).

Quotable: “Well it's a long way to Sunday. Obviously I'm optimistic about playing,” Bush said this week. “Today was a good day. The progress thus far since this last Sunday has been really good. I feel it's a lot further than I expected. It feels a lot better than I thought it was going to feel.”

Twentyman: Griffin hasn't looked like the same player since tearing his ACL in the playoffs, but the Lions are preparing for him to be just as effective of a runner Sunday as he's been as a passer the first two weeks. The Lions are heading on the road to face a tough playoff opponent whose backs are against the wall. When are the Lions going to start winning a few of these types of games?

MINNESOTA

Record: 0-2

Lost: Week 1 – at Detroit (34-24); Week 2 – at Chicago (31-30)

Week 3 opponent: Cleveland (0-2)

Trending up: It's not bad how the stars are lining up for the Vikings this week. They'll be facing a third-string quarterback in Brian Hoyer and avoid playing a star running back in Trent Richardson, who was traded to the Colts this week. That might be exactly what the doctor ordered after an 0-2 start.

Trending down: The Vikings continue to get less-than-stellar play from quarterback Christian Ponder, who has two touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 67.0 in two losses.

Stat pack: Cleveland has converted just 5-of-29 third-down attempts this year.

Quotable: “Without question, it definitely throws you a curveball,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier told the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the sudden trade of Richardson. “You don't know how much watching the tape of what they've been doing the first two weeks will really matter. It creates some … you're not sure. You just have to have some good rules about what you're doing because you're probably going to have to adjust as the game goes on. It may not be what you saw on tape.”

Twentyman: The Vikings are making their home debut and the Metrodome is one of the tougher places to play in the NFL. Cleveland is a team in turmoil and severely deficient of weapons on offense. The Vikings should roll. If they don't, it's going to be a tough week in Minnesota next week.