At the midway point, here’s what we know so far about the four teams in the NFC North.
Wins: Colts, Rams, Cowboys, Jaguars, Lions, Panthers and Titans
Up next: at Texans
What we’ve learned: The Bears defense will take the ball away and they know what to do with it when they get their hands on it.
Comment: The Bears entered Sunday’s game at Tennessee ranked No. 2 in the league with 23 takeaways and added five more to that total against the Titans, four in the first half alone.
Linebacker Brian Urlacher’s first-quarter interception return for a touchdown gave the defense its seventh interception return score of the season, which ties for the third most in NFL history. The 1961 Chargers (9) and 1998 Seahawks (8) are the only two teams to score more defensive touchdowns and the Bears still have half their season left.
Wins: Bears, Saints, Texans, Rams, Jaguars and Cardinals
Losses: 49ers, Seahawks and Colts
Up next: Bye
What we’ve learned: The Packers are getting hot at the right time.
Comment: The Packers won their fourth consecutive game and take a 6-3 record into their bye. The bye comes at a perfect time for some of the Packers’ ailing stars.
Receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring, ankle), linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) and tackle Brian Bulaga (hip) all left Sunday’s game and did not return. They’re already without receiver Greg Jennings and safety Charles Woodson.
The one constant for the Packers has been quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Through nine games, Rodgers has 25 touchdowns and five interceptions. When he gets a couple weapons back in two weeks he'll be even better.
Wins: Jaguars, 49ers, Lions, Titans and Cardinals
Losses: Colts, Redskins, Buccaneers and Seahawks
Up next: vs. Lions
What we’ve learned: The Vikings’ quick start seems so long ago
Comment: While the rest of the NFC North division has gone 6-0 the last two weeks, the Vikings are 0-2. They’ve dropped three of four since starting 4-1 and are falling back in the division.
It’s no coincidence that the Vikings’ recent struggles have coincided with those of second-year quarterback Christian Ponder. In the Vikings' three losses, running back Adrian Peterson has 59 carries for 384 yards and three touchdowns.
To say Ponder has been struggling is being kind, though. Ponder has two performances over his last three where he’s thrown for 63 yards or less with a 37.3 quarterback rating or less.
He completed just 11-of-22 passes for 63 yards with an interception and four sacks in a loss to Seattle Sunday.
Ponder got off to a hot start this season but is hitting a serious rough patch. Rough enough that the Ponder watch has started in Minnesota.
Wins: Rams, Eagles, Seahawks and Jaguars
Losses: 49ers, Titans, Vikings and Bears
Up next: at Vikings
What we’ve learned: There are no games remaining they can afford to give away.
Comment: The Lions won their second consecutive game Sunday at Jacksonville to get back to .500. It’s the first time the Lions have won back-to-back games all season.
Starting with Sunday's game at Minnesota, Arizona at 4-5 is the only opponent in the last eight that currently has a losing record.
In order, the Lions are at Minnesota (5-4), home against Green Bay (6-3), Houston (7-1) and Indianapolis (5-3), at Green Bay (6-3) and Arizona (4-5), and finish the season with two home games vs. Atlanta (8-0) and Chicago (7-1).
How bad do the Lions wish they had the Tennessee and Minnesota games back after reading through that schedule?
The Lions won 10 games and made the playoffs last season playing an easier schedule. If they’re going to get to nine or 10 wins this season, they’ll have to earn it. But that’s what good teams do.
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
Sitting at 6-3 at the bye, Packers like where they are
Pete Dougherty – Green Bay Press-Gazette
Running backs come to aid of struggling pass game
Weston Hodkiewicz – Green Bay Press-Gazette
Cardinals heap praises on Rodgers, say he's the best
Bob McGinn – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Rodgers: 'I've got to play better'
Jason Wilde – ESPNWisconsin.com
Biggs: 10 thoughts after Bears rout of Titans
Brad Biggs – Chicago Tribune
Urlacher joins group of defenders scoring touchdowns
David Haugh – Chicago Tribune
Record-setting day for first-place Bears in 51-20 hammering of Titans
Sean Jensen – Chicago Sun-Times
Tillman making an elite place for himself in NFL history
Sean Jensen – Chicago Sun-Times
Five things we learned: Bears-Titans
Jeff Dickerson – ESPNChicago.com
Vikings' expectations roll back
Dan Wiederer – Star Tribune
Tell it like it is, Vikings; Ponder stink for now
Jim Souhan –Star Tribune
Vikings' passing game a complete mess
Tom Powers – St. Paul Pioneer Press
Percy Harvin: 'I just want to score points'
Tom Pelissero – 1500ESPN.com