The 2022 NFL season is still in its infancy, but we are starting to learn a little more about the four teams in the NFC North after three weeks. The Packers, Vikings and Bears all sit atop the division with 2-1 records, while Sunday's loss to the Vikings has the Lions looking up at the other three a game back at 1-2.
Here are the main headlines from a wild Week 3 in the division:
Last week: Minnesota 28, Detroit 24
1. Are the Vikings for real?
It's a fair question for Vikings fans to be asking themselves Monday after the team had a dominating win Week 1 vs. Green Bay, were dominated by Philadelphia Week 2 and needed to come back from double-digit deficits twice Week 3 vs. the Lions to secure the win. A win is a win in the NFL, and teams will never apologize about how they get them, but it's fair to question how legit Minnesota is as an NFC North contender. It seems most Vikings fans are still in wait-and-see mode.
2. How bad is Dalvin Cook's injury?
Cook suffered the injury with 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter after gaining two yards on a running play. He fumbled and could be seen clutching his upper chest area while on the ground. Minnesota head coach Kevin O'Connell said afterwards Cook was day to day. Cook had 96 rushing yards on 17 carries (5.6 average) with a touchdown before leaving. Alexander Mattison is one of the better backup running backs in the NFL, but he's not Cook. The Vikings travel to London to play New Orleans this week. Cook said he's playing next week, but we'll see how the shoulder responds to treatment.
3. Vikings depth helps lead them to win
With All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson mostly bottled up by cornerback Jeff Okudah and the Lions' defense, K.J. Osborn (five catches for 73 yards) and Adam Thielen (six catches for 61 yards) each caught a touchdown vs. the Lions. After Cook left the game, Mattison held down the fort and rushed for a touchdown. The Vikings were without safety Harrison Smith, so Josh Metellus jumped in and recorded 11 tackles, an interception and two passes defended.
Next up: at New Orleans (1-2)
View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings Week 3 game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 25 in Minneapolis, MN.
Last week: Green Bay 14, Tampa Bay 12
1. Packers' defense and special teams key to win
Green Bay's defense stymied Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense all game. Tampa Bay had just 285 yards of total offense, was 2-for-11 on third down, lost two fumbles and averaged just 2.4 yards per rush. Packers punter Pat O'Donnell averaged 48.4 yards per punt with a 44.7 net, and Green Bay's cover units were good all game. Special teams have been an issue for the Packers at times, but not Sunday.
2. Romeo Doubs has big day
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have been looking for one of their young receivers to step up. Doubs was the man Sunday. He caught all eight of his targets for 73 yards and a touchdown. That's more receptions, yards and touchdowns than he had in the first two games combined. A game like that is how a young pass catcher endears himself to a veteran quarterback and earns more opportunities moving forward.
3. Crafty LT rotation works for Packers
It's rare for starting offensive linemen to rotate in and out of the game, but Packers head coach Matt LaFleur used that tactic Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. David Bakhtiari started the game, playing for only the second time since tearing his ACL late in 2020. Yosh Nijman, who has been pretty good in Bakhtiari's absence, played the second possession. The two continued rotating every possession after the next throughout the game, splitting the drives in half. Bakhtiari allowed one hurry. Newman one quarterback hit. Neither allowed a sack.
Next up: vs. New England (1-2)
Last week: Chicago 23, Houston 20
1. Should Bears be worried about Justin Fields, passing offense?
Fields isn't the first quarterback to have a bad performance and still win, especially in Chicago, but this is becoming too common a theme for the Bears early in the season. Fields was 8-of-17 for 106 yards and two interceptions with a passer rating of 27.7 vs. Houston. He was bailed out by a Bears run game that churned up 281 yards. Through three games, Fields is completing 51 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and four interceptions. But hey, the Bears are 2-1, which is the only thing that really matters.
2. Khalil Herbert's big day
After David Montgomery left the game due to injury, Herbert stepped in and rushed 20 times for 157 yards (7.9 average) with a couple touchdowns. It was a career day for Herbert, and has to make the Bears feel pretty good about their run game being able to still operate at high level if Montgomery needs some time off.
3. Roquan Smith shows why he's worth the money
The Bears and Smith couldn't come to terms on a contract extension this offseason, which Smith and his representation weren't too happy about. Smith is showing early on this season why Chicago might end up paying up in the end. He had 16 tackles (double the next defender), two tackles for loss, an interception and a pass defended in Chicago's win.
Next up: at New York Giants (2-1)
Last week: Minnesota 28, Detroit 24
1. Injuries mounting for Lions
The team lost starting safety Tracy Walker to a torn Achilles. Running back D’Andre Swift is now dealing with a shoulder injury on top of the ankle issue he's had since Week 1. Wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds were both banged up with leg injuries. With Seattle up next and the Lions not wanting to lose more ground in the division, all eyes will be on the practice report this week.
2. Okudah looks like the No. 3 pick
Cornerback Jeff Okudah has been terrific to start the year. He held Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson to just two catches for nine yards on four targets in his coverage area Saturday. On the year, Okudah has allowed 106 yards (35.3 average) in three games with no touchdowns and two passes defended. He's been one of the early-season stars for Detroit's defense.
3. Learning to finish
A lot of the discussion in Detroit this week will surround Dan Campbell's decision to kick the field goal late instead of going for the first down and trying to end the game with the offense on the field. But let's not forget the fact that Detroit's offense had a chance to put the game away twice before the last possession. Austin Seibert could have made the kick and made it much harder for the Vikings to come back. The defense suffered another communication error in a busted coverage game-winning touchdown. That's a common theme and big concern. A lot of chances to finish off that game and all three phases let slip through their fingers.
Next up: vs. Seattle (1-2)