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NFC NORTH: Headlines surrounding each team

Teams are beginning to find their groove and form an identity heading into Week 7 of the NFL season.

The NFC North is still the only division in football without a team with a losing record. The Packers are off to a hot start at 5-1, but Minnesota (4-2), Chicago (3-2) and Detroit (2-2-1) aren't too far behind.

Nearing the midway point of the season, let's get caught up with some of the current headlines surrounding the four teams in the NFC North.


Record: 5-1

Last week: Green Bay 23, Detroit 22

Up next: vs. Oakland (3-2)


1. Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari made umpire aware of potential penalties

We all know by now about the two hands-to-the-face penalties called on Lions defensive end Trey Flowers in the fourth quarter Monday night that played a factor in the Packers' win over Detroit.

The league came out publicly and said the second penalty, which allowed the Packers to run out the clock and kick a game-winning field goal, never should have been flagged.

It turns out the refs were looking for those penalties after Bakhtiari said something to them.

"I went over to the ref," Bakhtiari told USA Today after the game. "I said, 'Hey, are we not calling hands to the face again? Because the past three plays, I've been staring at the sky.' And he's like, you know, he's not looking at my side, but I at least made him aware."

2. Green Bay going heavy AFC next three weeks

The Packers host Oakland (3-2) this Sunday at Lambeau, and then hit the road to face Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers in back-to-back weeks. It's an interesting scheduling anomaly to see three AFC West opponents in three straight weeks.

3. Dual backfield can be dangerous for Packers

Running back Jamaal Williams rushed for 104 yards and also had 32 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Packers' win over Detroit Monday. He missed Green Bay's Week 5 game in Dallas with a concussion, and his return gives the Packers two very good options in their backfield.

Running back Aaron Jones leads the NFL with eight rushing touchdowns. Williams is a terrific complement with his powerful running style and versatile skill set.


Record: 4-2

Last week: Minnesota 38, Philadelphia 20

Up next: at Detroit (2-2-1)


1. Big plays a big part of Vikings' offense through six weeks

The Vikings are averaging 6.3 yards per play, the third highest total in the NFL, ranking behind only Kansas City (7.0) and Dallas (6.8).

The Vikings had 10 explosive plays by six different players — wide receiver Stefon Diggs (three), running back Alexander Mattison (two), wide receiver Adam Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook, tight end Kyle Rudolph, wide receiver Olabisi Johnson and tight end Irv Smith Jr. – in the win over Philadelphia last week.

2. Kirk Cousins playing his best football of season heading into Detroit

After a slow start that had some in Minnesota wondering if Cousins was truly the answer at quarterback, Cousins has picked up his game, completing 44-of-56 passes for 639 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception.

The Vikings have the league's No. 3 rushing offense, which makes the play-action pass game a killer right now with Cousins playing as well as he is.

3. Vikings might have a new Pro Bowl linebacker

The Vikings have had six different defenders make the Pro Bowl in the last two seasons.

If linebacker Eric Kendricks keeps playing the way he has through the first six weeks, he could be next. He leads the Vikings with 49 tackles. Pro Football Focus grades him as the No. 1 linebacker in football right now. He's defended seven passes in coverage, forced a fumble and has a half sack.


Record: 3-2

Last week: Bye

Up next: vs. New Orleans (5-1)


1. DT Akiem Hicks heading to IR a big blow for Bears' defense

The Bears put Hicks on injured reserve after he injured his elbow two weeks ago in the Bears' loss to Oakland in London. It guarantees that he'll miss the next eight games. He is eligible to return from IR – each team can bring back two players – the last three games of the season, starting with the Dec. 15 matchup against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

2. Nagy trying to find ways over bye to improve Bears' offense

Nagy told the Chicago Sun-Times that he spent the bye week trying to fix the Bears' offense by examining his own tendencies and scheming ways to better run the football.

Only three teams – Dolphins, Bengals and Jets – average fewer than the Bears' 3.4 yards per carry. Those three teams have a combined 1-15 record.

3. Bears will be put to the test coming out of the bye

After enjoying a week to recover and self-evaluate, the Bears get right back to work with the 5-1 New Orleans Saints coming to town.

Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has kept the ship upright in place of Drew Brees the last few weeks, but it's New Orleans' defense that has been the pleasant surprise. New Orleans ranks 11th in points allowed, 10th in total defense, 11th against the pass and 14th against the run.

The Bears are expected to have Mitch Trubisky back at quarterback after he missed Chicago's last game with an injury.


Record: 2-2-1

Last week: Green Bay 23, Detroit 22

Up next: vs. Minnesota (4-2)


1. Lions can't let tough loss in Green Bay linger

For a second straight week, the Lions let a fourth quarter lead slip away in a last-minute loss. This last one in Green Bay probably hurts a little more because it was aided by a bad call from the officials.

The Minnesota Vikings don't care what happened to Detroit Monday. The Lions are on a short week, and host a Vikings team that's playing really good ball right now.

"Obviously, not the outcome we wanted last night," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said Tuesday. "But we had to get to the tape this morning and flip the switch and kind of get ready for Minnesota here."

2. Offense needs to find a way to finish

The Lions' offense has made nine trips to the red zone the last two games, and only four of those trips have resulted in touchdowns. Detroit was forced to kick five field goals in Green Bay. In this league, replacing touchdowns with field goals gets teams beat.

"We're talking a lot about finish right now, and it doesn't usually matter how you start, it obviously matters how you finish and that's just something that we can definitely do better at," Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

The Lions currently rank 23rd in red-zone offense (50 percent) and 20th on third down (35.29).

3. Detroit's defense tasked with facing red-hot Vikings' offense

We mentioned above how well Cousins is playing. That pairs with a Vikings' rushing attack that's averaging 159.0 yards per game, led by the league's fourth-leading rusher in Cook (583 yards).

The receiving tandem of Thielen and Diggs is still one of the best in the NFL, and they've combined for nine touchdowns early this season.

If Detroit's going to get back on track after two straight losses, they'll need a terrific effort from their defense Sunday.

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