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NFC NORTH: How each team could win the division

Things are rather tight in the NFC North six weeks into the NFL season, with the four teams in the division separated by just a game in the win column. It’s shaping up to be a tight race and a fun next 11 weeks to see how this thing ultimately shakes out.

For this week’s NFC North column, let’s look at what each of the four teams need to do to win the division:

CHICAGO

Record: 3-2

Last game: Lost to Miami, 31-28 (OT)

How do the Bears win the North:

The Bears have a terrific defense, and it’s a good bet that Sunday’s hiccup defensively in Miami was more an aberration than major issues on that side of the ball moving forward.

That being said, the Bears can win the NFC North if quarterback Mitchell Trubisky continues to play at an elite level.

Trubisky’s 105.6 passer rating is the sixth highest in the NFL among quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 100 passes this season. He has 11 touchdowns vs. just four interceptions and is completing more than 70 percent of his passes.

He’s also rushed for 164 yards (6.6 average), which is just 84 yards fewer than his season total all of last season.

The Bears play good defense, and have the ability to run the football with a pretty good tandem of backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. If they continue to get this level of play from the quarterback position, they’ll be right in the thick of things at the end.

Next up: vs. Patriots (4-2)

GREEN BAY

Record: 3-2-1

Last game: Beat San Francisco, 33-30

How do the Packers win the North:

Green Bay has one of the best football players on the planet in quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He’s put the Packers on his back and carried them so far this season, but that’s not a sustainable model through a 16-game NFL schedule.

So far this season the Packers have thrown the ball 261 times and run it 132 times. That’s nearly two to one, which head coach Mike McCarthy probably doesn’t prefer. Some of that has been a result of being down early, like they were Week 1 vs. Chicago and Week 5 in Detroit, but that’s another issue itself.

The Packers need to find a way for their offense to not just be the Rodgers and Davante Adams show. If they do that, then No. 12 always gives them a shot to win the division.

Next up: Bye week

MINNESOTA

Record: 3-2-1

Last game: Beat Arizona, 27-17

How do the Vikings win the North:

The Vikings have allowed 148 points through six contests. That 24.7 average ranks 18th across the league. In their two losses and one tie, the Vikings have allowed 27 points or more. In their three wins, Philadelphia scored 21 and San Francisco and Arizona reached 16 and 17, respectively.

This isn’t a juggernaut Vikings' offense. They have some nice skill weapons, sure, but they’re 28th in rushing (87.3) and 19th in scoring (23.3).

The Vikings can win the NFC North if their defense stiffens up and plays to their talent level.

Minnesota still has five games left on their schedule against teams that currently rank in the top 11 in the NFL in scoring – Saints (1), Patriots (4), Jets (11) and two against the Bears (10).

Next up: at New York Jets (3-3)

DETROIT

Record: 2-3

Last game: Bye week

How do the Lions win the North:

The Lions can go on a run and win the North if their defense catches up with their offense.

Detroit is playing pretty good offensive football right now. Matthew Stafford has been good since that Week 1 debacle. The offensive line ranks in the top 10 as graded by Pro Football Focus. Detroit might have the best receiving trio in the league. And we’re starting to see some good things from the run game.

Defensively, Detroit ranks 25th in points allowed (27.4) and 30th against the run (145.7). The Lions have just six takeaways on defense after having 32 of them last season.

This is a new scheme on defense, and there are some new players still learning each other, but the Lions need more from that side of the ball if they’re going to leapfrog Minnesota, Green Bay and Chicago in the standings.

Next up: at Miami (4-2)

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