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NFC NORTH: How the division stacks up around the league

The NFC North was a division many people pegged as being one of the most competitive and quality divisions in the NFL heading into the 2018 season.

The North is currently a division with two teams – Chicago and Minnesota – right in the thick of the playoff hunt in the NFC – and another team, if you believe Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, still with an eye on the playoff prize. Detroit hasn't been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but at 4-7, they need to go on a heck of a run starting with the 10-1 Los Angeles Rams at Ford Field on Sunday.

In a league currently dominated by high-flying offenses and an elite group of teams at the top of the league, the NFC North isn't really carrying its own weight from a league perspective.

Currently 15 teams boast a winning record into Week 13 of the NFL season, which includes Chicago (8-3) and Minnesota (6-4-1). As a whole, the NFC North is just 3-9 against the 13 teams with a winning record outside of the division. The last place Lions own two of those wins, against New England (26-10) and Carolina (20-19). Chicago has the other win thanks to a 27-14 victory over Seattle Week 2. Minnesota and Green Bay are a combined 0-6 against teams with winning records outside the division.

Of those 15 teams with a winning record, Minnesota's strength of schedule ranks 10th and Chicago's 14th. Chicago's opponents are a combined 50-69-2 on the year. Minnesota's are 56-63-2, which includes two 10-win teams in the Rams and Saints, both of whom beat the Vikings.

Chicago has been one of the better stories in the NFL this season, currently a worst-to-first fairytale under new head coach Matt Nagy. But Chicago's eight wins come at the hands of teams that currently possess a 33-54 record.

Minnesota's defense continues to rank among the league's best, and Kirk Cousins leads the seventh best passing offense in the league, but they lost to the Rams (38-31), and were beat by double digits (30-20) by the Saints. The Vikings' six wins are against opponents with a combined 20-45 record.

The point of all the numbers, records and strength of schedules is to say the NFC North still has a lot to prove as a division these last five weeks of the season and into the playoffs. The North as a division has four teams with a combined record of 22-20-2, only the AFC West (24-20) and NFC South (24-20) have better records as a whole, but there seems to be a lot of sizzle there and not much steak.

Minnesota is playing at New England (8-3) this week. Then they play at Seattle (6-5) in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football Dec. 10. Chicago hosts the Rams (10-1) in a couple weeks on Sunday Night Football. Those contests will say a lot about the strength of the NFC North at the top.

Right now the three favorites to win the Super Bowl are the Saints, Rams and Chiefs. There's good reason for that. The Saints are 4-0 this season against opponents with a winning record. The Rams are 5-1. The Chiefs are a little bit of an outlier there at 2-2, but watch them play and it's easy to see why they're among the favorites.

The Bears and Vikings are still waiting for their signature victory this year -- Victories, if they come, that could put either one in the conversation among the league's best.

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