Things are beginning to shake themselves out in the NFC North after three weeks of football. There has been some good, some bad and a few surprises along the way.
For this week’s NFC North column, let’s take a closer look at the good and the bad for the four teams in the division through the first three weeks of the season.
Last week: Beat Arizona 16-14
The good: Chicago sure can get after the quarterback. The Bears have generated 14 sacks in three games, which leads the NFL. That’s nearly double the NFL average at this point in the season. Khalil Mack leads them with 4.0, but nine different defenders have gotten in on the sack party so far for the Bears.
The bad: Chicago’s passing offense ranked last in the NFL last season, so Bears GM Ryan Pace signed and drafted pass catchers to surround quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with. After three weeks, the Bears are 28th in passing and Trubisky’s 77.8 passer rating is 28th among all quarterbacks. He has more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2) three games in.
Stats pack: The Bears have connected on only 4-of-15 passing attempts when the ball travels more than 20 yards, and Trubisky has just a 34.9 passer rating on those throws, which ranks 25th in the NFL.
Quotable: “We need to start connecting on those,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy told nbcsports.com of the missed opportunities down the field in the pass game. "It’s great to take the opportunity of going deep. Those are great. but they’re way better and they mean a lot more when you connect on them.”
Up next: vs. Tampa Bay (2-1), Sun. 1 p.m.
Last week: Lost to Buffalo 27-6
The good: We knew Minnesota’s defense was stingy, but teams have found it darn right difficult to score touchdowns on the Vikings in the red zone. Of the 14 drives where opponents have been able to get into the red zone, they’ve scored a touchdown just five times. That 35.7 touchdown percentage is the second lowest in the NFL.
The bad: Minnesota's offense was expected to be more explosive with Kirk Cousins under center, but through three games, the Vikings are finding it difficult to finish off drives with points. They rank 22nd in the NFL in scoring. Of their 37 drives this season, only eight have ended with scores (7 TDs & 1 FG) for a scoring percentage of just 21.6. Only Arizona has a lower percentage. The offensive line has been a weakness for them so far.
Stats pack: The Vikings' defense has allowed just five total touchdowns in three games, which is tied for the third fewest in the NFL.
Quotable: “We’re not in panic mode,” Vikings running back Dalvin Cook told the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week after the blowout loss to Buffalo. “We’re still working every week and still getting better. There’s still a lot of things we need to work on. Like I said, the game (Sunday vs. Buffalo) just got out of hand. Everything fell right for them. We just have to get a better start.”
Up next: At Los Angeles Rams (3-0), Thurs. 8:20 p.m.
View team photographer Gavin Smith’s best stylized photos from the Detroit Lions’ Week 3 game vs. New England Patriots.
Last week: Lost to Washington 31-17
The good: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is off to another terrific start despite playing with a sprained knee. He has six touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 104.5. That rating jumps all the way up to 123.1 in the fourth quarter. The concern, however, has to be with his health. We’ve all seen what happens to the Packers minus Rodgers. That fact that he’s playing hurt this early in the year has to be a little worrisome for the folks in Green Bay.
The bad: The Packers have spent a lot of resources to try and improve their defense over the last couple offseasons, but the results aren’t proving to be there so far through the first three games. The Packers are last in the division in yards allowed per game (386.7), passing yards per game (262.3), sacks (6) and forced fumbles (1).
Quotable: "We've got work to do," head coach Mike McCarthy told ESPN.com of his defense allowing 649 total yards (500 passing) in last four quarters and one overtime.
"It's Week 3. I'm in tune with the patterns of everything that we do football-wise. I would say that come the fourth quarter, overtime of last week, some of that carries over to the first half, but I thought our guys did a good job of setting their jaw. The defense gave us plenty of opportunities in the second half."
Stats pack: The Packers do not having a rushing touchdown yet this season. Interestingly, of the five teams that still don’t have a rushing touchdown, three reside in the NFC North (Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota).
Up next: vs. Buffalo (1-2), Sun. 1 p.m.
Last week: Beat New England 26-10
The good: Detroit's offense is getting good contribution from some of its young skill position players like running back Kerryon Johnson and wide receiver Kenny Golladay. Johnson’s 101 yards vs. the Patriots broke Detroit’s 70-game streak without a 100-yard rusher. Golladay has 19 receptions for 256 yards and two scores through the first three games.
The bad: Detroit’s rushing defense has not been good through three weeks. The Lions currently rank last in the NFL in rushing defense (149.3 ypg). Opponents are averaging 5.4 yards per rush through three games. Ezekiel Elliott and the potent Dallas rushing attack is up next.
Quotable: “We obviously got to do a lot better than what we’ve been doing defensively,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. “We have to get all of that straightened out from that standpoint. We have a big challenge in front of us with this (Dallas) unit. Obviously, the run game is going to be a big problem for us.”
Stats pack: The Lions have allowed just three sacks in three games, the fewest in the NFL.
Up next: At Dallas (1-2), Sun. 1 p.m.