We've reached Week 10 and the midway point of the NFL season for most clubs. The pecking order in the NFC North has been clearly established up to this point with Green Bay having a three and a half game lead over Minnesota.
This week's NFC North column serves as a midseason report for each of the four teams in the division:
Wins: Detroit (35-17), San Francisco (30-28), Pittsburgh (27-17), Cincinnati (25-22), Chicago (24-14), Washington (24-10), Arizona (24-21)
Losses: New Orleans (38-3), Kansas City (13-7)
Remaining schedule: vs. Seattle (3-5), at Minnesota (3-5), vs. Los Angeles Rams (7-2), bye, vs. Chicago (3-5), at Baltimore (6-2), vs. Cleveland (5-4), vs. Minnesota (3-5), at Detroit (0-8)
Record of remaining opponents: 30-36
What went right first half: Green Bay's defense has played pretty well all season long and doesn't get enough credit for how complete a unit they are. They've held opponents under 20 points in five contests this year and their 180 points allowed on the year ranks eighth best in the NFL.
What needs to get better: The Packers would likely be 8-1 if Aaron Rodgers had played last Sunday, given the Packers' defense held Kansas City to just 13 points and backup quarterback Jordan Love couldn't do much offensively as the Packers scored just seven points.
Still, there are areas where the Packers can be better, particularly on special teams. Their six missed field goals are the most in the NFL. They average just 5.8 yards per punt return (28th) and 18.4 yards per kickoff return (29th). Green Bay ranks 31st in kickoff coverage. Punting and covering punts have been the lone bright spots for the Packers on special teams.
Wins: Seattle (30-17), Detroit (19-17), Carolina (34-28)
Losses: Cincinnati (27-24), Arizona (34-33), Cleveland (14-7), Dallas (20-16), Baltimore (34-31)
Remaining schedule: at Los Angles Chargers (5-3), vs. Green Bay (7-2), at San Francisco (3-5), at Detroit (0-8), vs. Pittsburgh (5-3), at Chicago (3-6), vs. Los Angeles Rams (7-2), at Green Bay (7-2), vs. Chicago (3-6)
Record of remaining opponents: 39-35
What went right first half: The staple of a Mike Zimmer-led defense is the ability to rush the passer. Minnesota is tied for second with 27 sacks, and their 46 quarterback hurries and 13.7 hurry percentage both rank third in the league. The Vikings can get after the quarterback, and that will have to continue to be a staple of their defense the second half of the season.
One other area where Minnesota has been really good is avoiding turnovers. They've turned the ball over just five times all year. Only Seattle (4) has fewer.
What needs to get better: Four of Minnesota's five losses have been by four points or less, including Sunday's 34-31 overtime loss to the Ravens. The Vikings have to find a way to turn the tide late in games and find a way to win more of those close contests the second half of the season if they want to stay in the playoff picture in the NFC.
Wins: Cincinnati (20-17), Detroit (24-14), Las Vegas (20-9)
Losses: Los Angeles Rams (34-14), Cleveland (26-6), Green Bay (24-14), Tampa Bay (38-3), San Francisco (33-22), Pittsburgh (29-27)
Remaining schedule: Bye, vs. Baltimore (6-2), at Detroit (0-8), vs. Arizona (8-1), at Green Bay (7-2), vs. Minnesota (3-5), at Seattle (3-5), vs. New York Giants (3-6), at Minnesota (3-5)
Record of remaining opponents: 33-34
What went right first half: Chicago has been able to run the ball pretty consistently all season long, despite losing starting running back David Montgomery for four games. Chicago's 1,229 rushing yards rank fifth in the league, and their 4.6 yards per attempt is tied for seventh best.
What needs to get better: The Bears are averaging just 16.7 points per game, which is higher than only Jacksonville and Houston. That's not entirely surprising given they've turned the reins of the offense over to rookie quarterback Justin Fields, but head coach Matt Nagy has to find a way to manufacture more points the second half of the season or it will be really hard to stay in the hunt down the stretch.
Losses: San Francisco (41-33), Green Bay (35-17), Baltimore (19-17), Chicago (24-14), Minnesota (19-17), Cincinnati (34-11), Los Angeles Rams (28-19), Philadelphia (44-6).
Remaining schedule: at Pittsburgh (5-3), at Cleveland (5-4), vs. Chicago (3-6), vs. Minnesota (3-5), at Denver (5-4), vs. Arizona (8-1), at Atlanta (4-4), at Seattle (3-5), vs. Green Bay (7-2)
Record of remaining opponents: 42-33
What went right first half: Far and away the best unit for the Lions through the first eight games has been their special teams units. Punter Jack Fox is one of the best in the business. Kicker Austin Seibert has missed only two field goals on the year. Detroit's got some of the best coverage units in the NFL, and their return games ranks among the top half of the league in both punt and kickoff returns.
What needs to get better: This is a little longer list for head coach Dan Campbell the last nine games. Up towards the top has to be the offense, particularly the passing game. It's become a dink and dunk passing game for Detroit with virtually no vertical threat. It's hard to score points when teams don't respect your big-play ability in the passing game and can stack the box and play up. Somehow, someway, the Lions have to find ways to push the ball down the field a few times a game to keep defenses honest.
Defensively, the Lions are one of only two teams (New York Jets) allowing on average more than 30 points per game.