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NFC NORTH: Where teams stand after Week 10

Week 11 of the NFL schedule is here, which means the four teams in the NFC North only have a month and half remaining in the season to make their move toward a division title.

The Vikings hold a two-game lead in the division, but the Lions and Packers are hot on their heels. Chicago remains a dangerous team that can still have an ultimate impact on who wins the division.

So, what are the big headlines around the division heading into Week 11?


Record: 7-2

Wins: New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Green Bay, Baltimore, Cleveland, Washington

Losses: Pittsburgh, Detroit

Up next: vs. Los Angeles (7-2)

Headline: Make or break month for Vikings

The next four games will either propel Minnesota on to the NFC North title -- and possibly a first-round bye in the playoffs -- or allow either Detroit or Green Bay to inch closer for the home stretch.

The Vikings have a gauntlet of games on their schedule over the next month. They host the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams (7-2) in Minnesota on Sunday, a team that's won four straight.

Then the Vikings hit the road for three straight games against Detroit (5-4), Atlanta (5-4) and Carolina (7-3). Not only is there a crucial NFC North matchup with Detroit in there, but all of their next four games are against NFC teams, which counts in some of the playoff tiebreaker scenarios at the end of the year.

All four teams the Vikings play next should be in the playoff conversation at the end of the year.

Key stat: Vikings quarterbacks have only been sacked 10 times this season — and four of those came in the first half in Chicago with Sam Bradford's on a gimpy knee. Only New Orleans (8) has allowed fewer.

Quotable: "We've done a nice job protection-wise," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "Jerick (McKinnon) had a couple of nice blocks in there. Latavius (Murray) did as well and we're changing up protections and I think that has helped (quarterback) Case (Keenum) quite a bit, as far as if we end up seeing some blitzes and being able to change protections to different things. I think that's helped quite a bit."


Record: 5-4

Wins: Arizona, New York Giants, Minnesota, Green Bay, Cleveland

Losses: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Pittsburgh

Up next: at Chicago (3-6)

Headline: Inconsistent rush defense could hurt Lions

It's pretty rare in the NFL that a team rushes for more than 200 yards and doesn't win the ball game. That's what Cleveland did last week in Detroit. They racked up 201 yards on the ground, but lost 38-24.

It was the third game this season the Lions have allowed more than 150 yards rushing in a game. They also did so vs. Atlanta (151) and New Orleans (193), both losses earlier this season.

The crazy part about those numbers is that Detroit still ranks in the top 10 in run defense in the NFL, allowing 102.2 yards per game on average. That number speaks to Detroit's inconsistencies there. It's either been really good, or not so good.

Chicago, Detroit's opponent Sunday, comes into the contest ranked ninth in rushing (121.8). The Lions still have games against Baltimore's 10th-ranked rushing offense (120.9) and Minnesota, who ranks 11th (118.0) running the ball.

Key stat: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been hot the last three weeks. Over that stretch of three games, Stafford has 1,033 pass yards (344.3 per game), with five touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 111.6.

Quotable: "There's many (corrections that need to be made in run defense)," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. "I mean, these guys ran the ball on us a number of different ways.

"So, we've been pretty good in that area, we got to get back to where we were before. These are two really, really good backs (in Chicago) that can flat get it and a quarterback that can run. And the quarterbacks averaging like 7.5 a carry, so when you add that component to it, it gives you some problems. So, we got to work at it and we got a lot of work to do."


Record: 5-4

Wins: Seattle, Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Chicago

Losses: Atlanta, Minnesota, New Orleans, Detroit

Up next: vs. Baltimore (4-5)

Headline: Can Brett Hundley keep the Packers on track?

Hundley has increased his completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating with every start this season. He was very good last week in a win over the Bears, completing 18 of 25 passes for 212 yards with a touchdown and no picks for a passer rating of 110.7.

The next two weeks will be a good test for Hundley and the Packers' offense. They host Baltimore's sixth-ranked defense Sunday at Lambeau Field, then go on the road in Pittsburgh to face off against the Steelers' second-ranked defense.

Can he keep the Packers rolling?

Key stat: The Packers could be down to their third running back Sunday vs. Baltimore after starter Aaron Jones went down with a knee injury and backup Ty Montgomery suffered a rib injury. Rookie Jamaal Williams carried it 20 times for 67 yards, breaking seven tackles, last week vs. Chicago.

Quotable: "I thought Jamaal Williams played excellent," Packers head coach McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "He was actually a game-ball winner on special teams, and then you look at the way he played on offense.

"He clearly played his best football as a Green Bay Packer, the way he came in there and ran the football at the time where you needed to run it. He had phone-booth style runs and he delivered. I was very impressed with the way he played."


Record: 3-6

Wins: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Carolina

Losses: Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Minnesota, New Orleans, Green Bay

Up next: vs. Detroit (5-4)

Headline: The Bears need more from their receivers

Chicago's leading pass catcher on the year is running back Tarik Cohen with 29 receptions. Slot receiver Kendall Wright leads the receivers with 27 catches.

However, the Bears recently traded for receiver Dontrelle Inman, and he caught six passes for 88 yards in his Bears debut last week, playing all but three of Chicago's offensive snaps.

Inman and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky seemed to have instant chemistry last week, and that's only expected to increase the more reps they get together. It doesn't seem like just coincidence that Trubisky had his best performance as a professional (297 yards) last week vs. Green Bay with a legit outside receiving threat to support him.

Can Inman help put the Bears receivers back on the map?

Key stat: 30.7 percent of Chicago's offensive drives end with a three and out, per STATS, INC. It's the highest percentage in the NFL.

Quotable: "We're going to analyze that because we know it's one of our weaknesses," Trubisky told the Chicago Sun-Times of the 11 penalties called on the Bears in the first half alone last week. "We're only hurting ourselves. It's nothing they're doing schematically. It's just (that) everyone has to lock in, do our jobs and get better."

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