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Week 17 – NFC North Preview by G.W. Gras

The NFC North, Week 17, as it currently stands:

1. Chicago Bears 8-7 (2-3)

2. Green Bay Packers 7-7-1  (2-2)

3. Detroit Lions 7-8 (4-1)

4. Minnesota Vikings 4-10-1  (1-3)

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This is it, the moment has come.  One more weekend, two more games.  What’s amazing about these two games is that although most people will see one being meaningful out of the two to be played, the truth is both of these games have immediate and long term ramifications.  Detroit has totally played themselves out of the playoff picture, Green Bay has some how stood alive without Aaron Rodgers, Chicago has clawed their way to the top as of now and Minnesota has been looking forward to the 2014 draft since late October.

Detroit Lions at the Minnesota Vikings (Vegas has Vikings -3)

Rivalry Record: Minnesota leads 68-33-2

Although the other match-up in this division is a win or go home game – this game pins one coach, who’s job is in jeopardy, against another in the same predicament.  For Minnesota, head coach Leslie Frazier may find himself being the lead guy on the Vikings sideline for the last time, and it’s a good thing the Vikes are at home because they’ve been winless all year on the road.  When looking at the Vikings ten losses,  five of them were by seven points or less, two of those five they lost by four, one they lost by three and another by one – which shows there is more to a team than wins and losses.  Yet at the end of the day, your record determines how successful you really are despite how much fight you have in you.  Frazier was dealt a bad QB situation with Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel – management didn’t help matters much by acquiring Josh Freeman, who looked pitiful in his one start.  Things have gotten so bad for the Vikings that there has been “trade Adrian Peterson and start fresh” rumors.  The Vikings looked like a team that was going to fight until the very end, until the Bengals tore them apart last week. . .

The Lions head coach, Jim Schwartz, is another who finds himself on the hot seat but unlike Frazier who didn’t have much to work with, Schwartz was given a roster loaded with talent and blew it.  He also had a lead on a division that was his for the taking.  With both starting QB’s for the Bears and Packers hurt, the Lions down the stretch folded against Philadelphia and Baltimore.  These aren’t terrible losses, but they add to the fact they lost to the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs and the NY Giants.  It’s suddenly easy to not take this team seriously.  Matt Stafford has either regressed or become what he truly is as of late, Calvin Johnson doesn’t seem to be 100% and this highly touted pass rush just loss to Eli Manning and that  terrible offense.

Truth is, both of these coaches may get fired Monday morning regardless of the outcome of this game.  Frazier made it to the playoffs with the Vikings, but a mess followed that.  Jim Schwartz may have lost all credibility as a head coach with his awful game managing and lack of discipline amongst his players.   One thing is certain, if there is a new coach hire in Detroit, he walks into a pretty nice situation looking at the roster while the Minnesota job is more of a “project.”

Smart Money Man says: Detroit +3

The Gee Says: Detroit 17  Minnesota 10

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Green Bay Packers visiting the Chicago Bears (Vegas has no line as of now)

Rivalry Record: Chicago leads 93-88-6

Everything fell into Chicago’s lap last weekend.  Detroit lost.  Green Bay lost.  Then the Bears wet the bed against the Eagles. The Bears didn’t just wet the bed.  They flooded the entire bedroom and the bed fell through the floor and into the basement by losing to the Eagles 54-11.  This terrible Bears defense showed just how bad they could look against an offense as potent as Philadelphia’s.  Chicago also showed that there is no way to recover from early woes which included a 20 yard punt, a fumbled kick return and two early three and outs.  But why would the Bears wrap things up on Sunday night? – Why would they make anything easy on themselves?  They have been hit with injuries during the year to their three best players on defense (Melton, Tillman and Briggs – who returned this week and it didn’t matter), dealt with a quarterback controversy and now find themselves in a week 17 showdown against their rival Green Bay Packers, who have issues of their own.

You got to hand it to Mike McCarthy – he lost his franchise quarterback the last time these two teams met back in the 9th week of the season and afterwards had to figure out how to stay in games with the likes of Seneca Wallace and Matt Flynn under center.  The Packers have gone 2-4-1 without Rodgers, the two wins were back to back one point victories against Atlanta and Dallas.  Atlanta is terrible this year and Dallas may be the one team in the league with a worse defense than the Bears and a worse coach than the Lions. . . They had a chance to beat Pittsburgh last Sunday, but things just got weird for Matt Flynn and that offense at the goal line to say the least. . . There is no line in this game as of yet because the Packers are announcing Thursday if Aaron Rodgers will be sidelined or not.  With the game being in Chicago my guess would be without Rodgers, the Bears will be a 3 or 4 point favorite but if Rodgers plays, the game may be a “pick ’em”.  Rodgers would love to get back at the team that sidelined him en route to the playoffs/division crown but there is no way he will be 100% recovered.

The key for the Bears is to take chances on defense.  They may have to leave their suspect corners in man to man type coverages to stand a chance at stopping the run game and putting heat on either an injured Rodgers or a “below average at best” Matt Flynn.  The Packers secondary will have their own problems in handling the two headed receiving monster that is Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey.  Like most good rivalries, the records and rosters never mean much when they play each other – and this is the second “win or go home” game these two teams have played each other in the last 3 years.   The last one being the NFC Championship game in 2011, where the Packers got the best of Chicago.

Smart Money Man says: no line, no play

The Gee Says: Bears 24 Packers 21

written by G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

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