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NFC North: Week Five

NFC North Standings:

1. Detroit Lions 3-1 (1-0)

2. Green Bay Packers 2-2 (1-1)

3. Chicago Bears 2-2 (0-1)

4. Minnesota Vikings, 2-2

Detroit Lions vs Buffalo Bills (Lions are the favorite at -7; over/under 44)

The Detroit Lions are in the  early driver’s seat a top the NFC North with 25% of the season behind them.  Last week the Lions defeated the New York Jets 24-17 amidst the rumor circulating around the league that the Lions are not interested in keeping defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh long-term. This resulted in Suh letting it be known that he would like to play in New York.  This is pretty much what the Lions would let come up to the surface while they are having early success this season.  The Lions are an already volatile team and stories like this are the absolute last thing this team needs to deal with in the locker room and at the podium.  Never-the-less, the Lions offense showed more fluidity this week, even going against a good Jets defense and they run into a similar challenge this week against Buffalo.

The Buffalo Bills are like the New York Jets in that they have a strong frontal defensive attack, can rush the passer, stop the run and offensively –  get nothing extraordinary from the quarterback position.  Where the Bills do excel, is in the skill positions.  Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods can make things difficult for any defense.  The Buffalo Bills have made the questionable decision this week in benching their second year quarterback E.J. Manuel and starting veteran Kyle Orton.  EJ Manuel, so far this season has thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions.  Guess who else has thrown for five touchdowns and three interceptions?  Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions.  Does this mean Stafford will soon lose his job to back up quarterback Dan Orlovsky?  Of course not.  This is a move that many are split down the middle on, but for Detroit’s defense, they still have to go up against a “dink-and-dunk” passer no matter who is under center for Buffalo.

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Detroit’s defense will have to find a way to slow down the Bills’ playmakers in open space, while on offense utilizing the talent of their two backs, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to soften and spread out the Bills’ defensive front.  Detroit’s front line will have an easier time getting to Orton than they would Manuel, but Buffalo can keep this one close.

Prediction: Detroit 27, Bills 24; Better’s Pick: the over

Chicago Bears vs Carolina Panthers (Bears are the underdog at +3; over/under 45.5)

After having two back to back road wins on prime time television, the Bears managed to come out as flat as they looked in the second half against the Packers last week, and lost 38-17.  The one positive that came out of the Bears loss was that there was an actual “Matt Forte Sighting.”  The struggling back exposed a weak Packers run defense for 122 yards on the ground.  Although that was good to see it wasn’t enough to shield the Bears from an Aaron Rodgers aerial attack that crushed the Bears’ secondary.  The “bad” Jay Cutler showed up against the Packers as well throwing two interceptions that left the entire Bears bench scratching their heads.

The Carolina Panthers are having their struggles as well.  In their last two weeks they’ve lost 37-19 and 38-10 to the Steelers and Ravens, respectively. Their lone touchdown pass last week was a misstep on the part of the Ravens defense which left a wide open Kelvin Benjamin in the endzone. The running game for the Panthers is non existent and the passing game consist of Cam Newton trying to get in-sync with his new receivers (outside of Greg Olson) on the fly.

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The Bears are spreading the Ball around nicely so far this year, which is leading to an emergence in the play of tight end Martellus Bennett who is leading the Bears with 295 receiving yards so far this season. The Bears also started to use rookie running back Ka’Deem Carey who is averaging 4.6 yards a carry to this point.  Both teams are 2-2 and after embarrassing losses both are looking to turn things around quickly.  Good news for the Bears is that their secondary should have an easier week this time around.

Prediction: Bears 29, Panthers 14; Better’s Pick: Bears

Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings (Packers are the favorite at -9; over/under:47.5)

Last week the Vikings were able to do what many thought they couldn’t: outscore the Altanta Falcons; and they did it, in what was rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s first start.  Bridgewater seemed calm and controlled the whole game, throwing 19-30 for 317 yards and also added in a rushing touchdown.  Even with the first round pick looking sharp in this win, it wasn’t even Teddy that stole the show.  It was the running back duo of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon.  Who?  Well, Asiata went undrafted in 2011 but found a home with the Vikings and McKinnon went in the third round of this years draft out of Georgia Southern.  Not much was known about these two, but after McKinnon ran for 135 yards and Asiata ran for 78 yards and 3 touchdowns – every fantasy waiver wire in the world went nuts.  It was a good showing for the young running back duo and this week they are going against a Green Bay run defense that allows 176 yards per game.

The Packers laid a whooping on the Bears last week and they did so by allowing Aaron Rodgers time to get the ball to his receivers.  Even when protection broke down, Rodgers’ foot work in the pocket, helped to keep his jersey looking fresh the entire game.  Randall Cobb had been down on himself entering the Bears game and said he needed to step up, and he did with 113 yards receiving and two touchdowns.  Cobb and Nelson still provide Rodgers with as good as a pairing as you can get in this league, but running back Eddie Lacy has yet to find his footing this season.  The Bears held him to under 50 yards rushing on 17 attempts but the Packers remained loyal to him the entire game and did not use another back to run with.

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The Vikings were going to be a run heavy team, regardless of who was quarterback this year.  With the absence of Adrian Peterson, many thought this team would struggle finding help in the backfield, but if this young tandem of Asiata and McKinnon can provide a steady one-two punch, then all is not lost for the Vikings this season. The Vikings were able to outscore a Falcons offense which has Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White – can they outscore Rodgers, Cobb and Nelson?

Prediction: Vikings 31, Packers 28; Better’s Pick: Vikings and the Over.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

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