Rounding Up the Division Rivals (And Looking Slightly Into Their Futures)

| October 4th, 2018

Four games in the books, which means we’re a quarter of the way through the regular season, and it’s time for the first edition of “Rivals Round Up”. This is a new feature wherein I’ll take a look at how things stand in the NFC North.

And we’ll start at the top.

Chicago Bears, 3-1

Almost a week later, and last week’s win still feels every bit as good as it did on Sunday. (If you’re a Cubs fan like me, the Bears’ early season success might be the only thing getting you through this first week of October.) Chicago leads the division for the first time in years. They’ve won three games in a row for the first time, again, in years. And Mitch Trubisky’s offense took a hugely positive step forward with a dominant performance over Tampa Bay.

Oh, and that Khalil Mack guy? He’s pretty good, too.

Next Opponent: Miami Dolphins.

I don’t love that Chicago’s bye week comes so early this year, and after last week I’m antsy see them play again. But I expect the Bears to stay focused, keep learning, and go into Miami next week without missing a beat.

The Dolphins crashed back down to earth last week after a 3-0 start, getting pummeled by the Patriots 38-7. They play the 3-1 Bengals in Cincinnati this Sunday. Ryan Tannehill is having a nice season and seems to function well in Adam Gase’s system.

However, their offensive line is shaky and I fully expect the Bears to put pressure on him the entire day. On the defensive side, the Dolphin’s secondary will definitely be a step up from what Trubisky faced against Tampa. They’ve managed a league-leading nine interceptions in four games, so Mitch will have to play smart and stay accurate to keep from making costly mistakes.

Game Prediction: It won’t be another Bears blowout, but I think they earn their fourth straight win in Miami: Bears 24, Dolphins 17

Green Bay Packers, 2-1-1

Ah, the Packers.

The only reason the Bears aren’t a perfect 4-0 right now.

Since that Week One comeback Green Bay has been a little up and down, and Aaron Rodgers has been playing hurt. Even so, if not for a completely bogus roughing the passer call against Clay Matthews, the Packers would be 3-1. As long as Rodgers is healthy enough to stay on the field, GB is always going to be in the mix. He’s just that good.

On the other hand, if he goes down, the Packers become less than mediocre. Right now, he’s playing, so I consider Green Bay the Bears’ biggest threat in the division.

Next Opponent: Detroit Lions

Since they’re in the same division, I’ll have a more thorough take on them later, but basically it boils down to this: Not Good.

Game Prediction: The game is in Detroit, but I doubt that matters. The Lions will hang in there, but if Rodgers is playing, Green Bay is winning. Packers 31, Lions 23.

Minnesota Vikings, 1-2-1

The big story this offseason was Minnesota’s acquisition of Kirk Cousins, who was supposed to be the final puzzle piece in the Vikings Super Bowl run. While I’ve never been particularly high on the guy (he’s good, not great) he’s been pretty solid thus far. Over four games he’s thrown ten touchdowns, two interceptions, and has a passer rating of 103.6.

The problem is the rest of the team isn’t living up to expectations.

The Vikings have no real running game, and their defense, which was supposed to be their biggest strength has so far been underwhelming. They are ranked 22nd in the league in total yards allowed, and are giving up an average 27.5 points per game.

You could argue those stats are slightly skewed since they gave up over 500 yards and 38 points to the Rams, without a doubt the best team in the NFL right now. However, they also gave up 27 points to the Buffalo Bills, who are terrible. Also, as I mentioned previously, they should’ve lost that Green Bay game and have a record of 1-3 right now.

The Bears don’t play the Vikings until the middle of November, and a lot could change between then and now, but currently I can’t say the Vikings have shown anything that makes me particularly nervous about that match-up when it comes.

Next Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles

The Vikings are playing the Eagles in Philadelphia this week. Both teams are off to a slower start than they would like and will be looking to rebound.

Game Prediction: Honestly this feels like a bit of a toss-up to me, but because of home field advantage, I’m going to give the slight edge to Philadelphia. Eagles 27, Vikings 24.

Detroit Lions, 1-3

Apart from a decisive win over a struggling Patriots team, the Lions have continued to be what they have so often been: disappointing. They got destroyed by the Jets in the season opener, and lost two close ones to the 49ers and Cowboys. (So all their losses have come against average to below average teams.)

While I’m a believer in Matthew Stafford’s talent and his ability to keep his team in games, I don’t think the Lions can be consistent enough to turn it around and challenge for the division this season.

Next Opponent/Game Prediction: (See Green Bay, above)

First Quarter Conclusion

It’s early in the season, and there’s a lot more football left to play, but if you’re a Chicago Bears fan right now, everything is pretty much coming up roses. Let’s enjoy it!

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