Another year, another table to run.
Vikings (Last Week: Win, 14-9 @ Falcons)
Case Keenum has spent the first years of his career ping-ponging between the Texans and the Rams. He has shown solid quarterback play at times but has never shown that star power. In Minnesota, he doesn’t need to be. Minnesota runs more play action that any other team in the league. They pound the ball and then take advantage of defenses that are crashing down on the line.
Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon average 3.8 yards/carry between the two of them. Before his season-ending injury, Dalvin Cook was averaging 4.8 yards per carry through the first four weeks of the year. It’s scary to think what the Vikings might look like now if they still had Cook and continued to utilize play action the way they have been.
Next game: @ Panthers
Another week with an exciting matchup for the Vikings. The Panthers’ Cam Newton has struggled to get their passing game going this year and is likely missing Kelvin Benjamin, his big receiving target that was traded mid-season.
The Vikings will look to shut down the Panthers 5th ranked rushing attack. If they can do that, the passing attack shouldn’t provide too much of a challenge for the Minnesota secondary.
Lions (Last week: Loss, 20-44 @ Ravens)
In their first five games of the year the Lions were looking like a playoff team. They were 3-2 but their two losses had come against the Falcons and Panthers, both of whom are top teams in the league right now. Over that stretch, the Lions were allowing an average of 74.6 rushing yards to opposing teams. In the seven games since they’ve given up 143.7 yards/game. That is a huge difference in the NFL.
In back to back weeks, both the Browns and the Bears put up 200+ yard rushing performances against the Lions.
At this point in the season they are 6-6. While the NFC North is out of the picture, the Lions find themselves in the thick of the wildcard race. If they want to make it they need to go back to what was working and stuff the run.
Next game: @ Buccaneers
Much like it was for the Packers last Sunday, this matchup against the Bucs will likely be looked at as a must win for the Lions if they hope to win a wildcard spot.
Key to victory? Shut down Barber in the run game and take advantage of mistakes by Jameis Winston.
Packers (Last week: Win, 26-20 vs Buccaneers)
Could it be? A game against the Browns and then Aaron Rodgers could be back in the green and gold? For that to happen the Packers need to take care of business this Sunday against winless Cleveland to make sure Aaron has a reason to come back.
For years Packer fandom has speculated if Mike McCarthy and his staff have done enough to surround Aaron with talent. In recent weeks, while the picture has become a bit more clear, the waters are still murky. What can be definitively said though is that McCarthy has made questionable playcalls and game-time decisions in almost every game this season. Give up on the run to start the second half when you have a running back averaging 5+ yards/carry?
The players are playing hard and look like they believe in this season still, can McCarthy get them where they want to go?
Next Game: @ Browns
Casey Hayward said after the Chargers’ matchup against the Browns on Sunday that Josh Gordon was his most difficult matchup of the season. That’s saying something when you consider he has lined up this season across from Odell Beckham Jr., Dez Bryant, Brandon Cooks, Tyreek Hill and Alshon Jeffery.
The key to victory for the Packers? Get pressure on Kizer before he can underthrow Josh Gordon.
Bears (Last week: Loss, 14-15 vs 49ers)
The battle of the tanks! The Bears lost by one point against the 49ers. Despite their best efforts, they still almost won this game.
Chicago held onto the ball for just over 21 minutes in this game, while San Francisco had it for almost 39. Chicago threw the ball for 102 yards, San Francisco threw it for 293. Chicago had 8 first downs in the game, San Francisco had 23.
This game was a blowout in disguise. What kept it close was the 49ers’ ineptitude in the red zone, they went 0/5 against the Bears. The 49ers have the 25th ranked defense in the league, yet the Bears were unable to muster any sort of attack against it. Maybe things will look up next year, but as of now the Bears are officially eliminated from the playoffs.
Next game: @ Bengals
They Bengals came out of their Monday night matchup against the Steelers with a litany of injuries from one of the most brutal games of the season. Good thing they play the Bears this week.
Find more by Shawn Reagan on the Bleeding Green and Gold podcast! A father and son podcast that is all about your favorite team!