NFC North Nuggets week 6

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Zack Goodrow, Sports Editor

CHICAGO BEARS: If someone had told me that after six weeks of NFL football the Chicago Bears would be in first place in the NFC North with a 5-1 record, I would have called them crazy. It turns out this is no dream and the Bears took sole possession of first place after a 23-16 win against the Carolina Panthers. It was another messy win for the Bears, but a 5-1 record is a 5-1 record. There is absolutely room for improvement that can still be made by this team. They’re winning games but many people question if they’re a legit contender. If they can make some adjustments throughout the season like fixing their run game and improving their offensive line, they could be a deadly team. 

Let’s start off with QB Nick Foles, who arguably had his best game in a Bears uniform so far. The passing game looked better than it has in previous weeks and Foles started off the game completing 11 of his first 12 passes. While his statistics overall don’t look flashy, 198 yards with one rush TD, one pass TD, and one interception, he did play a good game. Foles TD pass to rookie TE Cole Kmet was fantastic. He threw it in tight coverage to his big bodied TE where only Kmet could catch it. I also like HC Matt Nagy’s play call on Foles QB sneak TD run. The run game was going nowhere all game and letting Foles take it into the endzone was a good decision. The only thing I didn’t like from Foles was his interception. He threw the ball like he was Kobe Bryant hitting a fade away buzz beater in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I’m sorry Foles, but you will never complete a pass like that. 

The Bears run game got absolutely no production. The first half was outright atrocious and it got a little better in the second. Against a Panthers defense that has allowed 5.4 yards per carry so far this season, I expected more. Nagy has done better with abandoning his run game however. You don’t want your team to outright stop running the ball, but it simply is not working for the Bears. Their passing offense was gaining yards and Nagy used a lot of run/pass option plays to supplement the lack of running production. At least RB David Montgomery is being utilized in the pass game. 

The defense again played great and has looked more like their 2018 squad every week. SS Tashaun Gibson had a great interception on the Panthers first drive to put the Bears offense in excellent field position. CB Jaylon Johnson played excellent man coverage to tip the ball in the air for Gibson. The Bears secondary is playing great and some of this should get credited to a much improved Bears defensive line. They were pressuring Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater all day and had a collective pass rush. Six Bears defensive lineman had hits against Bridgewater in the pass rush. 

The formula is here for the Chicago Bears to be a great team and to be a threat in the playoffs. If they can develop some more consistency on offense, then they should be a team that’s feared. A couple of last notes about the Bears. Will the referees ever let FS Eddie Jackson have a pick six? Against the Panthers he had his second pick six of the year called back on a PI penalty. Lastly, isn’t it great to have a kicker again? K Cairo Santos isn’t the greatest kicker, but he did have a go ahead FG last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Against the Panthers, Santos hit three of three field goals and a 55 yard kick. I can rest easy at night knowing there will be no more double doinks in Chicago. 

DETROIT LIONS:  The Detroit Lions have finally done it. They held on to a double digit lead early in the game to get a victory. Albeit it was against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a very bad football team. Detroit beat Jacksonville 34-16 in a very convincing win. For once, I don’t have much to complain about when it comes to the Lions. They got a road win against a bad team and played very well. It’s the type of win that this team needs to pull out. If they’re going to have any chance to climb in the standings and make the playoffs, they need to beat teams like the Jaguars. 

The offense had an excellent performance. QB Matthew Stafford looked great and he had some fantastic passes. He ended the game with 223 yards with one TD and one interception. His pick was pretty bad, throwing a line drive ball right into the hand of Jaguars LB Joe Schobert who was right on the line of scrimmage expecting a pass. Stafford did have some good plays though like his sidearm pass to TE T.J. Hockenson to avoid a sack. The play where he bobbled the snap and threw it to WR Kenny Golladay on the sideline was very impressive. Speaking of Golladay, he had a great performance and Stafford threw him some dimes deep down the field. Golladay ensured that he is a number one receiver in this league as he finished the contest with four catches and 105 yards. 

The true MVP of this offense was RB De’Andre Swift. Swift finally broke out as he ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Do you remember the last time a Lions RB had 116 yards a two touchdowns? Probably not, because that was legend RB Barry Sanders. I’m not saying Swift is as good as Sanders, but he did have a great game. He showed power and speed running for a couple of big gains and even running for a 54 yard play. His leaping TD run was also pretty impressive. 

The Lions defense finally showed up to play as well. They had multiple turnovers. S Duron Harmon had an interception and DE Trey Flowers had a strip sack fumble recovery. The Lions finally blitzed and Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew was pressured all day. The Lions were aggressive in the pass rush even though they only had one sack. DE Romeo Okwara also had a good game. After giving up a long pass in the first quarter, rookie CB Jeff Okudah came back and had a solid performance. He led the Lions with eight total tackles.

The Lions are now 2-3 and have a chance to get back to .500 against a 1-5 Atlanta Falcons squad next week. The defense will need to perform well once again. They’ll be going up against a lethal passing attack and a solid run game. If the Lions do find a way to win next week, we may have to consider them as a better team than we thought they were after the first few weeks of the season. 

GREEN BAY PACKERS:  I thought the Green Bay Packers bye week was last week not this one? In this game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Packers looked flat out terrible in a 38-10 loss. The entire team was sloppy as they had turnovers and penalties galore. No one really came to play and they looked like they had lost all of their energy after giving up their ten point lead in the second quarter. 

While blame should be placed in almost every position group and coach on the team, the majority of it will go to QB Aaron Rodger. Rodgers has looked excellent all year but he had a terrible game in week six. He completed less than half of his passes thrown, threw for only 160 yards with two interceptions, and had his second lowest career QB rating at 35.4. He had his third career pick six and then followed that up by throwing another interception on the Packers next drive. There really should have been three interceptions, but luckily for Rodgers the Buccaneers safety dropped the ball while he was diving for it. 

It wasn’t just Rodgers’ fault however. The entire offense just couldn’t get anything going. There were dropped catches, missed throws by Rodgers, and several missed blocks on Buccaneers players. The Buccaneers pass rush was consistently putting pressure on Rodgers. The offensive line looked hopeless after LT David Bakhtiari left the game with a chest injury. 

As bad as the offense was, the defense played about the same level. They weren’t bad at stopping the run when the game was still close. The pass coverage was also adequate throughout most of the game. As soon as the game was out of reach however, the Packers defense looked like they just gave up. They allowed huge runs by Bucs RB Ronald Jones and gave up five catches for 78 yards and a TD to a 65 year old TE in Rob Gronkowski. 

The defense, along with the entire team, just needs its best players to show up in order to continue winning games. Where were the Smith brothers and the rest of the pass rush? The Packers defense as a whole had only four QB hits and zero sacks. The secondary play of safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage left something to be desired. 

The Packers coaches also didn’t do a great job. HC Matt LaFleur didn’t have great play calling when the team was down and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine allowed some big plays under his watch. The Packers lost to a Bucs team that executed their game perfectly and played an almost flawless game. Those will always be tough games to win, but they could have at least kept things competitive. Rodgers also needs to build some more chemistry with these backup receivers. No Packers wideout other than star Davante Adams caught more than 35 yards. I bet right now Green Bay wishes they had taken a WR in the first round instead of a currently third string QB. 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS:  Unlike Rodger with the Packers, the majority of the blame for the Minnesota Vikings 40-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons should be put on QB Kirk Cousins shoulders. He had three interceptions in the first half of the game and was constantly putting his defense in terrible field position. Even if the defense played a dominant game, it wouldn’t have mattered. Cousins outright threw his team out of this game. 

Cousins finished the matchup with 343 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Don’t let the stats fool you, all three of his touchdowns and most of his yards came in garbage time when the Vikings had no chance to pull out a victory. The first snap of the game was a horrendous throw that Cousins threw right into the hands of Falcons LB Deion Jones for an interception. Cousins played a down right awful game and put Minnesota in terrible situations. 

At least the VIkings skill players played excellent even though it didn’t matter in the long run. WR Justin Jefferson had his third 100 yard receiving game of the season. Jefferson had some great over the shoulder catches, ran routes efficiently, and has been good at tracking the ball into his hands all season. He ended the contest with nine catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns. WR Adam Thielen also had a solid performance catching three passes for 51 yards and a TD. He was open downfield frequently, but he wasn’t thrown to either because Cousins didn’t see him or he didn’t want to risk throwing a long ball. Thielen’s TD grab was his seventh on the year and leads the NFL. TE Irv Smith Jr. also got involved, catching four passes for 55 yards. 

On defense the Vikings continued to struggle as they have all season. Their secondary is one of the worst in the league. The upside is however that two of their starting corners, Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney, are both rookies. They may end up having solid NFL careers but so far it hasn’t been great. Dantzler struggled all game with tracking the ball while it’s in the air and contesting passes at the catch point. The TD pass that he gave up to Falcons star WR Julio Jones is evident of this. 

Hey Vikings fans, did you enjoy your time watching DE Yannick Ngakoue? Well, that’s over now. After six games the Vikings have shipped him out to the Baltimore Ravens for a third round pick. It hurts even more knowing that you gave up a second rounder to get him in the first place. With Ngakoue no longer being present, things should get worse for this Vikings defensive line. At least DE Ifeadi Odenigbo had a solid performance racking up three quarterback hits, two tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. 

Heading into their bye week, the talk in Minnesota will most likely be if HC Mike Zimmer gets fired. This should absolutely not be the case. Zimmer has been an excellent coach since he’s taken over the Vikings. In his first six seasons with the team, he has a 58% win rate and has made the playoffs three times. This was also going to be a difficult year for the Vikings. Their team is filled with young players and they have asked a lot of their rookies. Maybe things could have been different with a regular offseason and preseason games. Just because the team is going through a retooling period, doesn’t mean that Zimmer has to go. The QB on the other hand? It may be time to have talks about how Cousins time in Minnesota is limited.