As we have surpassed the half-way point of the NFL season, the home stretch is soon to begin with playoff scenarios at the forefront. Generally a tight division, the NFC North appears to be a two-team race between the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings, barring some sort of epic collapse by the top contenders and a sudden surge from the Lions and Bears.
The Packers sit at the top of the division with a 7-2 record. Their only losses came against the Eagles at home and the Chargers in a lackluster effort on the road last week. Green Bay is in great shape overall having won all three division games and 4-1 in the conference. Their 21-16 victory over the Vikings earlier in the season is huge, considering the Packers have divisional games against the Bears, at Detroit and at Minnesota to close the season.
In Minnesota, the Vikings are coming off a tough 26-23 loss to the Chiefs on the road last week. They are 6-3 on the season, 5-2 in the conference but only 1-2 in the division. Although a game behind in the standings, the Vikings are actually two games back considering their earlier loss to the Packers. They have a tough game at Dallas this week, but have a favorable schedule coming down the stretch. They face three divisional opponents in the last four weeks, including the Packers, all at home where they are 4-0 this season.
The Lions sit at 3-4-1 and likely have little chance at making the post season. They are 0-2 in the division and 2-2-1 in the conference. The Packers defeated them at home 23-22 and the Vikings defeated them in Detroit 42-30. Detroit still has both divisional games remaining against the Bears, one against the Vikings on the road and the finale against the Packers at home. That final game could mean a lot in terms of playoff seeding, so it’s a dangerous game for the Packers with the Lions trying to play spoiler.
In Chicago, the Bears are in all kinds of trouble having lost four straight after a 3-1 start. At 3-5, they are 1-1 in the division and 2-3 in the conference. Still strong defensively, the Bears could be a dangerous opponent to play late, and much like the Lions, their role will be as a spoiler. The final game of the season against the Vikings on the road could determine playoff fate for the Vikings as well as the Packers.
This season will most certainly come down to the Packers and Vikings to determine the winner of the NFC North and likely a number three or perhaps two seed in the NFC playoffs. If the Vikings manage to defeat the Packers on December 23, the last weekend of the season likely will determine the division winner. Should the Packers win, the division should be theirs as they will have won both meetings between the teams this season.
With seven games remaining, there is much to be played, but the scenarios are pretty clear. The Packers or the Vikings will emerge as the NFC North champs for the 2019 season.