The NFC North features just one divisional game this week, but it should be a dandy: The Chicago Bears hosting the Detroit Lions for Monday Night Football. Elsewhere, the Minnesota Vikings host the Arizona Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers hit the road to take on the St. Louis Rams.
All three games have ramifications for the NFC North title race. The Bears need to win to maintain their one-game division lead, while the Vikings and Packers need wins just to keep pace. Additionally, a Vikings loss combined with a Packers win would tie the two teams for second place.
Here's who'll win and lose in the Black and Blue Division this week.
Detroit (2-3) at Chicago (4-1): Some say last week's win over the Philadelphia Eagles will be a real confidence booster for the Lions. I don't get it: I don't see how barely beating a team that looked so bad can boost confidence. Sure, the Matthew Stafford-Calvin Johnson combo is dangerous, and the Lions have a good defensive line, but they aren't playing well as a unit. The Bears, lead by an opportunistic D that can win games on its own, are coming off a bye and should be rested and ready. The verdict: Jay Cutler survives a pounding and leads the Bears to a 27-10 win.
Arizona (4-2) at Minnesota (4-2): The Vikings lost to the Washington Redskins last week, and in doing so, lost a share of the division lead. They'll be fired up for the Birds, who are coming off two bad losses and need a win to stay on top in the NFC West. The Cardinals will be without quarterback Kevin Kolb, who suffered detached ribs (ouch) last week in an overtime loss to Buffalo; the Vikings could be down as many as four starters on defense. The verdict: It'll be close, but Jared Allen will have a field day against an o-line that's given up 22 sacks the past three games. Vikings, 24-20.
Green Bay (3-3) at St. Louis (3-3): The Packers may have found their old magic last week, as Aaron Rodgers threw six TD passes in a 42-24 demolition of the previously undefeated Houston Texans; he's got 13 scoring strikes with just one interception the past three games. The Rams, however, have beaten a couple of pretty good teams (Seattle, Arizona) and can't be totally discounted. The verdict: There's no stopping Rodgers once he gets on a roll, especially when the Pack gets its no huddle offense clicking (just ask the Texans). Packers, 34-24.
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan.
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