Three of the four NFC North teams will be favored this week as the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Green Packers should handily roll to wins. Here's how things will transpire for Black and Blue teams during Week 8.
Tampa Bay (2-4) at Minnesota (5-2): This Thursday Night Football game presents an interesting matchup. The Bucks aren't very good but their run defense is (76 yards per game allowed); the Vikings have Adrian Peterson, who broke out for 153 yards against the Cardinals last week. Despite six interceptions in the past three games, maybe the Vikings will ponder - pun intended - a more aggressive passing game, as the Bucs rank 31st in pass defense. The verdict: The Vikings are perfect at home, the Bucs have lost nine straight on the road. Expect those streaks to continue: Vikings 27, Bucks 13.
Carolina (1-5) at Chicago (5-1): Other than a blowout loss to the Giants, all of the Panthers' losses have been close (6, 8, 4 and 5 points). This one won't be, although the Bears secondary will have to contain Steve Smith, who had 181 yards on eight catches in Chicago's 34-29 win last season. Cam Newton threw for 374 yards and ran for two scores in that one, but has struggled in three of his last four games. The verdict: The offense breaks out - finally - and the Bears win their fifth straight, 34-17, to retain sole possession of the North lead.
Green Bay (4-3) at Jacksonville (1-5): Aaron Rodgers has 16 touchdown passes…in his past four games. That's really all you need to know. Making matters worse for the Jags is that starting running back Maurice Jones-Drew sprained a foot last week and is out; quarterback Blaine Gabbart tore a ligament in his non-throwing shoulder but is expected to play. The verdict: The Packers will be playing at home for the first time this month, and I'd expect a few Lambeau Leaps. Packers win big, 42-13. Losing Charles Woodson (broken collarbone) won't be a factor against teams like the Jags but…
Seattle (4-3) at Detroit (2-4) It's offense versus defense - the Lions have the league's fourth-ranked offense and second-ranked passing game; the Seahawks are fifth in total defense, eighth in pass defense and sixth against the run. The Lions put the ball on the ground six times last week, had three red zone turnovers and lost wide receiver Nate Burleson for the season. Yikes. The verdict: Marshawn Lynch, who has three 100+ yard games this season, will have a big day and lead the Seahawks to a 31-17 win. The Lions look lost at times and appear too dysfunctional to win.
Last week: 3-0.
Sources: NFL team statistics, NFL.com.
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan.
Other Chicago Bears Commentary by Steve:Bears, Packers, Vikings Should Roll to Week 7 Wins: A Fan's View (October 18)
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