NFL’s most battle-tested team; Lions, Packers must win out: NFC North analysis


Don’t count the Detroit Lions out of the postseason just yet. As it stands now, Detroit has a 23 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to the New York Times Playoff Simulator. Should the Lions win their last two games, against the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, that chance would jump to 70%, and that’s without any help from other teams.

The simplest scenario that needs to happen to increase that number to 100% is this: The Jets need to beat the Seahawks in Week 17 and the Dallas Cowboys need to beat the Washington Commanders in Week 18.

Both of these things are not improbable and could even border on probability.

In fact, two of the opportunities for NFC North teams could be the Week 18 matchup between the Lions and the Packers in Green Bay. Neither can live while the other survives (can you tell I’ve been doing my annual Harry Potter holiday watch?). Both teams need to win out to even have a shot at the postseason, which could come down to a dramatic Week 18 finish.

The Lions may not have the momentum of the Packers right now, with Detroit losing to Carolina last weekend and Green Bay riding a three-game winning streak. But when it comes to division opponents, anything goes, and both teams get two NFC North matchups in a row to close out (and determine) their season.

Playoff Chargers, Packers jump into Colin’s Top 10

Playoff Chargers, Packers jump into Colin's Top 10

Colin Cowherd reveals his top 10 teams heading into Week 17, including the playoff-bound Los Angeles Chargers and the resurgent Green Bay Packers.

Let’s take a look at other NFC North intrigue.

vikings will be the most tested team in the playoffs

One team that doesn’t have to worry about any postseason scenario is Minnesota, which has already clinched the division and thus a playoff spot. And even though the Vikings are just playing in the seeding right now, they’re still managing to pull wins out of a magical hat even when it looks like they’re down.

This past Sunday was no different against the New York Giants, who are playing for their playoff lives. It was almost a must-win for New York, and for most of the game, it looked like the Giants were going to pull it off. Until quarterback Kirk Cousins ​​and another Minnesota fourth-quarter comeback derailed everything.

It was a slim 13-10, but the Giants were the plague that didn’t go away heading into the fourth quarter. They had scored 13 without reply and everything was working in their favour. When the Vikings scored a touchdown, the Giants responded, first with a field goal and then a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie it at 24 apiece just before the two-minute mark.

But Greg Joseph provided the cherry on top of Minnesota’s 17-point fourth with a 61-yard field goal in the final second to win the game. It capped an eight-play, 33-yard drive in which Cousins ​​used up all 2:01 of the clock on offer.

Kirk Cousins ​​throws for three touchdowns in win over Giants

Kirk Cousins ​​throws for three touchdowns in win over Giants

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins ​​threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-24 win over the Giants on Christmas Eve.

That kind of clock management and resolution will only serve these Vikings well heading into the postseason. Yes, they didn’t have the toughest schedule this season, but they have played 12 one-goal games this year and won them all. They had over a 95% chance of losing TWICE this season and managed a win (see: Week 10 vs. Bills and the greatest comeback in NFL history in Week 15 vs. Colts).

If you’re a Vikings player, no matter how low you may go in a game, there’s no reason to panic or think you can’t eventually come back because you’ve done it several times before. He’s an intangible that can’t be overstated in the postseason and could make the Vikings very dangerous next month and even into February.

Bears should sit Justin Fields?

Yes, Fields is a young quarterback who needs all the reps he can get. But let me ask the question, what significant development will he have during these last two games?

Over the last two games, Fields has eight sacks. The offensive line, which has struggled in pass protection all season, is even more broken. The Bears were missing both Cody Whitehair and Teven Jenkins last weekend against the Bills. Guard Michael Schofield exited for part of the game and was replaced by Dieter Eiselen, who had played a total of six snaps on offense before Saturday’s game.

The Bears were also down multiple receivers on Saturday, with Chase Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown inactive, N’Keal Harry limited and Darnell Mooney on injured reserve. At this point, you don’t even know how many of those players will be on the roster next season, so getting reps with Fields when he doesn’t have a reliable pocket to throw to seems like a moot point.

Fields still needs to do things with his legs if the team wants to stay in games. The Bears have no questions about his running ability, that much is glaringly obvious. With inconsistent protection and limited pitching options available, why not rest Fields?

It probably won’t happen, though. The coaching staff is not wired that way. Fields himself is not connected in this way. You wouldn’t want a quarterback that was. But it’s hard to think sitting him wouldn’t be a good idea, especially if it helps the Bears’ draft stock, though they could still lose even with Fields in the lineup.

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Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, adding the title of Super Bowl champion (and boat parade participant) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.


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