First half recap:
The Green Bay Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in the game firing on all cylinders, but the support for him has been hit or miss so far, largely because of all the injuries on this team. The biggest disappointment though has been Eddie Lacy. He brought balance to that offense but his lackluster performance this season has put pressure on a lot of replacement receivers. After Randall Cobb it’s guys like Ty Montgomery, James Jones, Richard Rodgers, etc. The defense has been much better for most of the first half of the season, but still give up a lot of yards per carry on the ground.
The Minnesota Vikings are 6-2, but the Rams are the only team .500 or better that they have beaten. Their most impressive performance this season was arguably their three point loss in Denver. Adrian Peterson has come back with a vengeance, and he has led the way for Teddy Bridgewater. The defense has really gotten better, now second in the league in terms of points allowed per game. However, their lack of a passing game has been apparent. They will need to try to find some balance offensively.
The Chicago Bears have been in a lot of close games, finding ways to drop a lot of them. Their wins have all come over AFC West teams. Jay Cutler continues to be erratic, and he misses Brandon Marshall for sure. Alshon Jeffery has been good when healthy and Matt Forte has had a very good year (but now he is banged up). But their defense has become one of the worst in the NFL. It’s a shame because the offense has looked good under Adam Gase.
The Detroit Lions look absolutely putrid. Matthew Stafford has really regressed, Calvin Johnson looks like he is over the hill, their offensive line is still horrible and they can’t run the football. The defense that was so good a season ago now looks like a far cry from that unit. The biggest blow on that side was losing DeAndre Levy. He was the head guy on the defense, not Ndamukong Suh. Other than Ziggy Ansah, the defense is very average.
Second half outlook:
The Packers will win the division, but their week 17 game against the Vikings will determine who wins it. Good for them it is in Green Bay. They face some tough games in the second half of the season—home and home against the Vikings, at Oakland and at Arizona. Otherwise, they get the Lions twice, the Bears at home and the Cowboys at home. This looks like a 12-4 team, even with all their injuries.
The Vikings should make the playoffs, but their schedule down the stretch is going to be tough. They have two against the Packers, go to Oakland, to Arizona, to Atlanta and have a home game against the Seahawks. If they win two or three of those games and beat the Giants and Bears at home like they should, that puts them at 11-5, which should be enough to get them to the playoffs.
The Bears still may have a decent season, but they will be hard pressed to finish .500 or better. Their next three games are in St. Louis, at home for Denver, and at Green Bay. After that they host the 49ers and Redskins, go to Minnesota and Tampa Bay before closing the season against Detroit. Maybe they get three or four wins, which would be respectable for a team that brought in a completely new coaching staff and is rebuilding.
The Lions may not win another game this season. They have two against the Packers and go to Chicago, New Orleans and St. Louis. They host the Eagles, Raiders and 49ers as well, and those are going to be their chances to get another win.
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Minnesota Vikings (WC)
3. Chicago Bears
4. Detroit Lions