We are one-quarter of the way through the 2019 NFL season. That makes a for a good time to look at the state of the NFL teams through 4 games. Specifically, we will look at the NFC North and how well those teams have done so far. This is NFC North 2019 1st Q.
NFC North Standings
Green Bay Packers (3-1)
Chicago Bears (3-1)
Detroit Lions (2-1-1)
Minnesota Vikings (2-2)
Green Bay Packers
The Packers opened their season with 2 straight divisional games. A 10-3 win on the road in Chicago and at 21-16 home victory against the Vikings. There were some similarities between both of those contests. The most obvious of the similarities is that Green Bay won both games and did so with the defense getting game-sealing interceptions. Both picks occurred in the end zone late in the 4th quarter. In each instance, the Packers were up by only one score, so getting those interceptions proved to be pivotal moments in those games.
It was not just the picks, the Packers defense was ready to play in those early contests. Especially against the Bears, the pass rush was lethal as Green Bay accumulated 5 sacks in that game.
A major difference between the Bears game and the Vikings game was how well the Packers defended the run and neutralized the big play. In Chicago, they allowed a game-high run of 8 yards. However, against Minnesota, it was another story. Dalvin Cook accumulated 154 rushing yards by himself, including a 75-yard touchdown.
That Vikings game actually kicked off 3 straight contests where the Packers allowed massive production on the ground. One of the most telling stats from Green Bay’s 27-16 victory over the Broncos was the time of possession. Denver had the football for 35:34, while the Packers held it for 24:26. The one area where the Packers improved in this game was not allowing a big run like Cook’s 75-yarder from week 2. The longest run that the Broncos had in Green Bay, went for 13 yards. Still, Denver dominated on the ground and it came close to costing a win.
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Through 3 games, Aaron Rodgers averaged 216 yards and 1 touchdown per game. This is far off of his career average of 260. Things changed in week 4, for better and for worse. In a tightly fought Thursday night game, the Packers lost 34-27.
Late in the first half, Philadelphia took a 14-13 lead on a Dallas Goedert touchdown. It was the first time Green Bay trailed since the 1st quarter against the Bears in week 1. Obviously, being behind, this forced The Packers to throw the football more than they had at any point in 2019. After not surpassing 34 attempts in each of the first 3 games of the year, Rodgers threw the ball 53 times against the Eagles. This resulted in 422 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, a return to his typical production. As a result, Davante Adams saw a season-high in targets (14), receptions (10) and yards (180).
Unfortunately, Adams left the game in the 4th quarter after setting up Green Bay on a 1st-and-goal. Green Bay actually had two possessions inside the red zone late in the 4th quarter. The first ended with a turnover on downs, while the 2nd ended with Rodgers first interception of 2019.
After their season-opening defeat at home, the Bears have pulled off 3 straight victories. In their only loss, Chicago was held scoreless in all but the 1st quarter.
In week 2 against the Broncos, the scoreless streak continued and reached 4 full quarters. A field goal drive ended that streak and eventually, the Bears had a 13-3 lead. After the Broncos put up 11 unanswered points in the 4th quarter, Chicago got the ball back with about 30 seconds left in the game. While he struggled statistically by throwing for only 120 passing yards and had under 60% completion rate, the victory was within Mitch Trubisky‘s grasp. He delivered by getting the team in field goal range to walk off with a 17-16 win.
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Things went much better in week 3 as the Bears demolished Washington 31-15. Trubisky helped get Chicago out to a quick lead by throwing 3 touchdowns to Taylor Gabriel in the first half. At one point it was 28-0 in this game. In a performance reminiscent of 2018, the Bears defense complied 4 sacks and forced 5 turnovers in this game. The defense has actually been incredibly consistent in 2019 by holding all 4 of their opponents to under 16 points.
That includes a 16-6 victory over the Vikings. In an unfortunate turn of events, Trubisky left the game with an injury after attempting only 3 passes. Chase Daniel came in and threw a touchdown pass in the 1st quarter. It was the only time that the Bears would reach the end zone in the game, but Daniel succeeded in sustaining drives and limiting Minnesota’s time of possession to 24:33 for the game. The defense deserves a ton of credit by accumulating 6 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. That also held the Vikings off the scoreboard until late in the 4th quarter. The Bears are 3-1 without having an offensive explosion yet. Considering the quarterback situation, they may need to win in that manner.
Things seemed to be going well for the Lions to start the 2019 campaign. In their opening game against the Cardinals, Detroit had control for over 3 quarters. Early in the 4th, a T.J. Hockenson touchdown made it 24-6. However, the Lions began to slip both on offense in their inability to sustain drives and on defense in their ability to contain the Cardinals. Eventually, Arizona crawled all the way back and even scored a touchdown with less than 1:00 remaining to tie the game at 24. In overtime, both teams kicked field goals on their respective opening drives. Afterwards, neither team could get back into scoring range and the game ended in a 27-27 tie.
Close contests have been consistent for the Lions this year as every final score has been within 4 points. The next 2 games were both Detroit victories, over the Chargers and the Eagles respectively. In the Chargers game, Matthew Stafford threw 2 touchdown passes, including the go-ahead score to Kenny Golladay about halfway through the 4th quarter to make the score 13-10. Golladay has been impressive so far in 2019, especially in the end zone. He has 4 touchdowns on the year, which is tied for the league lead in receiving scores.
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While Stafford and the offense deserve credit for contributing to a win, it was all about the defense. After the Chargers scored a touchdown in the first half of the 1st quarter, the Lions held them to 3 points the rest of the way. That unit was less efficient in week 3 against the Eagles. They did manage to produce 3 sacks and force 2 fumbles in that game but this win was more about the Eagles shooting themselves in the foot than anything Detroit did. Dropped passes were a common sight for the Philadelphia players in week 3 and the Lions managed to sneak out a 27-24 victory.
Finally, last week, Detroit got to measure up against one of the best teams in the NFL. They hosted the Chiefs in a close affair. The good news for the Lions is that they held a lead with about 2 and a half minutes left in the game. The bad news, they allowed Kansas City to drive the field, eat up some clock and retake the lead with less than 30 seconds left. Stafford did put the offense in a position to throw a couple of hail marry attempts, but they were unsuccessful. This game ended in a 34-30 loss for Detroit.
There was all sorts of talk in the offseason about the Vikings becoming a more run-heavy team. Likely, this will never be more apparent than Minnesota’s first game of 2019. In a 28-12 victory over the Falcons, Kirk Cousins only threw the ball 10 times. It was the perfect game script for this to occur as the Vikings got up to an early 14-0. Eventually, it was 28-0 before Atlanta finally scored in the 4th quarter. Either way, the offense revolved around the run game. While rookie Alexander Mattison got 3 carries, it was all about Dalvin Cook who ran 21 times for 111 yards an 2 touchdowns.
Cook continued his statistical dominance in week 2 against the Packers. With the team down 21-0 early in the 2nd quarter, Cook broke off a 75-yard run to get to the end zone. It changed the momentum of the game and the defense stepped up after getting burned bad throughout the opening frame. Green Bay did not actually score any points for the rest of the game.
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Even though they lost 21-16 to the Packers, the Vikings carried the momentum they gained in the 2nd half to the next game and quickly created a 21-0 lead over the Raiders. Technically, that was all the offense needed as Oakland only put 14 points on the board. In fact, the Raiders only scored their 2nd touchdown with less than 2 minutes left in the game. The final score showed a 34-14 win for Minnesota.
It was almost exactly the opposite in Chicago. It was the Vikings turn to get shut out for the large part of the contest, as Cook managed to find the end zone with only 3:02 left in the 4th quarter. To their credit, the defense held the Bears to only 16 points throughout the entire game. It was the offense that was lacking. The o-line could not protect Cousins as he took 6 sacks. To be fair, this is the Bears after all. But still, there needs to be some improvement in Minnesota.
Where do we go from here? Well, the Bears will likely start Case Daniel next game. Chicago has a week 6 bye so there is a chance that Mitch Trubisky only missed 1 game. However, he has not performed up to his status as a 2nd overall pick.
The Lions were literally just a couple of plays from being 4-0. They had the game in their grasps and blew it in Arizona. As for the loss to the Chiefs, well, it is the Chiefs after all, but Detroit nonetheless had a lead with less than 1:00 to go in the game. The fact that they only lost by 4 is a testament to this team.
The Packers got off to a nice start, in spite of the offense being stagnant from periods of time during all 3 victories. It was the defense that was winning those games and that unit looked to be among the best in the NFL. However, they ran into a top tier offensive line against the Eagles and could not muster the same consistent pressure that they had demonstrated before. Also, the loss to the Eagles was part of a 3-game stretch where the defense allowed a total of 523 rushing yards (174.3 per game) and 5 rushing touchdowns to opponents. Above all else, that aspect will need to improve if the Packers have any hope of a championship.
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For the Vikings. The thing that they need to work on most is the passing offense. Overall, the team looked dominant in their 2 victories, outscoring the Falcons and Raiders a combined 62-26. In both instances, Minnesota got out to an early lead and proceeded to run the football as much as possible. When they got in trouble was times where Kirk Cousins needed to throw his way to victory. Since joining the Vikings, Cousins has never led a 4th quarter comeback. So far this season, it does appear that the team is much better as a frontrunner than as a team making a comeback.
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