The NFC North Round-Up: Can the Bears Keep Winning Games?

Dec 12, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports.

With three weeks of the NFL season in the books and the month of September behind us, we have a three-way tie atop the NFC North between the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings at 2-1. Bringing up the rear is the Detroit Lions at 1-2, even though they have a +2-point differential through three weeks. Each NFC North team has been competitive to this point in the year, and today, we’ll be discussing one key for each team to continue winning games.

The Bears Rushing Offense Must Remain Elite

The Chicago Bears had a number of question marks surrounding their team heading into 2022, but among the biggest was the offensive line. To this point, the crew has held up surprisingly well, at least, in the run game.

The Bears have been a top unit in the running game per EPA through three weeks, and that has helped them reach rushing totals above 180 yards in each of the past two weeks. With Justin Fields continuing to struggle as a pure passer, this dominance on the ground must continue if the Bears hope to keep winning games this year.

With the duo of Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery in the lineup, there’s a chance that this keeps up against a New York Giants defense that has given up 5.3 yards per rush this season.

The Lions 3rd Down Defense

To this point, the Detroit Lions have relied on one of the best offenses in football to keep them afloat. However, their porous defense lost them the game last week against the Vikings, and they have now allowed a league-high 93 points. Yes, they still have allowed the most points in the NFL despite the Bengals and Dolphins having already played their Week 4 game.

In order to improve here, Detroit has to improve in a number of ways, but the biggest key is getting off the field on third down rather than letting drives drag on. Right now, the Lions are allowing opponents to convert on 46.3% of their third down attempts, and Detroit has given up the second-most first downs in the league (78), only behind the aforementioned Dolphins (87).

Their allowed third down conversion rate is ninth worst in the NFL, and they’ve also given up the fifth most fourth down conversions (4). Additionally, opponents have scored touchdowns on 10 of 11 red zone drives to start the year. Detroit must get better at getting off the field if they hope to compete this year.

Can the Packers Offense Get on Track?

To this point in the season, it has been the Packers defense that carries the way for Green Bay rather than the Aaron Rodgers-led offense. The only game where the defense didn’t show up was in Week 1 against the Vikings, and they lost 23-7.

Since then, Green Bay has allowed 22 total points against the Bears and Buccaneers. That said, the offense is only scoring 16 points per game this season—sandwiched between the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks for 27th in the NFL.

Some early troubles should have been expected for an offense that is working two rookie wide receivers into key roles as well as a constantly shuffling offensive line. That said, I don’t think anyone expected them to score 14 or fewer points in two of their first three games. Green Bay is a playoff team with their team as-is, but if they can get their offense back in the 25-30 points per game range, they’ll be a Super Bowl contender once again.

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The Vikings Are the Inverse of the Lions

For all the stars the Vikings have on the offensive side of the ball, Minnesota has had one of the least efficient offenses in the entire league. Here’s a few of the stats that stand out through three weeks:

  • Red zone attempts: T-13th
  • Red zone touchdowns: T-19th
  • Red zone TD percentage: T-22nd
  • Score percentage: T-22nd
  • Third down conversion rate: 26th

So far, the bend-don’t-break strategy has worked decently on the defensive side of the ball, but Minnesota needs to get their act together on offense. Things started coming together down the stretch of the Lions game, so we’ll see what’s in store on Sunday morning against the New Orleans Saints.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing as well as minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh can often be found training for a marathon, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his takes, NFL and otherwise, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken