News Across the North: Injuries, Rivalries, and the Toothless Lions

Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Armon Watts (96) warms up before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

The fiercest rivalry in all of the NFC North took place this weekend, so naturally it was a good week of football in the division. Other than Packers vs. Vikings, we also had two close games involving Chicago and Detroit vs. top AFC teams. In the aftermath, we have some updates on a rookie QB, a new team tossing their name into the hat of contention, and, well, a few words on the Detroit “not-quite-defeated” Lions.

Justin Fields Leaves Early with Rib Injury

In Chicago’s matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, they got news that Lamar Jackson would miss the game due to what is being described as a “non-COVID illness”. With that, Tyler Huntley got the start in his place, and then midway through the third quarter, Justin Fields left the game after sustaining bruised ribs from a hit he took on a carry. So, Lamar Jackson vs. Justin Fields quickly turned into Tyler Huntley vs. Andy Dalton.

Hundley, a second-year player making his first career start, looked like a seasoned veteran late in the game. He led a 72-yard TD drive in the final two minutes of the game, sending the Bears home losers of their fifth-consecutive game, 16-13. After the game, Matt Nagy was back to his old ways, refusing to commit to a starter for Thursday’s Thanksgiving game in Detroit.

Dan Campbell’s Knee-Biters Falls in Another Nail-Biter

The Detroit Lions came back from their bye week to play the Cleveland Browns, and it was one of those close games that you just couldn’t wait to be over. The two teams each had a half during which they didn’t score a single point. Detroit put up zeroes throughout the first half, while Cleveland went scoreless in the second half.

The Lions were without Jared Goff, who is hampering from an oblique injury, so it was backup QB Tim Boyle under center this week. The change clearly did not do much for the offense, which is a bit concerning when you can’t tell much of a difference between your $100 million QB and your backup. In a tale as old as time, the Lions could not quite complete the comeback, falling 13-10 in a stinker of a game.

Green Bay Loses More than Just the Game

It was not a great weekend for the Green Bay Packers. After being forced to go through their season without LT David Bakhtiari, the Packers o-line lost another key player, Elgton Jenkins, in their loss to Minnesota. Jenkins was not only an All-Pro guard in 2020, but he has been filling in at LT in place of Bakhtiari. Now without both of them, things get much harder for Aaron Rodgers.

Speaking of Rodgers, he’s also clearly banged up. He barely practiced this week because of a toe injury that he detailed as being a little worse than turf toe. We saw what happened with Patrick Mahomes last year when he struggled through that injury, and if Rodgers is forced to move around due to a weakend o-line, it could be a rough final months of the 2021 season. On top of losing their most versatile o-lineman and a rivalry game, Green Bay also falls out of the top NFC seed once again.

Vikings Offense Continues Their Hot Streak

When Justin Jefferson showed up to the game donning a Randy Moss shirt, we should have all known that he was in for a special game. He certainly showed out against Eric Stokes and the Green Bay secondary, posting eight catches for 169 yards and a pair of TDs. The Vikings in general looked much closer to the high-flying offense that we all thought they could be going into the year as all of Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Jefferson, and Adam Thielen had solid outings.

With the win, Minnesota leap-frogged the New Orleans Saints to take over the six-seed in the NFC playoff picture. This week, they head back out west to take on another seemingly rejuvenated team in the San Francisco 49ers.