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NFC North: Week 17 Preview and Predictions

It’s hard to believe that the Chicago Bears were 7-1 at one point in the season. How the mighty have fallen in the NFC North, while the once-mighty Green Bay Packers look quite good once more. The situation is simple in this crucial Week 17: if the Vikings win against the Packers, they are in the playoffs. If they lose, they most likely aren’t. The Bears, meanwhile, must win and hope for a couple other things to happen in order to make it in. Oh, and Adrian Peterson may break the single season rushing record. Let’s take a look at these two critical Week 17 NFC North match-ups.

Chicago Bears (-3) at Detroit Lions, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

Despite Calvin Johnson having one of the single greatest individual seasons ever in the NFL, the Lions are far, far out of contention this season. The Bears know that this puts their divisional rivals in a spoiler kind of mood.

“It’s safe to say (the Lions) are disappointed in their season, so they would love nothing more than to make us disappointed for the rest of the year,” Jay Cutler said earlier this week. “This is a big game. Last week was a big game. We’ve got to win. There is nothing else to be said about it… these are the games you’ve got to have. It’s just like any other game: red zone, third down, ball security; if we do all of those things and hopefully get the running game going a little bit, we should be fine.”

The Bears will get into the playoffs if they win at Detroit and Green Bay beats Minnesota. I think both will happen (more on that in a second) and the Bears will make the playoffs as a wild card team. Still, that can’t be considered anything less than a disappointment after this team started out as one of the hottest squads in the NFL. After their defense stopped scoring off of turnovers, it became all too apparent that the Chicago offense simply couldn’t get it done this year. Even if they make it in, they most likely won’t get past the first round. Still, I like the Bears to cover the spread here in Week 17.

Green Bay Packers (-3) at Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EST

It all comes down to this for the Minnesota Vikings, though they probably can’t help but have Adrian Peterson’s potential single season rushing record in mind as they head to Green Bay. The last time these two teams faced, AP rushed for 210 yards. He would need 208 to break Eric Dickerson’s record.

“When you come to training camp, everything you’re working towards is to get to the playoffs and let the chips fall where they may once you get there,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “For us to be on the cusp of getting there, it’s satisfying in some ways, but until you actually make it happen, it’s hard to put your mind in that frame. We really have to focus on this ballgame, winning this game. Until you get that accomplished, it’s hard to even think about what’s ahead.”

If the Vikings win, they’re in. If not, they’ll be faced with a long offseason and a potential switch at quarterback from the struggling Christian Ponder.

“It’s such a big game when you look at everything that can be accomplished,” Peterson said. “I’m looking forward to it, man. Most importantly, getting into the playoffs, securing that with a win against Green Bay. Having an opportunity to hit 2,000, having an opportunity to break Eric Dickerson’s record in the same game, it would be great to accomplish.”

As surprising as the Vikings have been this year, I think this is the game they run out of gas. With the returns of Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, I don’t think the Vikings will be able to get anything going offensively in this one. Take the Packers at -3 here.

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