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NFC North Week 10 Wrap-Up

With the Green Bay Packers off for the week, the other three combatants in the NFC North division had an opportunity to gain some ground, or in the case of the Chicago Bears, pick up some more ground. Coming into week 10 with a 7-1 record, many viewed the Bears as the division’s best team, but the fact that they had only beaten one team over .500 during the first half of the season still clouded that assertion with plenty of questions. On Sunday Night Football, Chicago was finally tested and needless to say, did not pass, losing 13-6 in an ugly turnover-ridden game to the Houston Texans. After the dust settled, the Bears were still on top, but with the Vikings and Packers on their heels, consider the path to the NFC North title wide open.

Before the Bears took the Sunday Night stage last night, the action in the North started in the morning with the much-anticipated matchup between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings came into the game as the division’s surprise team, whereas the Lions came in as the disappointment and the two teams left the game the same way, as the Vikings prevailed 34-24 at home, improving to 6-4 on the season, while the Lions fell to 4-5.

Ponder helped lift the burden off Peterson's shoulders in the win

Matt Stafford and the Lions enjoyed a second half surge, fueled by his 329 yard, three touchdown performance, but it was not enough to upend the Vikes and Adrian Peterson, who rumbled for 171 yards on the ground on 27 carries. Not to completely outdone by Stafford, young quarterback Christian Ponder played one of the best games of his season, completing 24 of 32 throws for 221 yards and two touchdowns.

“You could tell he was more confident, got into a rhythm,” Peterson told the AP via ESPN.com. “He was just playing ball. Playing loose. That’s what we need from him.”

The Vikings have relied on Peterson most of the season offensively up until this point and even at 6-4, they will need contributions from others, like young leader Ponder, to make the postseason. With four of its remaining six games coming against Green Bay and Chicago, Minnesota is very much alive in the North.

Cutler was knocked out in the second quarter as the Bears went on to lose

The Bears had an opportunity to distance themselves from the pack in the North, but the offense failed to get anything going. Quarterback Jay Culter suffered from turnovers and a concussion, which forced him out of the game in the second quarter. Cutler threw two interceptions on just 14 attempts before exiting, helping Houston to a 7-3 halftime advantage.

Arian Foster was the only true standout in a sloppily played game offensively by both sides, as he rushed for 102 yards on 29 carries.

Many are now questioning Chicago’s status as a elite NFL team after it was completely shut down by an obviously superior Texans squad and for good reason. Their schedule will be much tougher from here on out. With games against San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle and Green Bay coming up, the Bears shouldn’t even be considered a lock for a wild card spot just yet.

Consider Green Bay the favorite now in the North. At 6-3, the Packers are now just a game behind Chicago and are playing much better right now, as they are currently on a four-game winning streak. Also look out for Minnesota to make a charge. The Vikings have a tough schedule as well, but they are playing above expectations and could continue to shock the NFL.

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