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NFC North: Week 12 Preview and Predictions

We already have one NFC North match in the books as the Detroit Lions lost a typical Thanksgiving Day heartbreaker to the Houston Texans. However, the other two games in the division this weekend are marquee matchups between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. Let’s dig into the Week 12 slate for the black and blue division.

Houston Texans Defeat Detroit Lions 34-31

Detroit has lost two tough games this week while Houston has taken two tough OT games in that same span. It’s a perfect snapshot of these two franchises and the directions they’re respectively heading in. The defining play of the game for the Detroit Lions, and perhaps the season, came in the third quarter when Houston running back Justin Forsett scored an 81-yard touchdown after being tackled by two Detroit players. It was unclear if his knee was down, so he ran it in and it was called a TD. If the play had been reviewed, it almost certainly would have been overturned, but Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag, breaking a personal conduct rule and allowing the play to stand without review.

“I knew the rule — you can’t challenge on a turnover or a scoring play — but I was so mad that I overreacted,” said Schwartz. “I had the flag in my hand before he even scored because he was obviously down.”

That play perfectly summed up the 4-7 Lions’ frustrating season, and led to yet another close loss for a team that narrowly lost to the Packers 24-20 on Sunday. The line for this game was -3 in favor of the Texans, and for a while it looked like Detroit was certain to cover. However, Detroit’s Jason Hanson missed a field goal in OT, and Houston’s Shayne Graham nailed a field goal to win the game and push to bet for gamblers on both sides of the line.

Minnesota Vikings (Even) at Chicago Bears, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

Jay Cutler is expected to play in this game, so the line will most likely move in Chicago’s favor by kickoff. Still, there’s a lot to like about the Vikings here, normally the continuing dominance of Adrian Peterson. AP leads the league with 1,128 rushing yards while averaging a robust 5.8 yards per carry. He has also scored seven touchdowns, and will need to score several more if the Vikes stand a chance of beating the Bears at Soldier Field. Chicago has the fifth-ranked defense in all of football, but is surprisingly susceptible to the run. They have allowed an average of 131.5 rushing yards per game over the past four games, a fact that the Vikings offense is sure to take note of and try and exploit their MVP c andidate running back.

Chicago’s offensive line has also been as porous as usual, giving up 34 sacks this season so far, good for second in the league. Minnesota’s pass rush, led by perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, should be able to take advantage of that as well. He has an astounding 13 sacks in eight games against the Bears in his illustrious career. If Christian Ponder plays intelligently with the ball (a big if) and limits his turnovers, the Vikes could walk out of this game with a win.

Green Bay Packers (+3) at New York Giants, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. EST

The struggling Giants had a bye week last week, and they sorely needed it.

“I think you just try and get rest and come back fresh,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “Obviously, I think having a week off just to get your mind off of football a little bit, then you come back and you’re just excited, re-energized, have a great week of preparation.”

The Giants have lost two tough games in a row while the Packers continue to find ways to win close ones. I like Green Bay and the points here.

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