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NFC North: Week 15 Preview and Predictions

The Bears, leaders of the NFC North for so many weeks, appear to be slumping at the exact wrong time. The Packers are heating up, and currently lead the NFC North at 9-4. The two teams square off this week, and the Packers could truly bury their division rivals with a win in this one. The Vikings, meanwhile, are lingering in the playoff picture, and get another favorable matchup this week against the St. Louis Rams. Detroit is clean out of the race, though they get a gimme this week against the worst team in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals. Let’s take a look at all the action and point spreads from the NFC North this week and make some predictions.

Green Bay Packers (-3) at Chicago Bears, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

The Packers have won seven out of the last eight games they’ve played while the Bears have lost four out of five. That is not a recipe for winning the division, and while the Bears had either sole or shared possession of first place in the division for every week up until now, they now find themselves looking up at the Packers in the standings. The Pack can clinch the NFC North with a win this weekend. “The division is the first goal,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We can wrap things up (Sunday). It’s a tough opponent, a tough place to play, a lot on the line.”

The Bears have been torn apart by injuries this season, while the Packers seem to be getting healthy at the right time, getting wide receiver Greg Jennings back last week and superstar pass rusher Clay Matthews expected to return this weekend. The reason Chicago was beating teams so badly earlier in the season was its defense’s ability to create turnovers and then score off of those turnovers; the Bears D scored seven defensive touchdowns in the first eight games. However, they have scored none in the past five. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler also got hurt at Minnesota last weekend, though he is expected to play. Still, he’s been erratic this year, throwing 16 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, four of which came against the Packers the last time these two teams met. All in all, the Bears just don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Pack here. Take Green Bay at -3.

Minnesota Vikings (+2) at St. Louis Rams, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

You know Minny’s plan of attack here: ride Adrian Peterson, build an early lead, and then suffocate the Rams with defense. “If we’re able to build some sort of lead, I think our defense can handle pretty much any offense in the league,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “I really do believe that. … We have to make sure we jump on every team we play and keep going at it that way.”

AP has seven consecutive games with 100 yards rushing, scoring eight TDs in that span while averaging 157.3 yards per game. I can’t see that streak stopping here. Take the Vikings at +2.

Detroit Lions (-6) at Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EST

The Cardinals lost 58-0 last week to the Seahawks, a loss so bad that the head coach had to issue a public apology: “I apologize to our fans and everyone associated with our organization. That was embarrassing,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We owe it to them, our fans, our supports to give them a better product than we did today and going forward that’s what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to work to get better than that.”

That’s never a good sign. Take the Lions at -6. I would take them at minus anything at this point.

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