There's something about Thanksgiving week that is just synonymous with the NFL's NFC North division.
The foursome of franchises based in America's Midwest, in cities that are known for snow and freezing temperatures in the winter, just gives off that traditional Thanksgiving vibe. The NFC North's youngest franchise has been in existence since the 1960s; the others have been around since the 1920s and 1930s.
When you think of old-school, grind-it-out, cold-weather Thanksgiving football, you think of the NFC North. And of course it helps that one of the NFC North's teams has played on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1934.
With that, here is the NFC North power ranking going into Week 12 in the NFL, a.k.a. Thanksgiving week in the U.S.
4. Detroit Lions (4-6)
With their 20-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the Lions became only the second NFL team to get shut out in a game this season. The other team just happens to be the worst team in the NFL, the winless (0-10) New York Jets, who were blanked 24-0 against the Miami Dolphins in Week 6. That secured their spot at the bottom of the NFC North rankings.
The Lions went into the Panthers game without two of their top playmakers. Rookie running back D'Andre Swift was sidelined with a concussion, while No. 1 receiver Kenny Golladay didn't play due to a hip injury.
Running backs Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson failed to produce in Swift's absence -- combining for just 35 yards and not having a run longer than eight yards -- and quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for just 178 yards.
The Panthers were playing with a backup quarterback -- XFL refugee P.J. Walker -- and didn't have their star running back Christian McCaffrey, and they still managed to beat the Lions comfortably.
As they have every year since 1934, the Lions will play on Thanksgiving this week when they host the Houston Texans. Given that the Texans' defense just neutralized Bill Belichick and Cam Newton's Patriots, and the Texans have a star QB in Deshaun Watson who is a bit better than P.J. Walker, it could be a long day for the NFC North's worst team.
3. Chicago Bears (5-5)
The Bears had a bye in Week 11. They're still in second place in the NFC North standings, but in their last outing ("Monday Night Football" in Week 10) they lost to the Minnesota Vikings and may have lost their quarterback.
In the Bears' 19-13 loss to their NFC North rival Vikings, QB Nick Foles suffered a hip/glute injury. With opening-day starter Mitch Trubisky sidelined by a shoulder injury, that left third-stringer Tyler Bray to finish the game.
Foles and Trubisky are reportedly still being evaluated ahead of Chicago's game this week against the Green Bay Packers. If neither one of them can play, that means the start will go to Bray, who has been in the NFL since 2013 and has played in only two regular-season games: In 2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs, and last week with the Bears. Bray has thrown a total of six passes in his NFL career.
2. Minnesota Vikings (4-6)
The Vikings had a three-game win streak going into Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys. While Minnesota's offense performed well, the defense let the team down in a 31-28 loss to the short-handed Cowboys.
Much-maligned QB Kirk Cousins passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Underrated receiver Adam Thielen caught eight balls for 123 yards and two touchdowns, rookie sensation receiver Justin Jefferson caught three for 86 yards and a score, and star running back Dalvin Cook ran for 115 yards and a score.
If that happens every week, the Vikings should win a lot of games and contend for the NFC North crown. But the Minnesota defense needs to do better. The Vikings are now 1-4 at home, and their next two games are at home, against the Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
1. Green Bay Packers (7-3)
The Packers are still the class of the NFC North and the only team with a winning record after their Week 11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
As far as losses go, this one wasn't a "bad" loss. The Packers were on the road, facing the AFC South division leading Colts, who have the NFL's No. 2 defense in terms of yards allowed. And the Packers' offense was fine in a 34-31 overtime defeat.
If receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling hadn't fumbled in overtime, the Packers may have been able to win the game. Valdes-Scantling had playing very well for the NFC North leaders in recent weeks, giving Green Bay hope that they'd found the reliable No. 2 receiver next to Davante Adams that they've needed. The fumble was actually the first one of Valdes-Scantling's career, it just came at a bad time. Unfortunately, some insane fans have overreacted, making death threats to the Packers' receiver.
Despite the loss, Green Bay still looks good to run away with the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers is playing at an MVP level, Adams is making a case for being the best receiver in the league, Valdes-Scantling is coming on as a good deep threat, and the running game is in good hands with Aaron Jones.
The Packers host the Bears this Sunday, renewing the NFL's oldest and most storied rivalry and an NFC North staple. Perfect timing for Thanksgiving week, too.Published 25 Nov 2020, 01:49 IST