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Friday, October 24, 2008 10:21:33 AM(UTC)
[img_r]http://cmsimg.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=U0&Date=20081023&Category=PKR01&ArtNo=81023185&Ref=AR&Profile=1058&MaxW=318&Border=0[/img_r]In six previous seasons since the NFL realigned into eight divisions, the NFC North has qualified more than one team for the playoffs only once. That was in 2004, when the Minnesota Vikings upset the division champion Green Bay Packers 33-27 in a wild-card game at Lambeau Field.
The North seems more likely than not to be a one-qualifier division again this season, with three teams in contention entering this weekends bye: the Packers and Chicago Bears at 4-3, and the Vikings a game back at 3-4.
Six other NFC teams the New York Giants (5-1) and Washington (5-2) in the East; Tampa Bay (5-2), Carolina (5-2) and Atlanta (4-2) in the South; and Arizona (4-2) in the West have higher winning percentages through seven weeks. That list doesnt include the Dallas Cowboys (4-3), who were favored to win the conference before dropping three of their past four games.
To secure a postseason berth, the Packers almost certainly will need five, perhaps six wins in their remaining nine games, depending in no small part on the play of the Bears and Vikings.
Heres a countdown of what the rest of the schedule holds:
4 division games
[ul]The Packers and Bears are 2-0 against the North, each having beaten Minnesota and Detroit, but they havent played each other.
The first meeting comes Nov. 16 at Lambeau Field, where the Bears knocked the Packers from the ranks of the unbeaten last October. The teams meet again at Soldier Field on Dec. 22, almost exactly one year after the Bears wind-blown 35-7 romp.
Since becoming Bears coach in 2004 and saying publicly his No. 1 goal was to beat Green Bay Lovie Smith has a 6-2 record in the rivalry. Packers coach Mike McCarthy is 1-3 against Chicago. But this could be the first time in years the head-to-head, home-and-home matchups play a major role in determining the North champion.
Though the teams have combined for all six division titles since realignment, the last time both finished with winning records in the same season was 2001, when the Bears won the old NFC Central Division at 13-3 and the Packers were a wild-card qualifier at 12-4. (Proving head-to-head play isnt always a deciding factor, the Packers swept the season series that year.) The teams have been separated in the standings by at least three games every season since.
The Packers play at Minnesota on Nov. 9 and host Detroit on Dec. 28.[/ul]
3 teams with winning records
[ul]This includes the NFLs last unbeaten team, the Tennessee Titans (6-0), as well as Carolina and the Bears.
The Nov. 2 matchup with the Titans is daunting in part because of their dynamic rushing duo: rookie speedster Chris Johnson and bruiser LenDale White. The pair has combined for 863 yards and 11 touchdowns in only six games, including 317 and four in last weeks 34-10 toasting of the Kansas City Chiefs. Tennessee ranks fourth in rushing (154.5 yards per game) and seventh in yards per carry (4.5), while the Packers defense ranks 25th (141.9 rushing yards allowed per game) and 29th (4.9 per carry). Tennessees defense also is stout and balanced, ranking third overall, fifth against the pass and eighth against the run.
But it might be the right time to face the Titans. The Packers will have an extra week to prepare because of the bye coaches began game planning early this week before taking a little time off while Tennessee will be on short rest after playing on Monday night against Indianapolis. The upside for the Titans is both games are at LP Field.
Carolina also boasts one of the NFLs top defenses (fifth overall, second against the pass, 14th against the run), presenting another significant challenge for the Packers 14th-ranked offense.
The combined record of the Packers remaining opponents (counting the Bears twice) is 30-29. They face one .500 team, Jacksonville (3-3), and four teams with losing records: Minnesota, New Orleans (3-4), Houston (2-4) and Detroit (0-6). The matchup with the lowly Lions closes the regular season on Dec. 28.
Statistically, the Bears have the easiest remaining schedule. Only three games are against teams with winning records (Tennessee, the Packers twice), and their opponents combined record is 27-31. They close against Houston.
The Vikings have to play six teams with winning records: the Packers, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Arizona, Atlanta and the Giants, who close the regular season at the Metrodome. The combined record of Minnesotas remaining opponents is 31-26.[/ul]
2 prime-time games
[ul]This number could increase if the NFLs flexible scheduling moves one of four eligible games. But for now, the only prime-time games remaining are Monday night matchups Nov. 24 at New Orleans and Dec. 22 at Chicago.
In two-plus seasons under McCarthy, including playoffs, the Packers are 4-6 in games kicking off after 5 p.m.; last season, they were 1-3. In the offseason, the Packers commissioned a study to dissect the anatomy of a prime-time game, which revealed four problem areas, including increased penalties and poorer turnover differential.
This season, the Packers have split their two prime-time games, beating Minnesota 24-19 on Sept. 8 and falling to Dallas 27-16. Penalties remained a problem in those games the Packers lost 186 yards on the 20 that were enforced but the turnover differential was plus-2.[/ul]
1 elite quarterback
[ul]With all due respect to Chicagos surprising Kyle Orton and Carolina veteran Jake Delhomme, New Orleans Drew Brees is the best passer the Packers will see the rest of the way.
The Saints might be struggling, but Brees remains on pace to challenge the NFLs single-season record for passing yards his 2,224 through seven games are 16.3 percent more than anyone else in the NFL and hes sixth in passer rating (98.5) for the leagues top-ranked offense. Brees has done it with top receiving threats Marques Colston, David Patten and Jeremy Shockey shelved by injuries for extended periods.
Orton ranks sixth and Delhomme 10th in passing yards, but theyre ranked significantly lower in passer rating (Orton 14th, Delhomme 18th). Its Brees who seems most likely to present a major challenge for a Packers pass defense thats riding high after last weeks shutdown performance against Indianapolis star Peyton Manning.
The only other top 10 offense on the Packers remaining slate belongs to the balanced Texans, who are sixth in passing, 12th in rushing and fifth overall. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub ranks 19th in passer rating (83.7).[/ul]
Friday, October 24, 2008 11:30:50 AM(UTC)
it may be tough but i think the pack will come out on top we have good corners and safeties i think they can stop brees like they did manning :icon_smile:
Friday, October 24, 2008 1:19:29 PM(UTC)
1) I doubt Brees continues that pace. Marino's record is safe for now.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy is 1-3 against Chicago.
I really hope we sweep da Bears this year. I want to see that fixed to 3-3.
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