Sep. 23, 2016
The Rest of the North, Week 8 Preview
I mainly focus on covering the Green Bay Packers when it comes to the NFL, and by doing so, I believe that what goes on in the rest of the division is just as important as what goes on with the Packers. I'm not one of those guys who believes you need to beat out the best competition week in and week out (in Pro Sports more so than College Sports) to prove you are worthy of the playoffs, because that is not what matters. All that matters is the standings after Week 17, which is why I root for the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings to lose each week. So, with that in mind, here is a preview of the matchups these teams will be facing coming out of the gate.
Also, these teams sometimes play each other, and this Monday is one of those occasions. The Minnesota Vikings, coming off of their first loss of the season, will be travelling to (a perhaps very crazy) Chicago to take on the Bears. The Bears and Vikings have pretty much been polar opposites throughout the season. Meanwhile, the red-hot Detroit Lions are heading to Super Bowl City to take on the very unusual Houston Texans. Both of these teams have identical records, yet Houston has the advantage of being in the very weak AFC South, whereas Detroit has to deal with the Vikings and Packers.
To start, Detroit does not have the same amount of injuries heading into Houston as they have the past few weeks, although there are still some injuries to keep in mind. RB Theo Riddick, TE Eric Ebron, RT Riley Reiff, DT Haloti Ngata, and CB Darius Slay are all questionable (with Slay and Ebron as the most likely out), and OLB DeAndre Levy remains out. Outside of that, they head into Houston a pretty healthy team. DE Ziggy Ansah should finally see a more normal snap count again, although Devin Taylor and Kerry Hyder are both having great seasons so far. Houston is an even more healthy team, and although players such as RB Lamar Miller and DE Jadeveon Clowney are on the injury report, both practiced in a limited capacity and should see the field Sunday.
Normally, I would like the Houston Texans for sure in this situation, but with the inconsistencies they have had all season, especially at quarterback, I don't know if I trust them, on offense especially. The receivers are good, and so is Lamar Miller, but if he's out, this offense becomes one-dimensional in a way that head coach Bill O'Brien does not want to happen. And, with the return of Ansah, the Lions' pass rush will be even better than it has been with Hyder and Taylor this season. Speaking of pass rush, everybody knows that DE JJ Watt is out for the season for Houston, but that has not stopped them from getting to the quarterback. Led by Clowney, OLB Whitney Mercilus and John Simon, Houston still has plenty of people to rush the passer. Plus, Houston's secondary is more than capable of covering the bevy of average wide receivers that the Lions have to offer. The difference in this low scoring game is the presence of Lamar Miller, and I'm assuming he will play, so I will go with Houston here. Final score: Houston 17, Detroit 14
As for the Vikings-Bears game, I have some great news for Bears fans. Your team has the least amount of injury icons on their depth chart that I have seen all season, and although you lost QB Brian Hoyer for the season, you get Jay Cutler back! Yay??? RB Jeremy Langford and LG Josh Sitton are the most unlikely to play that I haven't mentioned, but going up against that Vikings' defense is a tough task anyways. The Vikings offense should be able to put up enough points against a porous Bears' defense, and the defense is still virtually entirely healthy (outside of DT Sharrif Floyd again) and might even put up a shutout this Monday.
The Bears are just bad everywhere this season, and the Vikings are third against the run and fourth against the pass, so more than 10 points by Chicago should be considered a success. Heck, I might even go as far as to try to outscore the Cubs first. Everybody on the defensive line for the Vikings has shown that they can rush the passer effectively, and they are five deep at cornerback, with their fifth being a first rounder this season. The offensive line remains banged up, Adrian Peterson is out, but the offense can do enough. And if not, the defense will probably score for them. Obviously, I like the Vikings here. Final score: Minnesota 16, Chicago 7