The Green Bay Packers drew even with the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings atop the NFC North division with their convincing 37-3 thrashing of the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Sunday. With six games left in the regular season, all three teams are tied with 5-5 records.
Now, the million dollar question(s), is this the Packers team that we're going to see the rest of the way? Can the defense continue to stop the run? Will the offensive line continue to pave the way for Ryan Grant at running back and give Aaron Rodgers enough time to throw the ball? And finally, will this team get their penalty problem under control? Or, will this team turn out to be the same inconsistent team we've witnessed through the first 9 games?
The Packers schedule, when compared to those of the Vikings and Bears, falls right in the middle. The Bears schedule looks fairly favorable, and the Vikings a bit more on the difficult side. All three teams have 2 divisional games left.
For the Packers, it's really an execution thing. It doesn't have much to do with the other teams. They already split with the Vikings and I believe they're a better team then the Bears. If the Packers execute like they did Sunday, they should be able to win the return trip to Soldier Field just before Christmas.
I thought the Bears played like a team without a real solid plan or purpose on Sunday. They were 1-game better than the Packers going in. They've stopped the run but not the pass. So facing the Packers and their solid wide receivers was a difficult prospect. Unlike in the Tennessee game two weeks ago, the Bears didn't load the box to stop the run. They played it in-between, realizing they needed to do something to slow the Packers passing game down. The result was 200 yards rushing and 227 yards passing. They'll need a better plan the next time the two teams meet in late December.
Offensively, Kyle Orton may be a much improved quarterback, but that doesn't always tell the whole story. Orton has nobody to throw to. His wideouts are lo-grade players in the NFL and had but 1-catch in the first three quarters of Sunday's game. That's not going to get it done. I believe the Packers and Bears is a great matchup for the Packers. If Green Bay doesn't go into a big time funk, they should be able to pull out the division title.
But here's throwing caution to the wind. When they played two teams with good running games and outstanding defenses, Tennessee and Minnesota, they struggled. When they got a team that had neither, like Chicago, they won. How many of those difficult teams that are left on the schedule may tell the real story in the final six games of the regular season. I believe Carolina is the only one. Jacksonville hasn't turned out to be anywhere near the team they should be, which gives the Packers a big break.
Only time will tell, but while I really like the Packers chances down the stretch, they've been known to lay an egg before. My hunch is they'll play well enough to win the NFC North and be the only team from the division playing in the post season.