NFC North teams neck and neck at halfway point

By
Updated: November 7, 2013

Wooooaaahhh . . . we’re halfway there . . .
Wooooaaahhh . . . livin’ on a prayer!

Yes, that’s right. We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2013 regular season in the NFC North. Three teams sit atop the division, tied at 5-3, while the Minnesota Vikings bring up the rear at 1-7.

As the divisional rivals gear up for their ninth games, let’s compare their midseason statistics and see if we can determine why teams are winning or losing.

All stats are taken from and .

When diagnosing the reason for the Minnesota Vikings’ struggles in the first half of 2013, one need look no further than their quarterback situation.

Pass Protection

Detroit Lions: 10 sacks, 20 hits, 67 hurries (338 attempts)

Questions surrounded the Detroit offensive line, which entered the 2013 season with two inexperienced starting tackles. Despite injuries at right tackle to Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard, this unit has answered the bell.

Line coach Jeremiah Washburn has done a great job ensuring quarterback Matthew Stafford is kept upright. The 10 sacks given up is a league low — despite attempting a whopping 338 passes — aided by Stafford’s quick release.

Green Bay Packers: 22 sacks, 11 hits, 56 hurries (270 attempts)

Although the numbers are down somewhat from 2012, Green Bay still has had some sack issues, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to hold on to the ball too long. Other than the sacks, the offensive linemen do a good job consistently giving Rodgers time. His quick release and the wide receivers’ ability to get separation help.

Unfortunately, all it takes is one sack to hurt a quarterback.

Chicago Bears: 12 sacks, 17 hits, 101 hurries (286 attempts)

With the additions of tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills and guards Kyle Long and Matt Slausen, Chicago has made an about-face in pass protection. However, they are still giving up some pressure; those 101 hurries are the most by any team in the North.

Minnesota Vikings: 20 sacks, 22 hits and 78 hurries (280 attempts)

Minnesota has issues on the line and at quarterback. The result is only six passing touchdowns despite the presence of running back Adrian Peterson, who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has seven rushing touchdowns.

Pass push

Detroit: 14 sacks, 31 hits, and 109 hurries (316 drop backs)

The hits and hurries have been a huge factor leading to Detroit’s second-best third-down conversion rate (29 percent) and the 13 turnovers they’ve forced. The lack of sacks does indicate they aren’t finishing well, however. The problem is despite playing strong on defense for the majority of snaps, they are still allowing big plays for touchdowns — both rushing and receiving.

Green Bay: 24 sacks, 19 hits, 90 hurries (309 drop backs)

Their sack total is great so far and they have a strong number of hurriers, but they need to hit the quarterback more. The return of linebackers Clay Matthews III and Nick Perry will aid the pass rush tremendously.

Chicago: 14 sacks, 18 hits and 74 hurries (269 drop backs)

The pass rush has struggled, but they have not faced many passing attempts due to their porous run defense. The defense can rebound if the defensive ends can pick things up.

Minnesota: 17 sacks, 19 hits, 106 hurries (240 drop backs)

Pass rush is not the problem. Pass coverage by the back seven and poor quarterback play are the problems.

Turnovers

Detroit: +1

Despite ending up -4 in the turnover margin in a win over the Dallas Cowboys, Detroit has forced 13 and allowed 12 turnovers. They are 4-0 when they win the turnover battle and 1-3 when they tie or lose. They have scored 14 points directly off turnovers and allowed seven, a big improvement over 2012 when they allowed 70 points off turnovers.

Green Bay: -3

They have only forced seven turnovers while giving up 10, scoring 14 points of turnovers while surrendering 14. With Rodgers sidelined, the defense must find a way to force turnovers.

Chicago: +8

Though porous, this defense is still good at forcing turnovers (19), while the offense has only given the ball away 11 times. They have scored 35 points off turnovers and special teams plays and given up 28 points. That is a big reason why Chicago is in the hunt for the division title.

Minnesota: -3

They have stolen 14 turnovers but lost the ball 17 times thanks to fumbles and poor quarterback play. That’s how a team goes from 10-6 to 2-6 overnight. They have scored 21 points off special teams and seven off turnovers and allowed 21.

Rush Offense

Green Bay: 5 ypc

Several big games from running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks have the Packers leading the way. Johnthan Franklin finished with an excellent average in one game despite fumbling issues. Without Rodgers, the running game could carry them if they play better defense.

Chicago and Minnesota: 4.8 ypc

Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson are both running well behind their respective offensive lines.

Detroit: 3.8 ypc

The running game is inconsistent from week to week. Reggie Bush, who has the majority of carries, is averaging 4.4 ypc. Joique Bell has been strong at times, including the game he started in place of the injured Bush, but so frequently used in short-yardage situations that he has a poor average.

Run defense

Minnesota: 3.8 ypc

Strong run defense is par for the course in Minnesota.

Green Bay: 4.0 ypc

They have been stout against the run despite missing Matthews and Perry for several games.

Chicago: 4.4 ypc

This defense has been torn apart since the loss of linebackers D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs and defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins. Things will get worse until Briggs returns.

Detroit: 4.7 ypc

They’re strong for most of the game but seem to give up a massive run every week. Luckily for Detroit, it hasn’t hurt them in the win/loss column except against the Packers.

Quarterback

Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers is leading the Pack, completing 168 of 251 passes (66.9 percent) for 15 TDs and four interceptions. The Pack found out how much they miss him when Seneca Wallace managed only 11 of 19 (57 percent) passing for no touchdowns and an interception against the Bears.

Detroit

Matthew Stafford is slinging it well as usual (211 of 338, 62.4 percent, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions), though things got ugly in the absence of wide receiver Calvin Johnson, when the Lions scored only nine points against the Packers.

Chicago

They’re in the midst of a great offensive turnaround under new head coach Marc Trestman. Quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Josh McCown have combined for 162 of 286 passing (63.6 percent), 15 TDs, and seven interceptions.

Minnesota

Oh, the Vikings. I won’t embarrass you with the numbers.

Who am I kidding? Yes, I will. They’ve completed 59.3 percent of their passes for six touchdowns and nine interceptions.

It is time for Minnesota to draft a new quarterback — or for Josh Freeman to pull a miracle.

Coverage

Detroit

With a relatively healthy secondary, the defense is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 60.9 percent of their passes for 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions (passer rating of 85). Unfortunately, the cornerbacks give up too many big plays. Chris Houston is the culprit for many of the touchdowns. He needs to get back to 2010-2012 form, and the rookie Darius Slay needs to grow with experience.

Green Bay

They are allowing a 60-percent completion rate and 14 touchdowns, having come up with only three interceptions, for a passer rating of 93.5. So much for that stud secondary everyone was talking about this preseason.

In fairness, safety Morgan Burnett missed the first three and cornerback Casey Hayward the first six games. Still, there was supposed to be depth in this unit between Micah Hyde, Davon House, and Jerron McMillian. Apparently not.

Chicago

The lack of pass rush and injuries to cornerback Charles Tillman have hurt this secondary, which is giving up a 65.6-percent completion rate and 11 touchdowns, while forcing 11 interceptions (passer rating of 88.5).

Minnesota

The back seven needs a great deal of work, and the injury to safety Harrison Smith doesn’t help matters. This unit is allowing quarterbacks to complete 67.2 percent of passes for 18 touchdowns and only eight interceptions (96.6 passer rating).

What it means

Right now none of this really means much since there are still three teams battling for the division. The numbers simply give a little perspective into how the units compare between NFC North Teams.

A big second half of the season looms for the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Chicago Bears. The Minnesota Vikings are reduced to playing spoiler — or kingmaker, as the case may be.

About the author(s)

Known as much for his in-depth analytical articles and statistically intensive style as his sometimes brash and confrontational tone, Russ Thomas covers the Detroit Lions beat for Water Cooler Sports. Feel free to contact him at .

973 comments
The Vicious Chicken of Bristol
The Vicious Chicken of Bristol

Y'all are a little more strict about the bizarre crap that's allowed to stay on the page.  That one didn't get blown away last night on SKA.  Granted, Reesy posted about 8 times in a row to move it down the page.

LambeauOrWrigley
LambeauOrWrigley

Oh my lord!  Vikings are on tonight on PRIME TIME?  This is God's way of telling me I need to fix that ceiling fan that has been broken for two weeks.

Later gents.  If I have time, I will try to catch some of the Vikings for an early viewing of the upcoming weekend Packers offensive strategy.

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

I'm goin' doooooooooooooooown in a BLAZE of glory!

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

oooooooooooooh, I'm a Cowboy.

On a STEE-EEL horse I ride

InfiniteMelvins
InfiniteMelvins

Every time I see a picture of Rodgers I think of my medical cheeba card.

natesweet
natesweet moderator

This might be the coolest guy on the interwebs.


tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

Creepy-stache Rodgers looks like he's judging me from the related posts.

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

 Darlin', You give love a BAD name

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

 WHOOOOOOOOOOA-OOH LIVING ON A PRAYER

natesweet
natesweet moderator

Stop. I want the song to exit my brain. I... want... it...to...stop!

natesweet
natesweet moderator

I thought Colorado folk invented that look

natesweet
natesweet moderator

  Can't tell if chair or converted baby stroller

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

 I think he's been unbanned at least 3 times.

The only people who have stayed banned are the chicka impersonator, and Juju.

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

 We welcome anyone, and try to provide a clean slate. However, if trollish behavior continues here, then they wear out their welcome.

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

 Yep, even just singing the lyrics, the song immediately continues in my head.

Gotta admit, he had some catchy an dmemorable songs.

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

 Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

  Looks like an umbrella stroller

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

(Fine, I'll play along)

CUZ I MIGHT NOT MAKE IT BACK.

I BEEN EVERYWHERE, AND I'M STANDING TALL

natesweet
natesweet moderator

I walk these streets,

with a six string on my back