There are five games left in the regular season and the playoff picture is very competitive. Let’s take a look at the matchups for the NFC North.
Tampa Bay at Green Bay 1 PM ET FOX
The Bay of Pigs is upon us. The Packers (5-6) need to run the table in the last five games to make the playoffs. They still have Brett Hundley at QB but Hundley looked good in a close loss on the road to Pittsburgh and on the road against Chicago.
Tampa Bay is really struggling at 4-7 but could have QB Jameis Winston (87.3 rating with 10 TDs and 6 ints) back in action over Ryan Fitzpatrick (86 rating with 7 TDs and 3 ints). Desean Jackson (592 yards and 3 TDs0, Mike Evans (702 yards and 4 TDs) and OJ Howard (331 yards and 4 TDs) are good weapons for Tampa Bay and could exploit the struggling Packers secondary. Davon House, Kevin King and Damarius Randall have really struggled this season. Dix has been solid and Burnett has been good but Tampa Bay could have passing game success on Green Bay.
Tampa Bay has struggled to run the ball at 3.5 YPC with Doug Martin at 3.2 YPC and two offensive linemen went on IR this week (Dotson and Marpet). The Packers are stout in run defense despite Pittsburgh’s success last week and should make Tampa Bay one dimensional.
Green Bay can run the ball with Aaron Jones but he is injured. Rookie Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery have struggled to run the rock for the Packers. Tampa Bay allows 4.1 YPC which is average so the Packers have a chance for run game success.
If Hundley (73.3 rating) plays like he did against the Steelers (134 rating) or Bears (110 rating), Green Bay should win this game. Tampa Bay only has 15 sacks on the season led by Gerald McCoy (5 sacks). If Hundley gets time, he can find Adams (702 yards 7 TDs), Nelson (393 yards and 6 TDs) and Cobb (463 yards and 2 TDs) to beat the Buccaneers coverage led by Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, rookie Justin Evans and TJ Ward.
Green Bay keeps hope alive and wins 27-14 at home.
49ers at Bears 1 PM CBS
Both of these teams are at of the playoff race but want some pride. The 49ers (1-10) and Bear (3-8) are battling the Browns (0-11) for the first pick in the draft. The winner of this game may be the actual loser. QB Jimmy Garropolo gets his first starter for the 49ers since the trade; so that will be something to watch. Bears win this one.
Vikings at Falcons 1 PM FOX
This is a huge game for the Vikings to maintain the division 3 game lead and for the Lions for the wild card race. Minnesota looks great at 9-2 and control the North. They are winning with offense and defense with Case Keenum (96.2 rating with 14 TDS and 5 interceptions) somehow playing well while being well protected (12 sacks only). Murray and McKinnon have 3.8 and 3.7 YPC but Atlanta allows 4.4 YPC in run defense. The Falcons must be much more stout in run defense or Murray and McKinnon can have good days for Minnesota.
Atlanta is in the thick of the playoff race in the NFC South and wild card at 7-4. Julio Jones had a big game against Tampa Bay and already has 1,000 yards. It will be a great matchup between Julio and Xavier Rhodes in Atlanta.
Devonta Freeman (4.4 YPC) is battling a concussion still but Tevin Coleman (4.4 YPC) has stepped up for the Falcons run game, especially last week against Tampa. The Vikings are stout in run defense and should have the advantage if they can make the Falcons one dimensional. Mohammed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper will need to step up in this game to get the Falcons offense humming against a good Vikings defense.
The Falcons defense lost top CB Desmond “Marcus” Trufant to a friendly fire concussion. It will be tough for Atlanta to stop Adam Thielen (1.005 yards and 3 TDs) and Stefon Diggs (598 yards and 5 TDs) without Trufant. Robert Alford must step up and have a great game and the Falcons must be strong in run defense to make Minnesota one dimensional. Kyle Rudolph is a threat with 429 yards and 5 TDs for Minnesota this season. The Falcons safeties and LBs must cover Rudolph well.
Atlanta must generate a pass rush against the Vikings strong protection. Riley Reiff, Joe Berger and rookie center Pat Efflein are having great years. RT Mike Remmers is a battling a concussion but Rashod Hill has stepped up well at right tackle in his absence. If the Falcons generate a rush with Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn, Brooks Reed, DT Grady Jarett and rookie Tak McKinley, Atlanta can stifle the Vikings offense. Atlanta has 30 sacks and consistent pressure on the season so they have a chance.
Matt Ryan 97.2 rating (16 TDs and 8 interceptions) will need a good game and to avoid turnovers. The Vikings have a really strong defense (5th allowing 17.7 PPG) and won the turnover battle to beat Detroit last week. If Minnesota does the same this week, the Vikings can win on the road.
Lions at Ravens 1 PM FOX
Detroit took a blow losing to the Vikings on Thanksgiving but is still in the thick of the wild card race. Detroit also has a chance in the North if the Vikings lose the next two games on the road.
Detroit has a tough matchup against the Ravens (6-5) on the road due to the Ravens strong pass defense and rushing attack. Baltimore is the current 6th seed in the AFC and fighting for a wild card spot too.
Baltimore only allows a 65.9 QB rating and 4.0 YPC rushing defense. They lead the league in turnovers forced as well with 26 forced on the season. The Lions offense and Matt Stafford will be thoroughly tested in this game. Baltimore is second in the league allowing only 17 PPG. This could be a tough game for the Lions to score points.
Pass protection will be key and Terrell Suggs (9.5 sacks) and Matt Judon (5 sacks) are good OLB pass rushers for the Ravens. Brandon Williams and CJ Mosley are stout in run defense as well for Baltimore. Taylor Decker must improve after getting bea badly by Everson Griffen. Wagner and Lang and Glasgow have been playing well. Center Travis Swanson was injured in the Thanskgiving game and his status is in question. Corey Robinson has struggled at guard replacing both Lang and Glasgow (who moved to center for Swanson). Detroit hopes to get Swanson back to better handle Brandon Williams and ILB CJ Mosley.
The good news is the Ravens offense has trouble scoring and are turnover prone. Joe Flacco has only a 74.2 QB rating with 9 TDS and 11 interceptions. The Lions are 5th in the league in turnovers forced and the Ravens are turnover prone. This can set up short fields for Detroit to make it easier against tough Ravens defense.
Mike Wallace (371 yards and 3 TDs) is a deep threat and Jeremy Maclin (350 yards and 3 TDS) is a veteran WR. Both are struggling this year with less than 400 yards on the season as the top WRs. Ben Watson has 323 yards and 2 TDs from the tight end spot. RB Danny Woodhead returns from injury and is a passing game threat at RB. Chris Moore is another deep threat for the Ravens and Breshard Perriman seems to be a bust of a first round pick at WR in year 2. Detroit must continue their strong pass defense and prey on the Ravens lack of weapons.
Alex Collins is a good running back with 4.9 YPC on 129 attempts. Javorius Allen and Terrence West are struggling and Flacco is far from mobile with a knee issue too. Detroit must bottle up the run better than they have in the last 3 games. Detroit did show improvement holding the Vikings to 3.3 YPC but got run over on the first drive of the second half against the Vikings. If the Lions can shut down Collins, they can hold the Ravens to almost nothing. If Detroit can force multiple turnovers, they should win this game.
Stafford has been very good since the bye and has a 97.7 rating on the season. Stafford injured his ankle against the Vikings and that will need to be monitored. The last game Stafford played on an injured ankle was a turnover filled disaster. Hopefully, Stafford used the extra time and is ready to play and be mobile. Marvin Jones is playing great recently and has 731 yards and 8 TDS on the season. Golden Tate needs to pick things up after two poor games in a row. Tate is a good slot WR and shifty player for YAC. Riddick is a receiving weapon and Golladay has been a nice deep threat as a rookie. The Lions have the weapons to challenge the Ravens good secondary led by Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. This should be a great matchup if Stafford has time to throw.
Detroit is dealing with injures to Swanson, Lang and Abdullah which could hurt them in this game.
The Lions need to win this game. The Lion’s season won’t be over if they lose this game but it would make it very tough needing to win out in the final four games. I will be at the game in Baltimore so look for my Boombaya sign.