Week 8 NFC North Previews

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It’s Week 8 of the NFL season and there are some big matchups for three NFC North teams. The Packers have a bye to lick their wounds after losing Aaron Rodgers. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Bears at Saints 1 PM ET FOX

The Bears (3-4) have had a little resurgence by winning their last two games with really good defense against the Ravens and Panthers. The Bears will need that good defense as they play Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the Super Dome. The Saints (4-2) have been red hot by winning their last four games after starting 0-2. The Saints defense has been solid and the offense is still very strong.

Drew Brees is having another great year in the final year of his contract. He has notched 100 QB rating with 69.1 percent complete. Despite injuries to Armstead for five games and Zach Strief (IR), Brees has been well protected with only 5 sacks in 6 games. Drew has 11 TDs and 4 interceptions on the year but has thrown 3 picks in the last two games. Akiem Hicks is earning his new contract with 6 sacks for the Bears and OLBs Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd have notched 4 sacks.  Willie Young is on IR which hurts the Bears OLB rotation. Chicago is getting more consistent pressure and they must not let Brees have time to throw in this game.

The Bears are going to need to generate turnovers and turn them into points like they did against the Ravens (90 yard int pick 6) and Panthers (Fumble recovery TD and pick 6).

The Saints run the ball well too with Mark Ingram at 4.4 YPC and Alvin Kamara at 6.3 YPC. The Saints are balanced and can control the time of possession against the Bears. Chicago is solid in run defense allowing 4 YPC and must bring their A game to stop Ingram and Kamara. Eddie Goldman, Hicks and Mitch Unrein must be stout up front. Danny Trevathan is a good ILB and can help contain Ingram and Kamara. This will be the key to the game. If the Saints run well, they will score a lot of points.

The Bears allow 85.5 QB rating with 6.4 YPA 8 TDs and 4 interceptions. The Bears must force turnovers and limit big plays for the New Orleans offense. Top Saints wide out Michael Thomas (403 yards and 2 TDs) is banged up and would be a big blow to the Saints if he can’t play. Tedd Ginn is having a nice season with 353 yards and 2 TDs in 6 games. Kamara is a receiving threat with 209 yards. Brandon Coleman has developed with 191 yards and 3 TDs.

Chicago can run the ball with Howard at 4 YPC and Cohen at 4.5 YPC. The Saints struggled in run defense allowing 4.9 YPC. The Bears could feast and have a decent offensive day if they have a big day running with Howard and Cohen.

Rookie QB Mitch Trubisky has some legs for scrambles if needed. The rookie has a 79.2 QB rating in three games with 2 TDs and 1 interception. The Bears only threw the ball 7 times in the last game and will need to throw more against New Orleans to keep up with points. The Saints have improved and allow only 84.2 QB rating. Cameron Jordan is wrecking people from his defensive end spot and will be a tough matchup for Charles Leno and Bobby Massie. Marshon Lattimore is having a great year as a rookie DB but the Bears lack good weapons at WR (due to injuries to Meredith and White) and just traded for the Chargers backup WR (Inman) to help Trubisky. Mitch will need to rely on veteran tight end Zach Miller 236 yards and veteran slot man Kendall Wright (236 yards) for his firepower. Cohen is a good receiving threat at RB too and can make big game changing plays.

The Saints and Bears are both hot but the Saints have the much better offense. New Orleans beats the Bears 27-20 in the Super Dome.

Vikings “at” Browns 9:30 AM ET NFL Network

Minnesota (5-2) leads the NFC North and can take more control of the division by playing the lowly Browns (0-7) in London. The Browns return to starting rookie DeShone Kizer with a 47.8 QB rating. The Vikings stud defense should have no trouble with Kizer. Vikings allow only an 83 QB rating and have sacked the opposing QB 21 times. Stud Left Tackle Joe Thomas is on IR for the Browns and this could be a very long day for Kizer. Everson Griffen (9 sacks) and Danielle Hunter (3 sacks) should feast on Kizer meat. The Browns will need to run the ball with Isiah Crowell (3.9 YPC), Duke Johnson (5.1 YPC) and Kizer scrambles (4.5 YPC).

Case Keenum gets the start again for the Vikings. This will be Keenums sixth start of the year and seventh game played. Keenum (89 rating) has filled in very well for Bradford and Bridgewater and should have a big day against the Browns.

The Vikings run game showed signs of life against the Ravens with McKinnon and Murray last week. If they run well on the Browns, Cleveland will have no chance.

WR Stefon Diggs is battling an injury still and would be missed if he can’t play for Minnesota. Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Michael Floyd and Laquan Treadwell should be enough to take care of Cleveland though. Cleveland allows a 105.9 QB rating but is very good in run defense allowing only 3 YPC. It may be up to Keenum to put up the points for the Vikings. Stud first round pick DE Myles Garrett won’t play for Cleveland which helps Minnesota up front.

This game has “blow out” written all over it. The Vikings force turnovers and may shut out the Browns offense. Minnesota wins big 34-3.

Steelers at Lions 8:30 PM ET NBC Sunday Night Football

The Lions (3-3) return from their bye still banged up but a little healthier. The Steelers are looking good at 5-2 despite two bad losses to the Jaguars and Bears.

Pittsburgh is starting to fire up on offense with Leveon Bell and Antonio Brown. Big Ben only has an 82.1 QB rating (9 TDs and 8 interceptions) but played better in a win over the Chiefs. Brown is a beast with 765 yards and 3 TDs on the season already. Bell has a modest 4 YPC and 4 TDS but has been better the last few games for Pittsburgh. Detroit’s defense will be tested by the Pittsburgh offense. Deep threat Martavis Bryant won’t play due to his complaints about the team. This will help Nevin Lawson/DJ Hayden for the Lions.

The Lions are good at forcing turnovers and the Steelers weakness is allowing turnovers. Detroit must force multiple turnovers in this game and get the home crowd rocking in prime time to limit the Steelers offense. The Lions play good run defense (3.7 YPC allowed) but struggled without Haloti Ngata (IR) in their last game against New Orleans. Detroit must limit Bell or the Steelers offense will score a ton of points.

Matt Stafford (89.3 rating) will have a real tough test. His protection has been terrible and now backup left tackle Greg Robinson is injured. Third string left tackle Brian Mihalk will be facing the Steelers defense. Pittsburgh is second in the league in sacks and Detroit has allowed 23 sacks of Stafford in only 6 games. Stafford had the bye for his ankle/thigh to heal but he might be injured yet again if Detroit can’t protect him. Stafford has 12 TDs and 4 interceptions and must avoid the costly fluke tipped interceptions that plagued him against the Saints (3 picks in one game). Stafford being healthier and more mobile should help him avoid those picks.

The Steelers only allow a 70.9 QB rating with 6 TDs and 7 interceptions on the season. Stafford is going to have a very tough task and may be without his top WR in Golden Tate (shoulder). Rookie Kenny Golladay (hamstring) may miss another game with a hamstring injury and Detroit is going to need to figure out a way to move the ball on the Steelers coverage.

Artie Burns and Joe Haden are good corners and Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis are solid at safety for Pittsburgh. Detroit will need to exploit the Steelers nickel and win matchups with Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick.

Rick Wagner and TJ Lang must lock down the right side for Detroit and tight end Darren Fells will need to help Mihalik at left tackle so Stafford doesn’t get beaten to a pulp. TJ Watt, Bud Dupree, Vince Williams, Ryan Shazier, James Harrison, Cameron Hayward, Javon Hargrave (NT) and Stephen Tuitt form a menacing front 7. Tuitt may not play due to back issues which would be a much needed break for Detroit.

Pittsburgh has a weakness in run defense allowing 4.7 YPC. Detroit must run the ball well or it will be a terrible day for the Lions offense. Abdullah can make players miss but has gotten little holes for 3.8 YPC. The Lions must run block and exploit the Steelers weakness.

Detroit has lost their last two games after a 3-1 strong start. They must rebound at home in prime time and start to catch the Vikings (who should be 6-2 at that point). The Lions are hurting without Decker, Tate and Golladay on offense but still have firepower to outscore the Steelers. Detroit finally gets the run game going out of the bye and plays strong defense limiting Bell. Slay against Brown is a huge matchup and must be won by Slay. The Lions win a big game at home and get back in the North leader race. Detroit 27 Pittsburgh 24