In the NFC North, the hierarchy is starting to become apparent. The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings are on a winning streak and are gaining ground on the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, who are making a valiant effort to catch up. Here are our forecasts for the pivotal Week 11:
Denver Broncos (4-5) vs. Minnesota Vikings (6-4): The Vikings are possibly one of the best teams in the league, having won five straight and six of their last seven games, despite some serious setbacks. But they will be up against a Broncos team that is also on a roll after winning three straight games, including back-to-back triumphs over the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Like the Vikings, the Broncos were the subject of jokes just a few weeks ago, but coming into Week 11, they are a completely different team. Josh Dobbs, who took over at quarterback in Week 3, will face a Broncos defence that has improved since giving up 70 points to the Miami Dolphins in that game. The Broncos have allowed 12 touchdowns in their last six games, following their three-week total of 15 touchdowns allowed. Moreover, quarterback Russell Wilson of the Broncos has also improved, providing a challenge for the Vikings’ 16th-ranked pass defence (224 YPG). Wilson had a slow start, but since Week 7, he has passed for 501 yards (6.51 YPA), six touchdowns, and zero interceptions, looking like the Wilson of old.
Kirk Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury should have been the final nail in the Vikings’ coffin. But Dobbs has taken over with ease, becoming the first player in NFL history to rush for over 100 yards and pass for over 400 yards in just two games after joining a new team. Despite Denver’s strong performance, the Vikings’ current winning streak is unreal, and it’s difficult to imagine the Broncos stopping them.
MY PREDICTION: 30-28 Vikings
Chicago Bears (3-7) vs. Detroit Lions (7-2): The Bears, starting undrafted rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent in lieu of injured quarterback Justin Fields, unexpectedly won two of the four games. With a dislocated thumb, Fields missed four games, but he is expected to play against the Lions in Week 11. A lot could change with his return for wide receiver DJ Moore. Fields started six games this season, and Moore caught 42 receptions (18.19 YPC) with five touchdowns compared to 29 receptions (10.55 YPC) in Bagent’s four game-starting performances with no touchdowns. In addition, the Lions’ passing defence is ranked 20th in the NFL (231 YPG), and they have given up 323 yards or more through the air to two of their past three opponents.
On the other hand, the Lions enter Week 11 in reasonably good shape, having triumphed in two straight and six of the previous seven games, mostly thanks to their offence, which appears to be finding its footing. For the first time this season, Detroit has amassed more than 200 passing and rushing yards in consecutive games. David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs lead their fourth-ranked rushing attack, which will pose a serious challenge to the Bears’ elite rush defence (2nd, 76 YPC), which hasn’t given up more than 100 yards on the ground since Week 3.
Turnovers could also be a deciding factor in Sunday’s game. Only the Cleveland Browns (19) had committed more turnovers than the Bears (18), who have the lowest takeaway differential in the NFL (-9), going into this week. It should come as no surprise that the Bears are 0–6 and the Lions are 1–1 when they lose the turnover battle this season.
GUESSWORK: Lions, 31-17
Green Bay Packers (3-6) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (4-5): This season, the Packers defence has shown flashes of strength, particularly against the pass (7th, 187 YPG). On Sunday, though, they’ll have to face one of their hardest opponents in Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert was outstanding even in a Week 10 loss to the Detroit Lions, throwing for 323 yards and four touchdowns with a passer rating of 114.9. With a passer rating of 104.2 and 757 yards after completing 67 percent of his passes (74-of-110) over the last three weeks, he’s been among the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
However, Jordan Love, the quarterback for the Packers, has a chance to make a significant difference. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 294 yards and a 70.2 completion percentage over the last four games played by the Chargers. After his breakthrough performances in Weeks 1 and 2, Love has played in seven games with a 72.5 passer rating, eight touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a 59 percent completion percentage (6.50 YPA). This Sunday might be his chance to turn the corner.
The quarterback who is able to manage the football the best will probably win, and the Chargers have a significant edge in that area. With only seven giveaways, the Chargers have the fewest in the NFL and have forced the third-most takeaways (15). The only teams that have forced fewer turnovers than the Packers (8) are the Tennessee Titans and the Carolina Panthers.