With week two of the 2021 NFL season officially in the books, how did the NFC North, the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings perform? For the first time all season, the NFC North finished with two wins and two losses, as Chicago and Green Bay secured their first wins of the new year while Minnesota and Detroit lost for a second straight week.
1) Chicago Bears
What more could you ask for if you’re a Chicago Bears fan? Sunday saw the Bears get their first win of the season with rookie quarterback Justin Fields getting extended playing time after veteran quarterback Andy Dalton left the game with an apparent knee injury. Fields was explosive as a runner but also showcased the ability to throw wide receivers open, as evidenced by dropped passes that should’ve been touchdowns to Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson.
The Bears’ defense was also fired up, after sacking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow four times, forcing a fumble and three interceptions. Sitting down with Maxx Smith, my co-host for the Fireside Bears YouTube channel, I mentioned how Cincinnati was the perfect opponent for the Bears defense to turn everything around.
What’s next for the Bears? Well with Dalton’s future uncertain, the Fields show has officially arrived and a new energy has descended upon the Bears locker room as the team looks to stack wins between September and October, laying the foundation for a potential playoff run over the final two months of the season.
2) Minnesota Vikings
Someone needs to figure out what’s wrong with the Minnesota Vikings and quickly if possible. Kirk Cousins tossed three touchdowns but it wasn’t enough to beat the Arizona Cardinals, who scored 34 points, including 17 points in the second quarter. For the entire afternoon, outside of one sack, the Vikings’ offensive line did keep Cousins upright but when the game mattered the most, the Vikings failed to capitalize.
Switch over to the defensive side of the ball, traditionally a strength of the Vikings under Zimmer and there are mixed reactions. Two interceptions and three sacks weren’t enough to propel the Vikings past the Cardinals either, despite one interception being returned for a touchdown. Minnesota lost this game because Kicker Greg Joseph failed to missed a 37-yard field goal as time expired after Cousins and the offense marched down the field on a nine-play, 58-yard drive that took 2:09 off the clock.
What’s next for the Vikings? Three straight home games against the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, and Detroit Lions gives the entire team an opportunity to get some wins at home. Zimmer knows the Vikings need to win at least two of these three games, maybe even all three to stave off the hot seat, which could get hot quickly.
3) Green Bay Packers
Well, the Packers are officially back. If you watched Green Bay on Monday night, Aaron Rodgers and the offense started slow but picked up steam as the game progressed. Major credit goes to running back Aaron Jones, who scored four touchdowns while Rodgers connected with wide receiver Devante Adams eight times for 121 yards, averaging 15.1 yards per reception.
One name that stuck out on the Packers’ defense was rookie cornerback Eric Stokes. The 29th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft had two pass breakups and one tackle, shutting down Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus on a key play to force a Lions punt. Green Bay’s defense as a unit did improve as the game progressed with defensive coordinator Joe Barry proving he can get the whole unit playing at a high level.
Up next for Green Bay is a primetime matchup in the Bay Area against the San Francisco 49ers, who’ve won two straight road games. With the 49ers’ defense playing at a high level, San Francisco’s defense will present Green Bay’s offense with another great test to see if Rodgers can get Green Bay clicking even more.
4) Detroit Lions
The Lions haven’t looked as bad as many expected and while flaws do exist, Detroit’s offensive line has looked more than solid so far. Penei Sewell, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Matt Nelson gave quarterback Jared Goff more than enough time to throw. With wide receiver Tyrell Williams out, Quintez Cephus stepped up, catching four passes for 63 yards, including one touchdown. Cephus averaged15.8 yards per reception, proving he could be a big-play threat in Detroit’s offense.
The Lions’ defense did do enough to remain in the first half of the game but big plays throughout the second half helped break the game wide open in Green Bay’s favor. Having a banged up secondary, with Jeffery Okudah, the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft sidelined for the year doesn’t help Detroit’s case but the defensive line did look solid, sacking Aaron Rodgers on three occasions.
What’s next for Detroit? The Baltimore Ravens will come to town with a road trip to Chicago in week 4. It’s very much possible that the Lions start the 2021 season winless through the first quarter of the season but credit head coach Dan Campbell for continuing to have his team fight on every play, even when the game seems out of reach.