-When the Bears lost Jay Cutler to injury and the game to Washington it looked like their season could be over. Chicago was at 4-3 and heading to Green Bay after their bye. Cutler was expected to be out 3-4 weeks and it was likely that Chicago would be too far out of the playoff race to matter. Three weeks later the Bears season looks completely different. The Bears beat the Packers behind their back-up quarterback and improved their record to 5-3. The Packers are also without Aaron Rodgers for the foreseeable future and could fall out of the race. The Bears got even better news this week as Jay Cutler will be returning to the starting lineup.
With the Packers likely to fall, the NFC North now comes down to the Bears and Lions. The Lions got the best of the Bears in the first meeting between the these two teams, but Chicago is home this time and they need to get the win to even the series. Last time the Lions forced numerous Bears turnovers, but the Bears offense could be tough to stop twice. The winner of this game will be in the drivers seat for the NFC North.
-This game didn’t look like a marquee game when the schedule came out, but the Panthers have won 4 in a row and are right in the playoff mix. In the same division as the Saints they are more likely to be in the mix for a wild card spot. While the Panthers have gotten to 5-3 they have mainly beaten up on lower tier opponents. Carolina can really prove a lot of critics wrong if they can knock off the 49ers in this game.
San Francisco looks to be well back to being one of the more dominant teams in the NFC after starting the year 1-2. The 49ers are the odds on favorite to win one of the wild card spots, but they aren’t ready to give up the NFC West title just yet. The Seahawks have had a couple close calls of late, so it is definitely possible for the 49ers to get back to the top of the division, but they can’t afford another misstep in this game.
-The Cowboys look to have a clear run at the NFC East with a 3-0 division record (including a win over each of the other teams) and the Redskins and Giants seemingly out of it. The Eagles could be a challenger, but Dallas is definitely the team to beat. They have a tough game heading into New Orleans, but if they win this game it will be tough to knock them off. The game won’t be easy, but Dallas has played well enough to win in just about every game this season.
The Saints are coming off a bad loss to the Bills, but they return home this week where they are nearly unbeatable. The Cowboys have played the Saints well in recent years, but with as balanced the Saints offense and defense have been this year New Orleans should win this game. Though the Saints are the favorite for this division, with the Panthers playing good ball of late the Saints can’t afford back-to-back losses. If they win this game not only will the Saints be in a great position for their division, but they will also be a favorite to get a bye this season.