It has not been decided who has grabbed the title of the NFC North. However, two teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings, have clinched playoff spots and will be playing each other to decide who goes to the postseason as a division winner and who goes as a wildcard.
The Packers could have settled things this week if they had beaten the Arizona Cardinals. However, they didn’t.
Carson Palmer threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, Cory Redding and Jerraud Powers each returned fumbles for scores and the defense sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times as the Cardinals defeated the Packers.
This marked the Cards’ 10th win in a row, their best winning streak since they were called the Chicago Cardinals in 1948.
The Cardinals added one more sack on Rodgers’ replacement Scott Toizien for a total of nine sacks for the day.
Palmer completed 18 passes on 27 attempts and was intercepted once. He was sacked twice. The Cardinals rushing game was by committee as Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington, David Johnson, and Drew Stanton ran for a combined 121 yards. Johnson rushed for a touchdown.
Michael Floyd led the Cardinals’ receivers with six catches for 111 yards; David Johnson caught three passes for 88 yards; Larry Fitzgerald caught four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown; and John Brown caught three passes for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Rodgers finished with 15 completions out of 28 attempts for 151 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Packers’ leading rusher was Eddie Lacy, who gained 60 yards on 12 carries. James Jones topped the Packers’ receivers with five catches for 46 yards. Davante Adams caught three passes for 42 yards and Lacy caught one pass for 28 yards and a touchdown. CARDINALS 38 PACKERS 8
Adrian Peterson rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown, Jerick McKinnon rushed for 89 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns and Blair Walsh kicked five field goals as the Minnesota Vikings beat the New York Giants and clinched a playoff spot.
Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning gave up three interceptions, one to Harrison Smith who returned it for a score. He finished with 15 completions on 29 attempts for 234 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He was sacked four times. He completed a 50-yard pass to Rashad Jennings that set up a field goal and a 72-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle. Odell Beckham Jr. due to a suspension for bad behavior in the game last week against the Seattle Seahawks. Jennings finished with 14 rushes for 74 yards. Randle caught two passes for 80 yards.
Vikings’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater finished with 15 completions on 25 attempts for 168 yards and a touchdown to Kyle Rudolph. He was sacked three times.
After winning the Super Bowl after the 2011 season, the Giants win-lost record has been 28-35 and they are 12-19 during the past two seasons. VIKINGS 49 GIANTS 17
Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes, one to Calvin Johnson, and Matt Prater kicked four field goals as the Detroit Lions beat the San Francisco 49ers. The loss marked the 49ers’ third straight and fifth out of the last six games.
The Lions’ victory was helped by a little trickery as Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell called for a fake punt. Strong safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, who was playing blocking back in punt formation, received the direct snap and converted a fourth and one play from the Lions’ 35 yard line. The drive culminated in a Stafford 29-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Jones. It was Jones’ first touchdown reception.
The defensive line of the 49ers committed a total of seven offsides or neutral zone infractions, which was a single-game high by an NFL team this year. They committed six of those infractions in the first half, the first time any team has done that since 1993 when the Houston Oilers did it against the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers also committed penalties that negated two 30-yard plus returns in the first half. They were flagged a total of 11 times for the game.
49ers’ quarterback Blaine Gabbert finished with 22 completions on 33 throws for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He lost the ball while being sacked and the Lions recovered. That resulted in Joique Bell’s one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Anquan Boldin caught five passes for 27 yards and became the 13th NFL player with 1,000 receptions in a career.
Leading rusher for the 49ers was DuJuan Harris, who gained 73 yards on 11 carries. The 49ers running game could only muster a total of 121 yards. Leading receiver for the 49ers was Vance McDonald, who caught five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. Torrey Smith, who caught two passes for 23 yards, also caught a touchdown pass. Bruce Ellington finished with three catches for 55 yards.
Lions’ runners Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Joique Bell, Stafford and Abdul-Quddus combined for only 87 yards. Johnson led the Lions’ receivers with six catches for 77 yards. Theo Riddick caught seven for 63 yards and Golden Tate caught four passes for 59 yards. LIONS 32 49ERS 17
Running back Ka’Deem Carey scored on a one-yard run and one-yard pass, Robbie Gould converted field goals from 26, 27, 49, and 50 yards, John Timu recovered two fumbles, and the running backs including Carey, Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford combined to rush for a total of 174 yards as the Chicago Bears beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The win was only the second for the Bears in the last six games. The Buccaneers have now lost four of five, including three straight.
The Bears defense also forced three turnovers, one an interception by Harold Jones-Quartey on the goal line, and held Bucs’ star running back Doug Martin to only 49 yards on 17 carries. He also lost two fumbles. However, he was able to score on a 4-yard run set up by a blocked punt. Martin also contributed five consecutive runs on a six-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that finished with a 50-yard touchdown pass From Jameis Winston to Charles Sims.
Still, the Bears outrushed the Buccaneers 95 yards to 40 yards.
Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler completed 20 passes on 27 attempts for 156 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked once. Leading rusher for the Bears was Jeremy Langford, who gained 83 yards on 19 carries. Matt Forte gained 54 yards on 11 carries. Leading receiver was Zach Miller, who caught seven passes for 69 yards.
Winston finished with 15 completions on 29 throws for 295 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked once. Martin, Sims and Winston combined to gain 104 rushing yards. Sims caught three passes for 72 yards and a touchdown, Mike Evans had four catches for 61 yards, Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught two passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, and Cameron Brate had one catch for 46 yards. BEARS 26 BUCCANEERS 21
NFC NORTH STANDINGS Overall Division Conference
x-GREEN BAY PACKERS 10-5 3-2 7-4
x-MINNESOTA VIKINGS 10-5 4-1 7-4
DETROIT LIONS 6-9 2-3 5-6
CHICAGO BEARS 6-9 1-4 3-8
X clinch playoff spot
NFC NORTH SCHEDULE
LIONS @ BEARS SUNDAY, JANUARY 3, 2016
VIKINGS @ PACKERS SUNDAY, JANUARY 3, 2016