NFC North notebook: Lions have a tough road ahead
NFC North takes:
Lions a big zero
The Detroit Lions are doing Detroit Lions things again. After scoring an NFL record 140 points in their first four games this season, making them an attractive team to bet the over each week, they tanked Sunday against the New England Patriots. They were shut out 29-0 by a good but not great defense. Yes, the Lions (1-4) were missing some key players on offense because of injuries, but this is the NFL, where backups are expected to be productive.
This is the Lions’ bye week. When they return to action, they’ll face one of the NFL’s toughest schedules. The 14 teams the Lions have played or will play this season have a .576 winning percentage mainly because of the unexpected top-to-bottom strength of the NFC East and AFC East. Those are the only divisions in the NFL with three teams that have records above .500. The Philadelphia Eagles (5-0) and Buffalo Bills (4-1), who appear to be the NFC’s and AFC’s best teams, reside in the NFC East and AFC East. The Lions lost to the Eagles in their season opener and will face the Bills on Thanksgiving.
And how about those Dallas Cowboys (4-1), who are rolling instead of fading with backup quarterback Cooper Rush at the controls and the NFL’s best defense, and the New York Giants (4-1), perhaps the biggest surprise of the NFL season, with another strong defense. The New York Jets (3-2) are better than expected this season, too. The Lions will face each of those teams after they return from their bye (Dallas on Oct. 23, the Giants on Nov. 20 and the Jets on Dec. 18).
So if you’re thinking of betting the over on the Lions the rest of the season, think twice.
Can the Jets keep up with the Packers?
The Green Bay Packers (3-2) are back home after losing 27-22 to the New York Giants in London. They’ll face the New York Jets (3-2) on Sunday (1 p.m. EDT, FOX) as a significant favorite. The spread was 7.5 points at midweek.
Look for the Packers to have a big bounce-back win against the Jets. They’ll be in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field, they’ll have a frustrated Aaron Rodgers trying to make amends for the loss to the Giants, and the Jets aren’t as good as their record would imply. Each of their wins came against a backup quarterback or a quarterback who was later benched, in other words, not Aaron Rodgers.
But can the Jets cover the spread Sunday? Yes. They’re 2-0 on the road, and two of the Packers’ three victories were by three points or less. It’s all going to come down to the Packers’ inconsistent offense. If it’s clicking Sunday, the Jets won’t be able to keep things close. If the GB offense sputters as Rodgers once again struggles without the departed Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the Jets will stick around.
Vikings should make a splash in Miami
The NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings (4-1) will travel to Miami on Sunday to face the Dolphins (3-2). Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. EDT on FOX. The Vikings have become the favorites to win the NFL North, and a road win Sunday would go a long way toward solidifying that designation.
The Vikings were 3.5-point favorites over the Dolphins as of mid-week. A big reason is that it appears rookie and seventh-round draft choice Skylar Thompson will be Miami’s quarterback because of injuries to Tua Tagovailoa (concussion/ankle) and Teddy Bridgewater (concussion/pectoral muscle).
Then there’s Justin Jefferson, who was practically unstoppable last Sunday in the Vikings’ 29-22 victory over the Bears. Jefferson caught 12 passes for 154 yards. While he didn’t have a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins, he did catch a 2-point conversion pass.