At some point Thursday, your eyelids will become heavy as you lounge on the couch, watching football, your belly pleasantly stuffed with turkey.
As you settle in for your annual Thanksgiving snooze, ask yourself this pertinent question: Is it overindulging or the NFC North that is inducing your sleep?
The North foursome has a combined record of 19-23-2 this season. The Lions and Bears sit atop at 6-5, followed by the Packers at 5-5-1. The Vikings are jockeying for draft pick status and picked the wrong season to be bad (2-8-1).
Thanksgiving week brings a pair of intradivisional matchups — Green Bay vs. Detroit on Thursday, the Bears vs. Vikings on Sunday — and with five games remaining, the race looks as wide open as the Mojave Desert.
Last week was a real doozy for the division. The Lions lost to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bears got steamrollered by the St. Louis Rams. And the Vikings and Packers shook hands after a 26-26 tie.
The Lions briefly appeared to be in the driver’s seat, but they lost back-to-back game to teams with losing records, which prompted running back Reggie Bush to say his team needed a “players-only” meeting.
Does anyone want to win this division?
“It’s going to be real tight,” Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews said last week. “It obviously is going to come down to these divisional games right here. That’s why there’s extra emphasis on coming away with these victories, because if you start letting these slide, the chances of reaching the playoffs are very difficult.”
How did they arrive at this point?
This is the only place to start when analyzing the division. The four teams have combined to use 10 different quarterbacks. The Packers are down to their fourth quarterback, Matt Flynn, who rejoined the team a few weeks ago and led Sunday’s comeback against the Vikings.
Aaron Rodgers returned to practice this week after suffering a broken collarbone, but he is still not ready to play. In his absence, the Packers are winless and look decidedly ordinary.
The Vikings played musical chairs at quarterback the first part of the season before circling back to Christian Ponder, who will start his sixth consecutive game Sunday.
Ponder’s counterpart will be Josh McCown, who is expected to make his third consecutive start for the Bears in place of injured Jay Cutler (high ankle sprain).
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is the only starting quarterback in the division that has survived the first 11 games unscathed.
On the run
Yes, the NFL has morphed into a passing league, but teams still must be able to stop the run, and the NFC North has lagged in that area.
The Lions are stout against the run (No. 4 in the league), but the others have struggled to contain opposing running backs. The Packers are ranked 19th in the league in run defense, followed by the Vikings (25th) and the Bears (32nd).
The Bears have an easy grip on last place, giving up an average of 145.2 yards per game. The Rams used a pair of backup running backs to grind out 258 yards rushing against them Sunday.
Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart chewed up the Packers defense for 237 yards Sunday. The Vikings have allowed seven of their 11 opponents to eclipse 100 yards rushing.
Speaking of defense
Yes, stats can be misleading at times, but the North teams reside near the bottom in two key defensive categories. Here are their NFL rankings in total defense:
Packers: 20; Lions: 22; Bears: 25; Vikings: 30.
And in scoring defense:
Packers: 18; Lions: 22; Bears: 28; Vikings: 32.
It’s hard to consistently win that way.
Careless with the ball
Stafford threw four interceptions in the loss to the Bucs on Sunday. Ponder committed three turnovers in a loss at Seattle, including two interceptions on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter.
Coaches often reference turnover margin in assessing how their team played, and three of the four NFC North teams are on the wrong side of that equation for the season.
Only the Bears, at plus-7, own a positive turnover differential.
The Packers are ranked 24th in the NFL in turnover margin at a minus-5. The Lions are at minus-7, the Vikings at minus-9.
Only two teams have committed more turnovers than the Vikings (23), which largely explains why they find themselves on the outside of a division race that is up for grabs coming down the stretch.