Mark Craig's Northern Intelligence

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • December 1, 2012 - 6:14 PM

When the Packers beat the Lions in Detroit on Nov. 18, it was their ninth consecutive win against an NFC North opponent. That's a team record, breaking streaks of eight in 1996-97 and 2001-02. Coach Mike McCarthy is an NFC-best 29-9 against division foes since 2006. Only New England's Bill Belichick (32-8) has been better during that period.

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The Bears seem committed to Eric Weems as their new kickoff returner even after Devin Hester returns from the concussion he suffered against the Vikings. Weems took over for Hester in practice before the Vikings game and then had 65 yards in three returns. Hester was averaging 25.5 yards, which is about 2 yards more than his career average. But the Bears think Weems, a Pro Bowl returner in 2010, can be more explosive.

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Lions defensive end Cliff Avril turned down a long-term deal from Detroit and accepted the one-year, $10.6 million franchise tag this past offseason. His numbers are down but respectable. He had 11 sacks, six forced fumbles, 29 tackles and two touchdowns a year ago. Through 11 games this year, he has a team-high 7 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble and 25 tackles. "No, I don't really think I'm anywhere near my expectations of how I expect to play," he told reporters. "But I got five games to continue to keep chopping away."

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