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NFC North roundup: One hot mess after Detroit loss on MNF

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The Minnesota Vikings haven't been in contention in their own division all season, but perhaps the biggest sticky wicket in the NFC North is that game that left everyone feeling bad: That 26-26 tie against the Packers last month at Lambeau.

It may loom large, and if the Pack had finished its comeback that day, they'd be sitting atop the division, tied with the Chicago Bears at 8-6. As it is, they're in second.

And that's largely due to the Detroit Lions choking late in the season. Detroit has lost four of its last five games, including an 18-16 clunker against the Ravens on Monday Night Football.

Even Lions fans have been waiting for the imminent collapse and it appears as though it has arrived. As ESPN reports, "Inside the locker room after the game there was no loud music, just players talking in hushed tones about opportunities lost and needing help instead of being able to help themselves. "

Doesn't sound like a championship team, but things are so tight at the top of the NFC North, heck, maybe even an 8-8 record will do.

In the land of the cheeseheads, though, there is hope. First, the Packers embarrassed the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, overcoming a 23-point half time deficit to pull out a 37-36 win. And receiver Randall Cobb seems to be on the comeback from an injury.

The looming question, of course, is the status of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. As ESPN notes, "it’s more imperative now than ever before that Aaron Rodgers returns this week from his broken collarbone."

Da Bears are feeling pretty good to, milking out a 38-31 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday with the return of quarterback Jay Cutler. But here's the hitch, according to ESPN:

"Strangely enough, the offense – from a standpoint of execution, all the way down to play calling – started to blossom during Cutler's absence, leading to the Bears gaining more than 400 yards in each of their past four games, including Sunday's contest against Cleveland's seventh-ranked defense."

They take on Philadelphia next, the team, of course, that the Vikings just beat 48-30 on Sunday against all odds.

One thing has been settled in VikingLand in this painful but improving season: They will stick with Matt Cassel at QB for the remaining two games, one at Cincinnati and a home game against ... the Detroit Lions, who will certainly be scuffling for a playoff spot. Or, by then, maybe not.

One final, but not at all minor, note: The Bears and Packers square off the final week of the season at Chicago.

Here are the standings:

Chicago Bears 8-6-0

Green Bay Packers 7-6-1

Detroit Lions 7-7-0

Minnesota Vikings 4-9-1

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