Packers division title hopes look promising

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by Andrew Coughlin

The NFC North is shaping up in an advantageous way for the Packers to win their third division title in a row.

Green Bay, WI -- The Minnesota Vikings are 1-7, the Chicago Bears are without their starting quarterback for an indefinite amount of time and the Detroit Lions still have Jim Schwartz as a head coach.

The Green Bay Packers division title hopes look promising to say the least.

Green Bay just got through, arguably, the most difficult part of their schedule.  With a long list of injuries to key players, some of which will inevitably return, and winners of four straight, the Packers are sitting in a pretty good position atop the NFC North with a 5-2 record. 

The stout defense in the absence of Clay Matthews and premium level quarterback play exhibited by Aaron Rodgers have been the outstanding characteristics of Green Bay's current success. 

The Packers still have road tests waiting for them(Detroit, Thanksgiving; Dallas, Dec. 15th; and Chicago, Dec. 29th) later in the year.  Yet, the combined overall record of their remaining opponents is a paltry 27-43.

Anything can happen in the NFL on "any given Sunday", but with the weak schedule that remains the division is ripe for the taking.

The Bears don't have a challenging schedule the rest of the way either, but will have an uphill battle on their hands without star quarterback Jay Cutler for at least another month.  The Vikings are all but dead in the water at 1-7.  If they win out the rest of the way the best they can finish is 9-7, but I just don't see that happening. 

The Lions have a legitimate shot at competing for a first place finish in the division, but a lack of maturity has held this talented team back from a division crown in the past.  They just haven't shown a change in their collective mindset and team focus to constitute a winning culture.  In short, they beat themselves way too often to think they can sneak in and take the division.

My money would be on the Packers.  They've won four in a row and play the next three out of four games at home.  Momentum is picking up for a team that will get stronger and regenerate itself as the season progresses and players start returning from injury.

Even with the significant amount of key injuries, four more in a row is doable, starting with Chicago and Philadelphia at home; in New York against the Giants and then back to Lambeau against Minnesota.  Then a true test at Detroit on Thanksgiving, with Atlanta and Pittsburgh at home, peppered in between with Dallas and Chicago on the road.

The hope is Green Bay will get healthy and hit their stride come December.  Provided the injury bug doesn't shroud in a severe way again, the Packers will be a dangerous team near playoff time on their way to a  third NFC North division title in a row.

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