Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Chicago Bears [Print without images]

Friday, November 4, 2011
Final Word: NFC North

By Kevin Seifert

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 9, which includes byes for the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings:

History and matchups: For weeks, national discussion has centered on whether the San Diego Chargers might serve up the Green Bay Packers' first loss of the season. Analysis of the matchup suggests otherwise, as we discussed Thursday. So does history. The Packers have never lost in San Diego, crafting a 5-0 record since the series began in 1970. Coach Mike McCarthy, meanwhile, has never lost to an AFC West team in five games. Those facts hardly make this game a lock, but they tell us that historically and recently, it's not been a shock for the Packers to play well in unfamiliar environments or against rarely faced teams. The Packers are hoping to become the third Super Bowl champion to open the following season 8-0. Three of the Chargers' four victories have come against the Vikings (2-6), Miami Dolphins (0-7) and Denver Broncos (2-5).

Charlie Peprah
San Diego's Philip Rivers, who has thrown 11 interceptions, needs to be careful against the Green Bay defense, which has picked off 13 passes.
Pass defense: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is averaging 297 yards passing per game, but he's also thrown an NFL-high 11 interceptions in seven games. That performance would seem to fit into the wheelhouse of the Packers' defense, which is giving up the second-highest average of passing yards per game (289) but is one off the league high with 13 interceptions. The Packers have intercepted at least two passes in each of their past five games, the most efficient run in the NFL over the past 10 years. Rivers likes to let it fly, but this season at least, he's not getting away with it. Nine of his 11 interceptions have come against an opponent's nickel or dime defense, which the Packers play about 75 percent of the time.

Stopping the run: There has been plenty of discussion about the Chicago Bears' matchup against Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who is 0-4 against the Bears in his career. But you wonder if Eagles running back LeSean McCoy isn't the Bears' biggest obstacle to victory. McCoy leads the NFL with an average of 107.7 yards per game and has scored at least one touchdown in each Eagles game this season. The Eagles crushed the Dallas Cowboys' otherwise stingy run defense for 239 yards last week and are the NFL's best running team through eight weeks. The Bears have had trouble stopping the run this season; opponents are averaging 5.2 yards per carry against them, the second-highest total in the league.

Road woes: The Bears' two games this season at the home fields of opponents have been disasters. The New Orleans Saints ran them out of the Superdome in Week 2, and the Bears self-destructed in a Week 5 loss to the Detroit Lions. Lincoln Financial Field isn't likely to be as loud as the Superdome or Ford Field, where the Bears committed nine false start penalties, but it can still treat opponents rudely. The top candidate to be affected? Let's go with left tackle J'Marcus Webb, who ranks fourth in the NFL with eight penalties this season. He's been called five times for a false start, twice for holding and once for illegal formation.

Hester factor: The Bears' Devin Hester has an NFL-record 16 kickoff/punt returns for touchdowns in his career. Five have come in seven career Monday night games, most recently last December at the Vikings. We’re not saying anything here. We're just saying.