Final Word: NFC North

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 15:

March toward history: No Super Bowl champion has opened the following season with 14 consecutive victories, but a win Sunday at the Kansas City Chiefs would give the Green Bay Packers a 14-0 record, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and a total of 20 consecutive victories -- including playoffs and dating back to last season. The Packers' last defeat came on Dec. 19, 2010, so a win Sunday means they will have gone beyond one year -- at least 370 days -- without a loss. Even if the Chiefs pull the upset, and as of Friday they were 14-point underdogs, the Packers could still clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs if the San Francisco 49ers lose Monday night to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson
AP Photo/Morry GashWill Jordy Nelson now be the deep threat in Green Bay's stacked receiving corps?
Jennings' impact: The Packers have arguably the NFL's deepest receiving corps, and it will be fun to see how Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, James Jones and Randall Cobb compensate for the loss of Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings, who will miss the next few weeks because of a knee injury. (Tight end Jermichael Finley will also be involved.) Most notably, Jennings' injury leaves a void in the Packers' downfield passing game. Since the start of the 2008 season, Jennings has an NFL-high 39 receptions of at least 30 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's more than double the next-highest Packers receiver on that list -- Driver with 18. Nelson, Jones and Cobb are all capable of getting downfield. We'll see if they absorb Jennings' production or if the Packers shorten up their passing game with Jennings sidelined.

Go west: It's been more than four years since the Detroit Lions won a game on the West Coast, and they'll return to the scene of that victory Sunday. They defeated the Oakland Raiders 36-21 in Week 1 of the 2007 season, and on Sunday they'll have an opportunity to clinch their first winning campaign in 11 years if they can defeat the Raiders again. On paper, this seems like a good matchup for the Lions. As we discussed earlier this week, the Raiders' poor-tackling defense could be a sieve for Lions skill-position players who run well after the catch. Meanwhile, Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown 13 interceptions in seven games this season. The Lions have taken advantage of errant passing for much of this season and have 18 interceptions, tied for the second-highest mark in the league. Stranger things have happened, but the Lions have a good opportunity to pick up an important victory Sunday.

Crunch time: The Chicago Bears have little margin for error after losing their past three games to fall to 7-6. They can't worry about style points Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks and would be well-advised to keep quarterback Caleb Hanie as reined in as possible. Five of Hanie's six interceptions over the past three games came on passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield. It might sound smart to be aggressive and trust your players to make good decisions, but after scoring a total of 33 points over the past three games, the Bears would be better off keeping things short and simple against the Seahawks.

Harvin factor: The Minnesota Vikings have the toughest task imaginable Sunday in trying to defend New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees with a defense that hasn't intercepted a pass in an NFL-record eight consecutive games. The Saints have won seven games indoors already this season and seem primed for a high-scoring game. But it's only fair to note that the Vikings' offense has debuted the full force of receiver Percy Harvin in the three games they have played without tailback Adrian Peterson. Over that span, Harvin has caught 26 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing 14 times for 70 yards. I'm not sure if the Vikings can win a shootout with the Saints, but they at least have demonstrated firepower beyond Peterson of late.

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD