NFC North: 2013 NFL Week 9 Power Rankings

A weekly examination of the Bears’ Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 13 | Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears hit the idle portion of their schedule last week but still fell back from No. 13 in last week’s Power Rankings to 14th as injury concerns and three losses in four games continue to put a damper on the club’s 3-0 start.

With quarterback Jay Cutler expected to miss a minimum of four weeks and Lance Briggs likely out a minimum of five weeks, the Bears face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Monday night, and the club could slip even further down the rankings. After the matchup with the Packers, the Bears face the Lions and Ravens before a Nov. 24 outing at St. Louis.

Elsewhere in the division, two NFC North teams are now in the top 10. Detroit moved up from 11th to 10th in this week’s rankings after it defeated the No. 13 Cowboys with some late-game heroics from Matthew Stafford. The Packers also jumped one spot from ninth to eighth after a 44-31 win against the No. 30 Minnesota Vikings.

Three of the panelists obviously still believe in the Bears, as two gave the team 12th-place votes, with another voting No. 11. The other three voters placed the Bears between No. 14 and No. 16.

At this point, it’s still a little difficult to evaluate Chicago. But how the team fares against the Packers without Cutler and Briggs will provide a clearer picture of how the rest of the season might go. Even with Cutler and Briggs in the lineup, it appears the Bears are a middle-of-the-road team worthy of a ranking between 13th and 16th.

Without them, if the Bears win two of the next three, they should be in fairly good shape for a run at the postseason.
A weekly examination of the Lions' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 24 | Last Week: 11 | Power Ranking since 2002

After pulling out a win that seemed extremely unlikely on Sunday against Dallas after trailing by 10 points with 6:45 left, the Lions jumped up a spot back into the top 10 at the midway point this season. The ranking is bolstered by Detroit’s ability to win games late this season, something the Lions have not always been able to do. Besides Sunday against Dallas, the Lions came from behind against Cleveland and Minnesota this season. They also held off Washington on the road in Week 3.

Playoff teams are capable of winning games like that. Considering the Lions’ schedule the second half of the season heading into this week’s bye at 5-3, Detroit should be a playoff team this season. The Lions play no teams outside the NFC North with winning records the rest of the year and have their toughest opponent (Green Bay) at home on Thanksgiving. This does set up well for the Lions to potentially make their second playoff appearance in three seasons.
A weekly examination of the Packers' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 5 | Last Week: 9 | Power Ranking since 2002

The Packers can’t shake the Detroit Lions in the NFC North standings and can’t create much separation from them in our rankings, either. The Packers (5-2) needed Sunday night’s 44-31 win over the Vikings to stay one-half game ahead of the Lions (5-3) in the division.

Our panel of voters moved up the Packers one spot this week, but it did the same with the Lions, who moved up to 10th after their dramatic win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

While the Packers won the first meeting between the two teams on Oct. 6 at Lambeau Field, the Lions played without leading receiver Calvin Johnson that day. The Thanksgiving rematch at Ford Field can’t come soon enough.

As always, you can rank all 32 teams yourself.
A weekly examination of the Vikings' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 17 | Last Week: 30 | Power Ranking since 2002

The Vikings stayed in the same spot this week, but that's only because the two teams behind them (Tampa Bay and Jacksonville) are both winless. Minnesota lost 44-31 to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated, and for Vikings fans, there are few things more demoralizing than watching their team lose to its archrival in the final game between the two teams in the Metrodome. And what's worse for the Vikings at this point is the fact that both winless teams could also be in the market for a quarterback next spring, just as the Vikings figure to be. The 2014 draft is projected to boast one of the better quarterback crops in recent memory, but if the current standings hold through the second half of the season, Minnesota might not get the first crack at a quarterback.

But considering what's ahead on the Vikings' schedule, they might be best served by planning for the future, anyway. They'll face three division-leading teams in the next four games and three teams in that stretch that have one of the league's top-10 passing attacks. The Vikings' tattered secondary, which has contributed to the team allowing the fourth-most yards and the third-most touchdowns in the league, might have trouble holding up against the likes of Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers in the coming weeks.