Final Word: NFC North

October, 21, 2011
10/21/11
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 7:

Dome invasion: I'll be fascinated to see and experience the scene at the Metrodome as the Green Bay Packers try to set a franchise record with their 13th consecutive victory, including playoffs. The Vikings have played their fan-friendliest card, naming rookie Christian Ponder their starting quarterback for the rest of the season. But there are typically a disproportionate number of Packers fans in the building for this game, in part because of its proximity to Wisconsin and in part because so many of their fans live in the Twin Cities. I expect it to be a charged atmosphere. I'm just not sure which way yet.

Dominant start: The Packers' 6-0 record has sparked at least some public discussion about their prospects for an undefeated season. Numerous factors would play into that accomplishment -- including, quite frankly, good luck. But the circumstances of the Packers' performance to this point provide evidence that it's not out of the realm of possibility. Over the past 30 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the Packers are seventh NFL team to win their first six games by at least seven points. Five of the previous six have reached the Super Bowl, and the sixth -- the 2005 Indianapolis Colts -- finished the regular season 14-2. What does this all mean? Basically that it takes a legitimately elite team to do what the Packers have done already this season.

Conference implications: The Chicago Bears' matchup Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the NFL's fifth game in London in as many years. It's the first time, however, that it has included two teams from the same conference. That's not an insignificant change. A team's conference record is the second tiebreaker (behind head-to-head matchups) for wild-card playoff spots. Considering the NFC North's top-heavy standings, the Bears are more likely to be fighting for a wild-card this season than a division title. I don't know whether the previous NFC-AFC matchups in London have been coincidental or intentional, but it definitely minimized the potential for a quirky overseas game -- which could be decided by arbitrary circumstances like jet lag -- from impacting postseason hopes.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireExpect to see Chicago's Matt Forte running to his right a lot against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Forte to the right: Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris said this week that "stats are for losers." So we'll call this one a "trend," one that Morris might want to at least consider unless he wants to be a loser on Sunday. Bears tailback Matt Forte has run for more yards this season to the right of center (291) than any other NFL running back. The Bucs, meanwhile, have allowed more yards on runs to that side (their left) than all but one NFL team. Opponents are averaging an NFL-high 8.2 yards per rush and have five runs of more than 20 yards to that side against them. It would be stunning not to see Forte focus his runs on the right side and see if Morris' group is up to the challenge.

Earplugs please: All it took was two games for Ford Field to drop its somnolent reputation and force opponents to start preparing for the prospects of deafening crowd noise. The Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers combined for 14 false starts over the previous two games there, and this week the Atlanta Falcons practiced with a sound system blaring crowd noise at 124 decibels. My NFC South colleague Pat Yasinskas discussed the issue during this week's NFC 411 video. The Detroit Lions are fortunate to have developed this advantage so quickly and will use it to eliminate the taste of last week's loss to the 49ers.

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