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Friday, December 5, 2008
Audibles: NFC North Week 14 preview


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Chicago Bears (6-6) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8), 1 p.m. ET

The Jaguars seem to have given up on the season, which is a good start for a Bears team that probably needs to win its final four games to make the playoffs. Jacksonville has a hard time when it can't run the ball, and if you break down the statistics, the Bears' run defense has been strong against everyone this season except Minnesota and Green Bay.

The Bears have given up an average of 5.3 yards per rush and seven rushing touchdowns in three games against the Vikings and Packers. Against all other opponents, however, they are allowing 2.6 yards per rush and have given up a total of six rushing touchdowns.

The Bears have lost to injury one of their better run-stoppers in nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek, but Anthony Adams and Marcus Harrison should be able to hold their own against the Jaguars' offensive line.

Green Bay Packers (5-7) vs. Houston Texans (5-7), 1 p.m. ET

The Packers put out a dispatch for citizen snowshovelers this week to help clean out Lambeau Field, where the wintry conditions are normally a key advantage for the home team.

But Green Bay will face more of a challenge than you might think Sunday. Although the Texans are 1-5 on the road this season, their one victory came two weeks ago at Cleveland and they have developed a strong running threat at a time when the Packers' run defense is surrendering a substantial point total.

Texans tailback Steve Slaton has rushed for 359 yards and three touchdowns in the past three games. The Packers, meanwhile, have allowed eight rushing touchdowns in their past two games.

Green Bay should have the upper hand Sunday, but the Texans have the capacity to expose their vulnerabilities.

Minnesota Vikings (7-5) at Detroit Lions (0-12), 1 p.m. E.T.

The trendy storyline this week has been that the Vikings, with or without the Williams Wall, represent the Lions' best chance to avoid a winless season. The Lions' other games are at Indianapolis and Green Bay, sandwiched around a Dec. 21 home game against New Orleans.

The Vikings needed a last-minute field goal to defeat the Lions Oct. 12 at the Metrodome, and few have forgotten that the last 0-12 Lions team defeated Minnesota in 2001 for its first victory of the season.

But the Lions' play has dropped off considerably since that October loss, and at this point the Vikings provide a significant mismatch on paper thanks to tailback Adrian Peterson and receiver Bernard Berrian.

The Vikings rank second in the NFL with 16 rushes of at least 20 yards, while the Lions have given up an NFL-high 19 runs of at least that distance. Detroit's defense hasn't been much better against explosive passes, having given up 16 of 30 or more yards. The Vikings have 14 such completions. Stranger things have happened, but it doesn't look good for the Lions on paper.