Week 11 NFC North predictions: Vikings’ storybook run continues

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The pecking order in the NFC North is beginning to clear. On winning streaks, the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings are pulling away, while the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are desperately trying to play catch-up. Here are our predictions for big Week 11: 

Minnesota Vikings (6-4) at Denver Broncos (4-5): Despite significant bumps in the road, the Vikings are arguably one of the hottest teams in the league, having won five in a row and six of their last seven. However, they face a Broncos team that’s also feeling good, coming off three straight wins, including back-to-back wins over the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. 

Once the butt of jokes only a few weeks ago, much like the Vikings, the Broncos are a drastically different team heading into Week 11. With Josh Dobbs now running the show at QB, he’ll be up against a Broncos defense that’s improved since allowing 70 points to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3. After giving up 15 touchdowns through three weeks, the Broncos have allowed 12 TDs over the last six games. Furthermore, Broncos QB Russell Wilson has also come around, offering a test for the Vikings’ 16th-ranked pass defense (224 YPG). After a slow start, Wilson has recently looked like his old self, passing for 501 yards (6.51 YPA) with six touchdowns and zero interceptions since Week 7. 

Losing QB Kirk Cousins to a season-ending Achilles injury should’ve been the death knell that doomed the Vikings season. However, Dobbs has stepped in seamlessly, becoming the first player in NFL history to pass for 400-plus yards and rush for more than 100 yards without throwing an interception in their first two games with a new team. Denver may be playing well, but the current run the Vikings are on is the stuff of fairytales, and it’s hard to see the Broncos derailing this train. 

PREDICTION: Vikings, 30-28

Chicago Bears (3-7) at Detroit Lions (7-2): The Bears shockingly won two of four games with undrafted rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent at the helm in place of the injured Justin Fields. However, after missing four games with a dislocated thumb, Fields is reportedly on track to return in Week 11 against the Lions. His return could mean an awful lot for wideout DJ Moore. In six games that Fields started this season, Moore caught 42 receptions (18.19 YPC) with five touchdowns, as opposed to 29 receptions (10.55 YPC) with zero TDs in the four games started by Bagent. Furthermore, the Lions own the 20th-ranked passing defense in the NFL (231 YPG), and they’ve allowed two of their last three opponents to post 323 yards or more through the air. 

Conversely, the Lions come into Week 11 relatively healthy, having won two in a row and six of their last seven led mainly by their offense, which seems to be hitting its stride. Detroit has recorded more than 200 passing and rushing yards in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Their fourth-ranked rushing attack, paced by David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs, will be a stiff test for the Bears standout rush defense (2nd, 76 YPC) that hasn’t allowed more than 100 yards on the ground since Week 3. 

Sunday’s matchup may also come down to turnovers. Entering the week, only the Cleveland Browns (19) have turned the ball over more than the Bears (18), who own the worst takeaway differential in the NFL (-9). Unsurprisingly, the Bears are 0-6 when they lose the turnover battle this season, while the Lions are 1-1. 

PREDICTION: Lions, 31-17 

Los Angeles Chargers (4-5) at Green Bay Packers (3-6): The Packers defense has been a strength of the team at times this season, especially against the pass (7th, 187 YPG). However, they’ll face one of their toughest tests on Sunday in Chargers QB Justin Herbert. Even in a losing effort against the Detroit Lions in Week 10, Herbert was fantastic, throwing for 323 yards with four touchdowns for a 114.9 passer rating. Over the last three weeks, he’s been among the best QBs in the NFL, completing 67 percent of his passes (74-of-110) for 757 yards, seven touchdowns and a 104.2 passer rating. 

On the other hand, Packers QB Jordan Love has an opportunity to have a real impact. Over the Chargers’ last four games, opposing QBs have averaged 294 yards with a 70.2 completion percentage. In the seven games since his breakout performances in Weeks 1 and 2, Love has a 59 percent completion percentage (6.50 YPA) with eight touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 72.5 passer rating. Sunday could be his chance to right the ship. 

Whichever QB takes care of the football better will likely come out on top, and the Chargers have a massive advantage in that department. The Chargers have forced the third-most takeaways (15), and their seven giveaways are the fewest in the NFL. Meanwhile, only the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans have forced fewer turnovers than the Packers (8). 

PREDICTION: Chargers, 26-19

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