The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Sports

November 6, 2013

NFC North tied at top

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Lions, division champions?

That’s far from a far-fetched scenario. Forget that the Lions finished last in the NFC North in 2012, six games behind the next-closest teams. Matthew Stafford is on pace for a career high in yards passing while taking sacks and throwing interceptions at significantly lower rates than in the past, and Calvin Johnson still is the game’s most dangerous wide receiver.

Quarterbacks are the obvious key to success in this sport, so a midseason dissection of this division has naturally centered on each team’s status at the critical position, a situation that took asharp turn for Green Bay on Monday night when Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone.

Seneca Wallace, the only backup on the roster, was overwhelmed in relief. If Rodgers misses even a couple of games, the Packers are in for a daunting November, with wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley (put on the injured reserve list Tuesday, officially ending his season) already out with injuries. This offense revolves around Rodgers as much as any NFL team.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to put anyone in there and think they’re going to pick up and run it the way he has run it,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

The balance of power in this division just shifted. The question to be answered during the second half is by how much.

Chicago, missing Jay Cutler because of a torn groin, took advantage of the injury to Rodgers and beat the Packers to pull into a first-place tie with them and the idle Lions. The Bears, for one night at least, proved more prepared than the Packers to handle the loss of their rocket-armed starter. Veteran Josh McCown stepped in with a solid, turnover-free performance to help the Bears improve to just 3-7 in games when Cutler doesn’t start since he arrived in 2009.

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