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Lions lose NFC North lead, clear way for Bears, Packers

The Detroit Lions' loss on Monday night threw the NFC North back up for grabs.

We've discussed for weeks that the division will likely come down to Week 17.

Let's take a look at where we stand with just two weeks remaining:

Chicago Bears (8-6)

Despite missing starting quarterback Jay Cutler for five weeks, the Bears are in control of the so-called Black and Blue Division.

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Coach Marc Trestman's offense has carried the Bears while their porous defense has dealt with several debilitating injuries.

It seems long ago that Bears beat writer Brad Biggs penned this piece, stating, "The reality is it was going to take a perfect storm for the Bears to be serious contenders this season."

Perfect Storm requested. Perfect storm received.

After losing to the Lions in Week 10, the Bears made up ground while Josh McCown filled in for Cutler. Now with a road win against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16, the Bears could force a win-and-in scenario in Week 17.

Green Bay Packers (7-6-1)

Sunday's miraculous comeback against the Dallas Cowboys kept the Packers in the hunt, just a half game back.

This is the same team that didn't win a game in November and whose season appeared over after every Aaron Rodgers collarbone scan. Packers fans have to feel shocked that they can still make the playoffs.

While Matt Flynn hasn't been pretty, he has led victories the last two weeks to keep the Packers in the chase by the slimmest of margins.

The prayers for Rodgers' full recovery have intensified in Wisconsin. (Has there ever been a football doctor with more eyeballs on him then Dr. Pat McKenzie this week?) If Rodgers returns, we like the Packers' chances of winning the division.

Green Bay has a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon. They then head to Chicago to take on the Bears in a potential Week 17 winner-take-all game.

Detroit Lions (7-7)

The Lions looked liked they should have galloped away with the division after sweeping the season series with the Bears in Week 10. Rodgers was out, Cutler was injured. The Bears and Packers' defenses couldn't stop a Pop Warner team from scoring. The Vikings were falling into disarray. This season was ripe for the Lions to pounce on their first division title since 1993.

However, they've gone 1-4 in their past five games.

Detroit still has a chance to win the division. They play at home against a struggling New York Giants team and then go on the road to play the Minnesota Vikings in Week 17. Both games are winnable (at least in theory). The Lions need help, but the Packers and Bears have more difficult matchups.

If both rivals win this week, the Lions' season is officially buried -- and their coaching staff might be with it.

Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1)

It seems crazy to consider, but if NFL games were only 59 minutes long, the Vikings would be 8-6 and in the division race. The Vikings have lost the lead in the final minute of play five times this season -- including that wacky game they lost against the Baltimore Ravens in which they scored the go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds to play (the snap took place with 1:01 remaining in regulation).

If the Vikings had figured out how to close out games, we'd be discussing Minnesota's second consecutive playoff appearance instead of the temperature underLeslie Frazier's behind.

*The latest "Around The League Podcast" broke down the Giants loss and every other Week 15 game. *

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