NFL Games to Keep an Eye on this Weekend


Matt Forte (22) runs the ball against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The Green Bay Packers have the week off and it appears it couldn’t come at a better time. Still, we have to live with the reality that we’ll be without Packers football on Sunday.

It’s time to don the purple and gold and root for our wonderful Minnesotan neighbors . . . Oh wait, nevermind. Never going to happen.

Hey, just because the Packers take a week off doesn’t mean we take a break as Packers fans. They’ll be plenty of things to watch, cheer for, or root against this weekend.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the NFL games we should pay attention to this week as Packers fans.

Game 1: Chicago at Detroit

The Bears-Lions game is the top game to watch this week. As a Packers fan, I’d love to see Detroit upset the 3-0 Bears. We don’t want Green Bay coming back from the bye week two and a half games behind Chicago. If the Packers beat a 3-1 Lions team in week five, then at 2-2 they’ll only be a game and a half behind both Detroit (3-2), and Chicago at 3-1 will have to face a hot New Orleans team.

In Detroit, I think the Lions have a really good shot at beating the Bears, but of course, this will require Matthew Stafford to protect the ball from a Chicago defense that leads the league in forcing turnovers with 11.

Regardless, it should be a good division battle to watch. It’s time we get a good understanding of who the Packers will have to compete with for the NFC North title. In the very least, this matchup ensures one of the division teams will leave this Sunday with a loss.

Christian Ponder. Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Game 2: Pittsburg at Minnesota

After the Detroit-Chicago game, it’s only logical the next game we should pay attention to is the other division game. However, the way both teams are playing, I can’t imagine it will be real enjoyable to watch the 0-3 Vikings host the 0-3 Steelers on Sunday. For the Packers’ sake, let’s hope the Steelers get things together and leave Minnesota with a win. It’s never bad when a division opponent falls even further behind in the NFC North race.

As of now, Christian Ponder is questionable for the game. He’s been playing terrible this season and is a large part of why the Vikings can’t seem to get it going this year. The thing to watch is if Ponder sits and Matt Cassel comes in and starts. If Cassel plays well then Minnesota might have to contemplate a quarterback switch this year. He could breathe new life into a stagnant Vikings offense.

Game 3: San Francisco at St. Louis

This early in the season, we should pay attention to any game featuring two NFC opponents. On Thursday night, the 49ers will travel to the dome and play Sam Bradford and a so-so Rams team. Both teams are 1-2 and could challenge the Packers for a Wild Card spot in the playoffs if by some chance Detroit or Chicago win the division.

San Francisco really isn’t looking good since they won the opener against Green Bay. Being at home, the Rams have a chance to pull an upset. This looks even more likely when you consider the Niners are already without Michael Crabtree and Aldon Smith and may be without Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis. The Niners may get hot later in the season and really go on a run, so I’d rather have them wrack up some losses now while they’re not performing well.

Marshawn Lynch runs as Thomas Davis defends in the fourth quarter. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Game 4: Seattle at Houston

The Seahawks appear to be the best team in the NFC right now, but two of their three wins have come at home. They struggled on the road against Carolina and barely made it out with a win. We know they can win at home, but it still remains to be seen how well Seattle can play on the road. Houston has been up and down this season, but they may be a real challenge for the Seahawks defense. It always benefits the Packers when an AFC team defeats an NFC opponent on Sunday.

Game 5: Miami at New Orleans

Believe it or not, both Miami and New Orleans are undefeated this season. This Monday night matchup should be entertaining to watch. The Saints are a team to keep an eye in the NFC. They’re surprising people. Like the Seattle-Houston game, I’d rather have the AFC team beat the NFC team for obvious reasons.

There you have it. We’ll see how the picture in the NFC changes after this week. Hopefully, the Packers will return from their bye week just a little bit closer to closing the gap between them and the top teams in conference.