Favre-less NFC North is hard to figure out

By Dave Campbell

As the middling division moves into the second half of the season, the NFC North can at least point to two constants amid chaos: The rivalries remain strong, and those laughably bad Lions are buried at the bottom.

Green Bay and Minnesota will remind each other of their mutual dislike this weekend at the Metrodome, with the winner poised to move into a first-place tie if Chicago loses to unbeaten Tennessee.

Tampering charges filed from Green Bay in July that Minnesota illegally tempted Brett Favre were dismissed by the NFL, but the border feud endures. The Bears are still a real rival for both clubs, too.

Here’s the midterm report card for this confounding division:

Chicago Bears (5-3)

The Bears aren’t applying nearly as much pressure from their once-feared front seven.

For the first time in years, the Bears have a winning record because of their offense and not their defense.

Without Hester’s hair-raising returns and that relentless defense they aren’t the same, but Orton’s pre-injury play and Forte’s rookie flair have helped the Bears arrive at the halfway point as the only NFC North team to truly exceed early expectations.

Grade: B-minus.

Green Bay Packers (4-4)

It might take a season or two before the shadow of that Favre fellow fully escapes the Packers, but it’s not as though they haven’t tried.

Starting fast in the face of Favre-fueled drama and distraction behind Rodgers and his right arm could’ve brought the Packers a higher mark, but the lack of defensive depth and lagging running attack land the defending division champs slightly above average.

Grade: C-plus.

Minnesota Vikings (4-4)

They’ve won three of their last four to make up for a rough September.

But for all the bonuses given out to get these guys deep in the playoffs for once, a striking amount of flaws are still apparent. A two-month grace period remains for the Vikings to build some steam and improve their grade, but for all the spring spending and summer hype their fall has so far been unsatisfactory.

Grade: D-plus.

Detroit Lions (0-8)

The Lions are as bad as they’ve been in some time, and that’s sure saying a lot for a franchise with an NFL-worst 31-89 record since 2001.

As long as they’re still winless into November, a failing mark is only fair.

Grade: F.