After Two Weeks, NFC North Remains Confusing

The NFC North looks like the Vikings' to win, but after Week Two, who knows?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Pilloried after his embarrassing loss to the Packers, Jay Cutler redeemed himself by throwing two touchdowns while leading the Bears to a 17-14 win over the Steelers.

    Who are the real Packers? The team that beat the Bears, who beat the Steelers? Who are the real Bears? The team that beat the Steelers, or the team that lost to the Packers, who just lost to the Bengals? Does any of this make any sense? Of course not. It's the NFL, after all.

    If there are any sure things after Week Two in the Bears' division, it's that the Vikings look tough. The Lions look awful, if not as awful as last year. After that, we have no idea.

    This is the nature of the modern NFL. Parity -- this is something you've heard a thousand times, but doesn't make it any less true -- has made early-season predictions and small sample analysis almost entirely worthless. The best we can offer you is a guess.

    Our guess: The Packers are good but not great, and so are the Bears. The Packers have a good quarterback and good wide receivers but only a mediocre running back; the Bears have a good quarterback and a good running back but only mediocre wide receivers. Both teams' defenses are capable of shutdown performances but are vulnerable to prolific passing attacks. And so on. The Bears are probably more similar to their Week Two selves than they are to their horrific offensive performance in Week One; the Packers are probably a better team than they showed in a loss to the Bengals in Week Two.

    After two weeks, it's clear the Lions are improved. Neither team will be able to count on guaranteed wins from the Lions this year, what with Matthew Stafford proving at least moderately competent in his ability to find huge wideout Calvin Johnson. The Lions don't seem likely to make any worst-to-first pushes this year, but they won't go 0-16 again, either.

    Meanwhile, the Vikings are beginning to seem a little scary. Favre doesn't need to do much with Adrian Peterson, the most electric and proficient running back in the game, in his backfield. And the Vikings' run defense remains as tough as ever.

    After two weeks, that's the outlook: The Vikings appear tough if not invincible, the Packers and Bears appear slightly above average, if inconsistent, and the Lions are bad but not as bad as last year. Which may all seem entirely different next week. The fun is in never knowing.

    Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.