It could be that quarterback injuries will be the tale of the 2013 season in the NFC North.
Just when it looked like the Bears were headed toward an all-too-familiar collapse with injuries as the backdrop taking the brunt of the blame, they managed to catch a break last week when the Packers' Aaron Rodgers went down early.
Sure, had Rodgers played the whole game, maybe the Bears still would've been able to do what they did for the upset – by in some ways playing better than they have all season. But Rodgers in the game probably would've been a different story, especially in a close game.
The result of this all is a three-way tie atop the NFC North halfway through the season with the Bears, Packers and Lions all 5-3. We don't even need to mention the Vikings at this point. Clearly, Sunday's Bears-Lions game is a crucial one, especially given the Bears' loss in Detroit a few weeks back.
Now is obviously the time for the Bears to take advantage of Rodgers being out in Green Bay. But regardless of what happens four hours north, the Bears have to win their games first. Even if Jay Cutler has to sit out again this week, the Bears must feel plenty comfortable knowing that Josh McCown can take the reins quite capably.
I think the Bears squeak one out this week – as will the Packers – to keep things tight.
Detroit (5-3) pick'em (52) at BEARS (5-3)
MattE's pick: Bears 31, Lions 27
St. Louis (3-6) +9.5 (43.5) at COLTS (6-2)
MattE's pick: Colts 37, Rams 13
Philadelphia (4-5) +1 (47) at Green Bay (5-3)
MattE's pick: Packers 27, Eagles 23
Seattle (8-1) -5.5 (44.5) at Atlanta (2-6)
MattE's pick: Seahawks 27, Falcons 20
Buffalo (3-6) +3 (43.5) at Pittsburgh (2-6)
MattE's pick: Steelers 24, Bills 17
Cincinnati (6-3) -1.5 (44) at Baltimore (3-5)
MattE's pick: Bengals 26, Ravens 23
Jacksonville (0-8) +12 (41) at Tennessee (4-4)
MattE's pick: Titans 31, Jaguars 13
Oakland (3-5) +7 (43.5) at N.Y. Giants (2-6)
MattE's pick: Giants 31, Raiders 20
Carolina (5-3) +6 (42.5) at San Francisco (6-2)
MattE's pick: 49ers 27, Panthers 23
Denver (7-1) -7 (58.5) at San Diego (4-4)
MattE's pick: Broncos 44, Chargers 27
Houston (2-6) +3 (41) at Arizona (4-4)
MattE's pick: Cardinals 26, Texans 20
Dallas (5-4) +6.5 (54) at New Orleans (6-2)
MattE's pick: Saints 34, Cowboys 31
Miami (4-4) -2.5 (41.5) at Tampa Bay (0-8)
MattE's pick: Dolphins 27, Bucs 20
Last week: 8-5 straight up, 6-7 against the spread. Season: 85-47 (.644) straight up, 67-62-4 (.519) against the spread.
-- Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times for 12 seasons. He covers mixed martial arts for The Times and is assistant MMA editor for USA Today and MMAjunkie.com.