Home Sports Amon-Ra St. Brown’s heroics; Vikings close to clinching: NFC North notes

Amon-Ra St. Brown’s heroics; Vikings close to clinching: NFC North notes

by Atlanta Business Journal

The Detroit Lions took the Buffalo Bills down to the wire on Thanksgiving Day, kicking off a slate of thrilling games that a record 138 million people tuned in for. Though their 4-7 record contradicts it, the Lions are a much better team than they’re given credit for and have played multiple contenders tough this season.

Plus, they’re just fun to watch. They score points. Most of their losses have come due mostly due to the fact that they can’t stop other teams from scoring against them, but they’re capable of massive production themselves, the latest example of which came last Thursday.

A major reason for that production is wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. Against the Bills’ top-10 defense, the second-year wideout caught 9 of 10 targets for 122 yards and a touchdown. It’s particularly impressive given that his quarterback, Jared Goff, has the 23rd-ranked completion percentage among qualified passing leaders this season. To pull off that 90% catch rate on Thursday, St. Brown pulled off multiple acrobatics, the kinds of which Justin Jefferson is lauded for just across the division. 

In fact, his catch rate hasn’t been lower than 87.5% in his last three games. He amassed over 100 yards receiving in two of those contests. He’s had triple-digit totals in three games this season and though he’s missed the better part of two games this season (and Detroit already had its bye), St. Brown has caught the ninth-most passes in the NFL.

Not only is St. Brown making these catches, but he’s doing so in important situations. Eight of his 10 catches gave the Lions a first down. It was initially nine before a review pushed one back. It still went for a 14-yard completion, mind you. And in a game where Detroit was very close yet again, St. Brown was the player they went to time and again when they needed chunk yardage. Five of the Lions’ longest plays on Thursday went to St. Brown.

He’s averaging 11 yards per reception this season and over 70 yards per game. He’s about as consistent as they come for a Lions team that doesn’t quite have all the pieces together and traded away their other top target in T.J. Hockenson just a couple of weeks ago.

It’s fully understood that if the Lions were winning, St. Brown would be more present in headlines. But there’s nothing wrong with giving him his flowers anyway, especially when Detroit could be completing their turnaround by next season.

Jefferson Leads Pro Bowl Voting

One receiver who is getting his flowers is one who was mentioned earlier: Justin Jefferson. The third-year receiver has received a total of 90,313 Pro Bowl votes, leading all players in balloting as of Week 12.

Jefferson ranks second in total receiving yards among all players with 1,232 and third in catches and targets. His heroics were on full display on Thanksgiving, as well, with the Vikings rounding out the three-game day in the night game. Jefferson caught 9 of 11 targets for 139 yards and a touchdown. That was just his fifth-highest yardage total this season, to give you some idea of the complete tear he’s on this year. He’s had seven games in triple digits.

The Minnesota Vikings lead all clubs in total Pro Bowl votes received, in fact. They head up a top five that includes the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles.

Vikings Close to Clinching

There might be good reason for that, too, given that Minnesota fans have a lot to celebrate already. The Vikings could clinch a playoff berth as early as this weekend, according to NFL Research. Should they get the win over the New York Jets and should the Lions lose to or tie the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota is guaranteed a spot in the postseason. Clinching the division title with five weeks still to play would tie for the earliest in the Super Bowl era with six other teams, including the 1973 Vikings.

Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson & Vikings defeat Patriots 33-26 on Thanksgiving

Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe share their biggest takeaways from the Vikings’ win.

At 9-2, Minnesota continues to have the largest lead over their division of any team, up by a full five games over the Lions at 4-7.

Both Rodgers, Fields in Question for Packers-Bears Rematch

It went much as it has in recent history during the first contest between these bitter rivals this season: the Packers won. Convincingly. Week 2 saw the Chicago Bears go up to Lambeau Field and score a touchdown on their first possession. It would be their only one of the night.

Quarterback Justin Fields was in just his second game in the Bears’ new system. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was also in just his second game as a playcaller, fresh from the Frozen Tundra himself after being Green Bay’s quarterbacks coach in 2021. The Bears were a young team; are a young team, and the Packers capitalized on that as they always do, ultimately winning by a convincing 27-10 margin.

Fast-forward to Week 13, however, and this matchup looks anything but typical. In fact, both quarterbacks might not even play. Aaron Rodgers sustained a rib injury on Sunday night against the Eagles that knocked him out of the game early. This was in addition to his already-broken thumb. He reportedly has an avulsion fracture. It’s made gripping the football hard, and it shows. Rodgers threw two picks against Philadelphia as the Packers’ ultimately lost. They are sitting at 4-8 on the season and have just a 3 percent chance at the playoffs.

Rodgers said following the game that he still wanted to play if the Packers were still mathematically “in it.” He also said he wanted to start against the Bears should there be no structural damage to his ribs. Head coach Matt LaFleur offered no update on Monday when he met with the media, though Rodgers said he was to undergo further tests on Monday. We’ll know more in the coming days.

Should the Packers bench Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of the NFL season?

Nick Wright, Kevin Wildes and Greg Jennings discuss the Green Bay Packers’ loss to the first-place Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. The group discuss Jalen Hurts’ MVP odds and Aaron Rodgers exiting the contest early with a rib injury.

Meanwhile, the Bears took their quarterback decision right up until kickoff against the Jets on Sunday. Fields went into the game as questionable, though I’m not sure anyone believed he was going to play after suffering a significant shoulder injury in which he partially tore ligaments in addition to having an injury to his AC joint.

Trevor Siemian reportedly sustained an oblique injury in warmups and just when it looked like the Bears would be down to their third-string quarterback in Nathan Peterman, Siemian got the start. It went exactly how you thought it would go, with Siemian operating an offense completely tailored to Fields and his skillset — which is very different from his own.

So while back in Week 2 it looked as if this season would go how many have before in the last decade, with the Packers ultimately sitting on top of the standings and Rodgers playing at an MVP level, the 2022 season had other plans. All that’s left to play for — for both of these teams is pride — especially against one another. For that reason alone, these two starters may want to play through their injuries. But perhaps both of these teams would be wise not to let them.

Either way, it’s going to be anything but predictable come Sunday afternoon.

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Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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