Black and Blue all over: Pressure-cooker

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
If you're like me and random theme songs pop in your head, you're hearing Europe's "Final Countdown" as Thursday night's showdown between Chicago and New Orleans approaches. (It's very possible that I'm the only one this happens to, but we'll leave it at that).

(By the way, have you ever actually read the exact lyrics of this song? I just looked at them here. Not what I thought. Probably better served for an Odyssey convention or something. Anyways).

Yes, the Bears are in a must-win situation against a team that has the capacity to steamroll them but rarely plays well away from home. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes that we'll find out if the Bears are the "Big Tease" or the "Big Payoff."


Is this going to be the season known for its near-misses or far-flung playoff scenarios coming true? Is this a season in which veteran millionaires failed the Bears or one that hungry rookies saved for them? Will this be the season that peaked in Week 1 with the only real surprise victory of the year over the Colts? Or can the Bears muster enough mental toughness Thursday night to beat a deeper and more talented New Orleans team to keep the pressure on the NFC North-leading Vikings?

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times looks at one of the key players in Thursday night's game, Bears nickel back Danieal Manning. A conversation between Bears safeties coach Gil Byrd helped level Manning's play this season, Biggs writes.

The Bears might spend time obsessing over the Saints' passing game, but they would be remiss to ignore a running game that includes Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.

We'll have more on this game as the day continues and will check in periodically Thursday night. Now, let's continue our morning ride through the division:

  • Minnesota coaches and players will be rooting heavily for the Saints, writes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune. A Bears loss gives the Vikings a chance to clinch the division Sunday.

  • Minnesota defensive lineman Kevin Williams could lose $500,000 in contract escalators if he is suspended and thus ineligible for the Pro Bowl, writes Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. But Williams can re-coup that money if he is named to the Associated Press All-Pro team instead.

  • Dan Orlovsky is the Lions' likely starting quarterback Sunday at Indianapolis, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News. Orlovsky, however, is recovering from a hand injury and issued this alarming quote: "I'm gonna miss some throws because of it, but I'm pretty confident I'll be able to go out and throw and play effectively and play well."

  • Indeed, Orlovsky looked rusty in practice Wednesday, writes David Birkett of the Oakland Press, and the apparent decision speaks to the lack of confidence the team must have in backup Drew Stanton.

  • You can officially call it a lost season for Green Bay defensive tackle Justin Harrell, who has been shut down for a couple days because of a hip injury. Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette hashes through the problems of the Packers' 2007 first-round draft choice.

  • Rob Reischel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel takes a look at Tony Moll, who will replace the injured Mark Tauscher at right tackle.