We're Black and Blue All Over:
NEW ORLEANS -- Greetings from the French Quarter, where the steamy 85-degree morning temperatures are completely irrelevant because we'll all be gathered Thursday night in the air-conditioned Louisiana Superdome.
I've already got a busy morning and day planned, and right now I'm trying to shake a raspy voice (can't imagine how that happened) for an early morning ESPN.com podcast. Regardless, be sure to check the blog throughout the day for updates on the NFL's national season opener between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, as well as some posts on the rest of the NFC North.
For now, I'll leave you with this fun fact from the Elias Sports Bureau: Recent history, among other things, suggests a Saints victory Thursday night. The defending Super Bowl champion has won its Week 1 game for 10 consecutive years. The 1999 Denver Broncos were the last champions to lose their first game the following year, a 38-21 home loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Now for our morning spin around the division:
Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com writes there is a different vibe around the Vikings as the season opens: "It's tough to find anyone around the league who's willing to bet on the Vikings recapturing last season's magic, or even recapturing the division crown."
Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press traces the journey of Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, who is expected to make his first regular-season start Thursday night since fracturing his left femur in December.
Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com: "A week earlier, Mike McCarthy had a handful of players wearing Western get-ups to the annual Welcome Back Luncheon and was talking about his team would take on all comers. "This is an exciting bunch of men. We'd play anybody, anywhere, any time. We'll go right here in the parking lot if they'll show up," the Green Bay Packers coach told the gathering at the yearly Green Bay Chamber of Commerce event inside the Lambeau Field atrium. "That's the kind of attitude we have. I don't know if you've noticed this, but we've got a number of our players already dressed for Dallas, Texas, so we're ready to go!"
The Packers once again appear to have no interest in players jettisoned from other teams, notes Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News on Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford: "So much is expected of Stafford, 22, so quickly, it's almost unrealistic, not that he's complaining. He doesn't shy away from much -- tough throws, tough jobs -- and doesn't shirk responsibility. There's a line between confidence and brashness, between aggressiveness and recklessness, and Stafford doesn't mind straddling it."
Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice said his group is "on task" and "getting better," writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.