We're Black and Blue All Over:
The Detroit Lions return to action this week to host the Washington Redskins. And make no mistake: The Lions are more optimistic following their bye week than at any point in recent years. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and middle linebacker DeAndre Levy are among those set to return from injuries, and even at 1-5 the Lions are only two games behind the NFC North leaders in the loss column.
Defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch noted the Lions need to play better but believes a week of practice during the bye has put them on the right track.
Vanden Bosch (via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News): "There seems to be more parity this year than I can remember. At 1-5, I don't think anybody around here feels like we've been eliminated. ... Now, we have to play a lot better. We have to play the way we are capable of and start cleaning up a lot of things. I think we've taken a big step [during the bye] in cleaning up some of our mistakes and hopefully we are going to stop beating ourselves."
Before the season is over, the Lions will host the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. As we've written before, the road to the NFC North title will go through Detroit, one way or the other.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Levy took his most extensive work in practice Tuesday since suffering an ankle injury last month, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com writes that it's time for the Lions to answer some big questions, including whether Stafford is "really a franchise quarterback, or is he just a good kid with a strong arm?"
Packers left tackle Chad Clifton has been steady this season, notes Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Packers added two linebackers to their roster Tuesday: Diyral Briggs and Matt Wilhelm. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com has details.
Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette contrasts the team-building approaches of the Packers and New York Jets.
Vikings coach Brad Childress told Sirius NFL Radio that he is "not overly optimistic" about quarterback Brett Favre's chances for playing Sunday at the New England Patriots. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune has more.
Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press talks to NFL analyst Rich Gannon about the Vikings' woes.
Bears linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is among those players whose stock is moving up in Michael C. Wright's weekly Streaking/Slumping feature on ESPNChicago.com.
Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Lovie Smith, brutally exposed by multicamera angles, painful replays, still shots of a frozen moment and all kinds of graphics and gimmicks, stands as an isolated figure these days. The coach's ability to rally his team around him now will determine the success or failure of this season and his future with the team."