We're Black and Blue All Over:
Aaron Rodgers' pending return to the Green Bay Packers' lineup will end backup Matt Flynn's streak of consecutive starts at one. But Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette suggests that Flynn showed enough Sunday night at Gillette Stadium to draw interest on the trade market whenever the NFL's player movement period begins this offseason.
Dougherty: "And yes, Flynn showed some things in the Packers' 31-27 loss at New England that at least give him a chance. The NFL game definitely is not too big for him. He's poised. He's mobile. He's smart. What's still in question is his arm. By NFL standards, it's average at best for a starter, and it's hard to judge his accuracy at this point as well. ... But it's almost a given that somebody, especially a team that liked Flynn coming out of college, will think he's worth a look, either to compete against the current starter, or as a possible fallback if it doesn't draft a quarterback in the first couple of rounds."
Dougherty notes that the Seattle Seahawks traded for little-known San Diego Chargers backup Charlie Whitehurst last offseason. So anything's possible. But if interest does arise, Packers general manager Ted Thompson would have to balance it against the difficulty of developing another backup for Rodgers.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com goes behind the scenes with Packers tight end Tom Crabtree.
Although the Chicago Bears have clinched the NFC North, Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com suggests there is no rush to give coach Lovie Smith a contract extension: "What if the Bears get knocked out in the first round or look bad in losing after that? What kind of future does this suggest? What kind of upward movement?"
Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders if the Bears should make preserving their health the top priority of their final two games.
Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune identifies some troubling trends that were lost in the Bears' division-clinching victory over the Minnesota Vikings, including missed tackles on rookie tailback Toby Gerhart.
Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News has a video of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh that you won't want to miss.
The Lions had some excellent run-blocking Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "There can be no intelligent discussion about the Lions having 'turned any corners' until Matthew Stafford proves he can become part of a dying NFL breed -- the No. 1 quarterback who can stay in the starting lineup week after week."
Gerhart has rushed for 218 yards in the past four games but also lost three fumbles, notes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune.
Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Call the Vikings uninspired, call them lifeless, but this team has to decide whether it has anything left to stave off another embarrassing loss."
Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com breaks down tape of the Vikings' loss to the Bears.