We're Black and Blue All Over:
The Detroit Lions' rebuilding program received an unmistakable endorsement from the NFL and its schedule-markers, who granted them their first Monday night game since 2001 as part of its 2011 schedule unveiling. The gesture wasn't lost on the team.
"Obviously, we're excited about it," Lions president Tom Lewand said, via Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. "First and foremost, it's a great testament to our team, to our players and what they've accomplished at the end of the season last year and the interest that they generated. It's a testament to our fans in Detroit, the excitement and enthusiasm they showed for our team down the stretch last year, and for the hospitality they showed for the Giants and Vikings game that we hosted last year."
Across the NFL, players offered mixed reactions to the schedule given the circumstances of the lockout. Via Twitter, Lions defensive end Cliff Avril said: "We got that Monday night lady's and gents... Let's go Detroit." Tailback Jahvid Best wrote: "Monday night football! Let's go #lions." Not surprisingly, linebacker Zack Follett was more effusive: "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!!!! rehab just got kicked up a notch! YEEEEE."
Continuing around the NFC North:
Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "It's validation that, although the Lions remain a long way from being a serious championship contender, the mere sight of them on national television shouldn't send the country running away from their high-definition big screen TVs in a screaming fit. It's as though the NFL officially welcomed the Lions back into the league."
John Niyo of the Detroit News: "So if you're going to get all fired up about next season -- from Detroit's opener in Tampa Bay to the showcase game against Chicago to the New Year's Day finale at Lambeau Field -- by all means, cue the Hank Williams Jr. theme music and get ready to 'blow the roof off this place.'"
Jeff Dickerson and Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com offer game-by-game predictions for the Bears' season.
The football writers for the Chicago Tribune do the same.
The Green Bay Packers are scheduled to play on Thanksgiving Day for the third time in six years, notes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "... [D]rafting a cornerback high isn't out of the question, but it probably won't be in the early rounds."
The Packers must "address the return position or risk it being an Achilles' heel during the defense of the Super Bowl championship," writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Minnesota Vikings are scheduled for half as many prime-time games as they played last year, notes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune.
The Vikings are likely to look for cornerback and safety help starting in the second round of the draft, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Washington quarterback Jake Locker: "The Vikings certainly need a quarterback. And Locker could turn out to be a fine one. But would you use the No. 12 pick on a guy who won't play for two years? The best-case scenario, from everything I've heard and read, is that he's a project who could develop into a solid quarterback. The worst-case scenario is that taking him is a huge gamble that could backfire. That's the case with many draft picks, of course. But do you gamble with No. 12?"