We're Black and Blue All Over:
DENVER -- Now, we flip the switch. The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers will emerge from their bye this week. The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings will go into hibernation for a week, and we'll all reconvene at full strength in Week 10.
Week 9 brought us some clarity on the Lions' short-term future and some genuine optimism for the Vikings in the long term. Let's hit the local coverage as I travel back to NFC North blog headquarters:
Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune on Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder's first NFL victory: "What is most striking about Ponder is the casualness with which he makes the difficult look routine. Sunday, his poise and clutch passing helped the Vikings to a 24-21 decision over Carolina at Bank of America Stadium."
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen on Carolina Panthers placekicker Olindo Mare's late miss, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "He hasn't been missing. You know what? Thank God and maybe he blew the wind a little bit for us."
Vikings games in Carolina have always been odd, writes Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Mike O'Hara of the Detroit News termed the Lions' victory Sunday as their most important game since 1999.
The Lions are not the NFL's "Bad Boys," writes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press on that topic: "Why fight it, Lions? Just roll with it."
Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com grades the Lions.
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examines the blocking requirements for Packers receivers.
Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "But 20 years ago next month, one significant decision changed the direction of the franchise, and the positive effects are still being felt today. The hiring of Ron Wolf in November 1991 by then team president Bob Harlan was the start of a transformation that saw the Packers go from an NFL doormat to perennial championship contender. The good times didn’t stop with Wolf’s retirement in 2001 though. In fact, the fingerprints of Harlan and Wolf are all over the Packers’ status today as an elite team."
Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune grades the Bears' first half of the season.
Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times explains the challenge process Bears coach Lovie Smith uses.