We're Black and Blue All Over:
Sunday's action brought us two important turns here in the NFC North.
First, the Detroit Lions took a hit in the NFC playoff standings and would not qualify if the season ended today. Second, the Minnesota Vikings "improved" their potential draft position to the No. 2 overall spot with five weeks remaining in the season. Hooray and bully for both!
In all seriousness, here is how it breaks down:
On Monday morning, four NFC teams are tied with 7-4 records. As ESPN.com's NFC playoff standings show, the Dallas Cowboys are the NFC East leaders at the moment. The other three teams -- the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons and Lions -- are tied for the two wild-card positions. Based on the NFL's tiebreaker procedure for three or more teams, the Bears would eliminate the Lions based on a better record against common opponents. Further, the Bears would have the No. 5 seed because of their head-to-head Week 1 victory over the Falcons, who would be the No. 6 seed in that scenario.
As the ESPN.com Playoff Machine shows, the status of neither the Lions nor the Bears will be impacted (for now) by the results of Monday night's game between the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints. But because the Giants would be 7-4 with a victory, Bears and Lions fans should probably be rooting for the Saints.
The 2-9 Vikings, meanwhile, hold the No. 2 spot in the draft for the moment over the 2-9 St. Louis Rams because of a weaker strength of schedule. We'll keep you updated weekly on their draft status.
I realize both sets of these projections could change dramatically over the next five weeks. But all we can do now is look at the most updated information we have. With that, let's take a quick spin around the division:
Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie after throwing three interceptions in his first NFL start, via Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com: "Hopefully, [I'll be] a lot better [next week]. The guys played great up front; Matt [Forte] and Marion [Barber] ran the ball really well and they fought really hard. I feel a little more comfortable now. It's bad we had to lose because of some turnovers. I'm sure the defensive guys will say, 'We should've stopped them,' but if we don't have the turnovers, we're in great position right there. Hopefully next week it will clean up and I'm sure it will."
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz should share in the blame for a 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.
The Bears had everything but a decent quarterback Sunday, according to the Tribune's Dan Pompei.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com: "[Hanie] did a good job. He threw a couple picks, but that's going to happen. The tipped ball was a nice play by them. He'll get better, and I didn't think he did a bad job today. He kept us in the game. If we play better defense we win the game. We were in the game late, but just did not make enough plays on defense."
Bears receiver Johnny Knox did his best to help out Hanie, writes Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com on the Vikings' ninth loss of the season: "Somebody will have to take the fall for what could end up the worst season in Vikings history, even if plenty of people within the organization saw it coming."
Coach Leslie Frazier was accurate when he took the blame for the loss, writes Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune praises receiver/running back/returner Percy Harvin for a great afternoon.
The Green Bay Packers finished last Thursday's game with two reserve players in at inside linebackers. Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette reviews the situation.
Packers cornerback Tramon Williams appears to have made it back to his old style of play after being hampered earlier this season by a shoulder injury, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel profiles an unknown member of the Packers' championship program.
You should also check out Nickel's story on how Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers motivates his teammates.
There has been some fan and media overreaction to the ejection of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, according to Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com.
Lions nickelback Aaron Berry might be pressed into starter's duty this week, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Lions players haven't turned on Suh, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.