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BBAO: And down the stretch they come

We're Black and Blue All Over:

Wow. Week 15 brought us some serious drama and a bunch of twists and turns. Three of our teams remain in the playoff picture, while the fourth -- the Minnesota Vikings -- have regained position for the No. 2 overall position in the 2012 draft. (That's according to ESPN Stats & Information's rendering of each teams' strength of schedule.)

We're going to hear a lot this week about the Green Bay Packers' first defeat, the chances of the Detroit Lions clinching a playoff berth and the future of the Chicago Bears following an increasingly disturbing four-game losing streak. We might even discuss the holiday week that is nearly upon us. (Six shopping days left!)

But while I make my way back to NFC North blog headquarters, let's make the rounds of local coverage around the NFC North:

  • It's time for the Bears to bench quarterback Caleb Hanie, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.

  • Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com agrees that Josh McCown should start Sunday night against the Packers.

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: "I wonder if [Bears coach Lovie] Smith or anybody else at Halas Hall sees how much recent events have damaged civic confidence in the Bears."

  • The Bears' defense has not been able to carry the team this month, writes Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com.

  • Receiver Johnny Knox will undergo surgery Monday to stabilize a vertebra in his back, but his scary injury Sunday is not expected to threaten his career. Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times has more.

  • Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette on the Packers' first loss of the season: "No one should be ashamed of their 13-1 record, and they remain on the brink of clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But what the Packers can't afford to do is continue playing like they did against the Chiefs and expect to advance very far in the postseason."

  • Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal: "But while there was no reason to mourn the passing of an undefeated season, there was something disquieting about the Packers being dominated by a down-and-out Chiefs team playing for a new coach (Romeo Crennel) and with a new quarterback (Kyle Orton). It was cause for alarm because the Chiefs exposed the Packers in ways no other team has. Not only did they show the rest of the NFL that the Packers can be beaten, they were kind enough to provide a blueprint for getting it done."

  • The Packers' injury list is growing, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.

  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the offense's role in the loss: "They had a good plan and we didn't execute. They got to me and executed with the four-man rush. We didn't throw it well, we didn't catch it well and we didn't play well." Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more.

  • Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News after the Lions' wild comeback victory over the Oakland Raiders: "This confirmed how quickly the Lions can travel from one end to another, and the precise way to do it. The path to the end zone goes from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson, right down the field, right through the heart of the Raiders defense, right to the brink of the playoffs."

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press on Johnson's 214-yard game: "This was a performance for the ages, the kind that should shut up Johnson's three remaining doubters, two of whom just moved to a cave in South America."

  • Lions safety Louis Delmas had arthroscopic knee surgery Saturday and missed his third consecutive game, notes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. Lions cornerback Chris Houston returned from a knee injury but was obviously limited.

  • Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh made another unsolicited apology for his two-game suspension and confirmed he apologized via phone to Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith for kicking him on Thanksgiving Day. The Detroit Free Press has more.

  • Don't forget about a key 5-yard scramble Stafford made for a first down late in the fourth quarter, notes Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com.

  • Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the Vikings' one-sided loss to the New Orleans Saints, who outgained them 573-207: " On Sunday, the Vikings were manhandled so badly by the half-interested New Orleans Saints that Dec. 18 may go down in history as the day that hope died."

  • Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "At some point, you just have to say, 'What the heck? We're 2-12, what do we have to lose? Try to make every play.' A lot of people are probably going to get fired at this point anyways. What are you going to lose? Go out, make plays and try to put your best effort out there and win games."

  • Quarterback Christian Ponder received a healthy dose of booing Sunday, according to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

  • Dan Wiedrer of the Star Tribune uses these words to describe the loss: "Pitiful. Sickening. Bloodbath. Comical. Ridiculous. Predictable. Lethargic. Lousy. Typical."