BBAO: Bears big underdogs vs. Packers

We're Black and Blue All Over:

There aren't many expectations for the next installment of the oldest rivalry in the NFL.

The Green Bay Packers are favored over the Chicago Bears by anywhere from 12.5 to 13 points, according ESPN.com's daily composite of betting lines. The Bears haven't been such underdogs to the Packers since 1998, according to R.J. Bell of Pregame.com.

On paper, at least, it's difficult to disagree. The Bears will send out a quarterback in Josh McCown who hasn't started a game in four years and wasn't on an NFL roster until a few weeks ago. And the Packers have won five of the past six meetings between the teams.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • The Packers need to run the ball more effectively in the first half of games, writes Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. This season, they have called runs on 29 percent of their first-half plays.

  • Time is running out for the Packers to extend some veteran contracts, including that of tight end Jermichael Finley, and have them count at least some on this year's salary cap. Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has more.

  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy is not requiring players and coaches to spend Saturday night in the team hotel, as is protocol for Sunday games. Saturday night is Christmas Eve, notes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.

  • The Bears need to improve at tight end, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

  • Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz on rookie quarterback Nathan Enderele, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com: "It's just too much of an unknown right now. We're trying to win. So he'll have his time, I'm sure, but right now this is the best opportunity for us to win."

  • Bears coach Lovie Smith on naming McCown the starter, via Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: "I haven’t seen a lot from Josh. And sometimes if you don't like what you have, you have to look at your other options. We just have to have faith that we can play better -- we can do some things to help him out a little bit more, people around him can play a little bit better."

  • Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com writes about the Detroit Lions' "Wide 9" defense.

  • Lions place-kicker Jason Hanson, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "I'm the Grinch. I hope nobody here is too excited because it doesn't mean anything until you do it and we're just close. And we've pulled some games out, and you look back and you go, 'How did we do that?' You can only do that so many times and so hopefully we've used that up and we're just going to go beat some teams instead of pulling them out."

  • The Lions could be short at safety Saturday against the San Diego Chargers, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.

  • Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder feels he played too conservatively last Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.

  • The future is uncertain for Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson, according to Mark Craig of the Star Tribune.

  • The Vikings will probably have to use cornerback Cedric Griffin on defense Saturday against the Washington Redskins, according to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.