BBAO: Packers, Lions tighten division race

We're Black and Blue All Over:

PHILADELPHIA -- With Week 6 in the books here in the NFC North, let's reset our standings:

  1. Chicago Bears (4-1)

  2. Minnesota Vikings (4-2)

  3. Green Bay Packers (3-3)

  4. Detroit Lions (2-3)

The record shows the Packers are the third-best team in the division, but I'm guessing they will leapfrog the Vikings and a few other NFL teams in this week's all-important ESPN.com Power Rankings, due out Tuesday afternoon. The Packers' 42-24 victory Sunday night over the previously undefeated Houston Texans was one of the most impressive victories in the NFL this season, and in a week-to-week league, the Packers have re-claimed their place among the elite teams.

I'm trekking back to NFC North headquarters Monday morning and will resume blogging upon return For now, let's take a look at weekend coverage around the NFC North:

  • Out of nowhere, writes Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press, a "collective spirit kicked in as the sun lost its afternoon heat" for the Lions. Albom: "If a good game blown at the end turns Detroit into The Mourning City, then a bad game saved at the end has to brighten our spirits. They muscled up. They donned a cape. All that was missing was the phone booth."

  • John Niyo of the Detroit News: " [I]t is pretty remarkable, nonetheless, how the Lions keep pulling rabbits out their helmet."

  • Lions running back Jahvid Best is eligible to be activated from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list Monday, but coach Jim Schwartz said Sunday he had no information to share. Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com has more.

  • Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder made two critical mistakes inside his own 20-yard line, writes Mark Craig of the Star Tribune. Overall, Craig writes, Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins was Ponder's "worst game of the season."

  • Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "The heck of it is the Vikings could have beaten the Redskins. They should have beaten them. And they would have beaten them if they had performed halfway decently when they got close the Washington end zone. That game was sitting right there on the shelf, waiting to be plopped into the shopping cart. But with prosperity starting them between the eyes, the Vikings blinked. Three times."

  • The Vikings were worried about blitzing Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and paid for it on his 76-yard touchdown run. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com explains.

  • Pelissero takes on the Vikings' red zone failures in the first quarter.

  • It appears the Packers will lose linebacker D.J. Smith (knee) and running back Brandon Saine (knee) for the year, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. Coach Mike McCarthy was less specific on injuries to linebacker Nick Perry (knee) and cornerback Sam Shields (shin).

  • Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers: "Incredibly, this was the same quarterback that was getting assailed during the week by critics and NFL analysts. Some went so far as to call Rodgers a 'rattled quarterback' based on his performance in the first five games."

  • Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "If it looked as if the Green Bay Packers were a different football team Sunday night, that's because they were. Same no-huddle offense. Same 3-4 defense. Different attitude. Before the game, coach Mike McCarthy implored his team to come out breathing fire and to maintain that intensity until the Houston Texans had suffered their first loss of the season."

  • Jeffri Chadiha of ESPN.com: "The skeptics will say this was one rough evening for a Texans team that entered Sunday's game without a loss. The more enlightened will see it for what it really was: an indication that Green Bay, now 3-3, shouldn't be written off just yet."

  • The Bears had their bye this week, but when they resume practicing Monday, there is some optimism they will get receiver Earl Bennett back after he missed two games because of a hand injury. Bennett told Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times that he thinks he'll play Oct. 22 against the Lions.