We're Black and Blue All Over:
DETROIT -- Well, lookie what we have here.
The Green Bay Packers' winning streak, extended to five games by Sunday's 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions, has pulled them within a half-game of the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears. And as we've been discussing for several days, the Packers would technically finish Week 11 atop the division if the Bears lose Monday night at the San Francisco 49ers.
Both teams would be 7-3 at that point, but the Packers would get the tiebreaker (if it were necessary) because of their Week 2 victory over the Bears.
In the big picture, of course, we are headed toward an awesome and unprecedented finish to the NFC North season. There are scenarios in which the Bears, Packers and Minnesota Vikings could all win the division, most simply by winning out. The Bears and Packers will meet Dec. 16 at Soldier Field, and don't forget the Vikings have two games apiece remaining against the Bears and Packers.
I'm making my way back to NFC North blog headquarters. While we can grab a breath, let's take a tour around Monday morning coverage:
Here is some high praise of Packers coach Mike McCarthy from Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "McCarthy's cutting-edge offense takes advantage of all the rules changes and the strength of his personnel. His demanding, creative coaching has gotten the best from Aaron Rodgers. In moments like these, one should pause to remember just how well-coached the Packers are."
Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com compares the Packers' recent performances to the look of those who are participating in Movember: "Their team's victories might not be particularly stylish -- the latest being Sunday’s rough-and-tumble 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field -- but they’re adding up to a five-game winning streak, potential control of the NFC North and turning around what could have been a lost year amid a dispiriting start and injuries to key player after key player."
Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Three of the biggest plays the Green Bay Packers made on defense Sunday against the Detroit Lions came from Casey Hayward, Dezman Moses and M.D. Jennings.That's a rookie second-round pick, an undrafted rookie and a second-year former undrafted free agent."
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson was upset with receiver Titus Young at the end of Sunday's game, prompting what appeared to be an outburst toward offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
Mitch Albom of the Free Press: "[Y]ou could feel the weight of the Lions’ deferred 2012 dreams coming down on their heads like a theater curtain that snaps off its rods. They were not supposed to be the last-place team in their division. They were not supposed to lose to Minnesota on the road and then Green Bay at home, the 13th loss in 14 games to the Packers. Those were the old Lions, right? Those were days gone by. These were the days ahead. Weren’t they?"
Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News: "The Lions have collapsed, and at the desperate, defining juncture, it was their starry strength that let them down. Something hasn't seemed right with Matthew Stafford and the offense, and on a telling Sunday, it fell apart."
Stafford looks like "a different quarterback this season," writes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com takes a detailed look at the Bears' matchup with the 49ers, ultimately predicting a 17-13 victory by the 49ers.
With quarterback Jason Campbell set to make his first start for the Bears, this would be a good game for the Bears' running game to take over, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
The Bears' heavy use of receiver Brandon Marshall is reminiscent of the way offensive coordinator Mike Tice used receiver Randy Moss in the famed "Randy Ratio" offense with the Vikings in 2002. Sean Jensen of the Chicago-Times explains.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on tight end John Carlson, an expensive and minimally productive free agent pickup, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "I think John Carlson has a lot of football (left) and is a very good football player for us and will be a good football player in the future."
This link will take you to all three parts of a bye week interview of Vikings coach Leslie Frazier by Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune.