BBAO: Figuring out the NFC North

We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good morning. Week 14 brought us two things in the NFC North: Snow and a bit of clarity. We've largely dispatched the former, so let's hash through the latter while we have a moment.

The Green Bay Packers (9-4), winners in seven of their past eight games, have a full one-game lead in the division. They can clinch their second consecutive title with a victory Sunday at the Chicago Bears. At the moment, they are the No. 3 seed in the NFC.

The Chicago Bears (8-5), losers in four of their past five games, are currently the NFC's sixth and final playoff seed. (The 8-5 Seattle Seahawks own the head-to-head tiebreaker against them.) The Bears can probably advance with two victories in their final three games, but they might need to win out. (Playoff machine here.)

The Minnesota Vikings (7-6) are still alive in the playoff hunt after defeating the Bears but will need some help. They are bunched with two other teams with identical records, but would lose the tiebreaker to each: the Washington Redskins own the head-to-head matchup and the Dallas Cowboys have a better record against common opponents.

The Detroit Lions (4-9), losers of five consecutive games, have guaranteed themselves last place in the division. Even if they win out, and the Vikings lose out, the Vikings would win the "tiebreaker" at 7-9 because of a head-to-head sweep. ESPN Stats & Information projects the Lions to currently be in the No. 7 overall position for the 2013 draft.

Whew. That should do it. Now for our morning tour:

  • Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Aaron Rodgers’ streak of 35 straight games throwing a touchdown pass at Lambeau Field ended Sunday night, but the Green Bay Packers quarterback doesn’t care. Rodgers used his feet more than his right arm to help beat the Detroit Lions 27-20 as the Packers took over sole possession of first place in the NFC North Division."

  • It didn't take Packers cornerback Sam Shields long to win his starting job back from Davon House, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

  • Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels on his 43-yard fumble return, via Sarah Barshop of ESPNMilwaukee.com: "I was really trying to break one free and let people give me some respect for speed. I didn't get to run at the combine, so the coaches never really got to see me run."

  • Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com: "With a 21-14 loss to the Vikings, the Bears' fourth loss in five games, it's beginning to look a lot like ... last year. No, no, no!"

  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: "We saw a brutal, demoralizing surrender of a football game. That’s what Sunday was. A laying down of arms. A one-sided cessation of hostilities. The only position the Bears are in is the fetal one."

  • The Bears' season is going to pieces, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.

  • Bears quarterback Jay Cutler failed in the clutch Sunday, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.

  • Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "The blueprint for success in this most volatile of seasons now is clear: Go retro. With an offensive game plan right out of the 1950s and a quarterback-hounding, old-school defense, the Vikings were able to surprise the Chicago Bears."

  • Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "This was the game the Minnesota Vikings thought they could play the past two weeks, before turnovers changed everything in defeats at Chicago and Green Bay. This was the game the Vikings will keep trying to play the next three weeks, their long-shot playoff goal still within reach after Sunday's 21-14 triumph over the Bears."

  • There is nothing new to ask Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, writes Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com.

  • Sunday was the biggest victory in the tenure of Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, writes Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune.

  • Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press: "Seriously, did you expect the Lions to hold a lead over the Packers at Lambeau?"

  • Sunday was the Lions' "season captured for posterity," writes Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News.

  • Tight end Brandon Pettigrew's first-quarter ankle injury robbed the Lions of another pass-catcher, writes Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.