Black and Blue all over: The morning after

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
NEW ORLEANS -- It's a beautiful, sunny morning here in Louisiana, an appropriate outlook for Saints fans who watched their team put a historic drubbing on Green Bay.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Saints' 51 points were the third-highest total by one team in the history of "Monday Night Football." (The record is 55, set by Indianapolis in 1988.) Meanwhile, the teams' combined 80 points rank as the fifth-highest total in MNF history.

The Packers were scheduled to return to Green Bay at about 5 a.m. ET and don't have much time to prepare for 8-3 Carolina. And a week after watching Green Bay slam Chicago 37-3, longtime Packers observers don't know what to make of this team.

The Packers are too inconsistent to pass positive judgment on, writes Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal:

"[A]s we have found out repeatedly with the Packers, there is no reason to think they can do something until they actually go out and do it. Every game, it seems, one or two areas of the team fail them."

Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette was downright alarmed:

"They were embarrassed badly by the Saints, 51-29, and a performance like that invites serious questions about their status as a contender. ... It's hard to imagine the Packers, with their defense playing so poorly in such a crucial game, going anywhere but home for the post-season."

I'll play the contrarian on this one. Sitting here Tuesday morning, I think I probably overreacted in suggesting Monday night that the Packers might be out of the NFC North race. Five games is plenty of time to overcome a one-game deficit, especially when both divisional competitors remain flawed. Jon of Toronto wrote the mailbag note that settled me down:

"Kevin, don't react week to week or game to game. Clearly the Packers are a young Jekyll & Hyde team that could go in any direction the rest of the season, but to suggest it could now be a 2-horse race because they're half a game back (they still own the 3-way tie breaker) is ridiculous. Minnesota could lose the Williams' for a few weeks, and the Pack get to play the Bears again, so while this was a brutal game and a key loss, this race is far from over."

Fair enough. Now, on to the rest of the NFC North:

  • Chicago's Adrian Peterson has once again emerged as the Bears' No. 2 running back, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. No one is quite sure what's happened to backup Kevin Jones, who hardly sees the field these days.

  • After Tommie Harris' two-sack performance Sunday at St. Louis, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes: "Getting Harris to maintain that level has been one of the most maddening aspects of the season. But after seeing Sunday's effort, there's no doubt the biggest key to the defense over the final five games fits into Harris' ignition."

  • Bah humbug. Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune questions the long-term viability of the Vikings, considering their 37-year-old quarterback and their annual forays into the free-agent market: "Clearly, [owner Zygi] Wilf deserves applause for this, but can anyone look at what the Vikings have put together in November 2008 and say this team has a foundation built for long-term success?"

  • Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes that Sunday night's game between Chicago and Minnesota will be for sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

  • Submitted without comment: Detroit coach Rod Marinelli was asked Monday if playing on a national stage on Thanksgiving would be a negative for his team. Marinelli's response, according to David Birkett of the Oakland Press: "I guess if you're from Hostess Twinkies it would be."

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press on the Lions: "Next up: a visit from the Tennessee Titans. The Lions and Titans have a lot in common. They both benched their starting quarterbacks, and they both attempted to run the table, except the Titans foolishly tried to do it by winning all their games, while the Lions realized it is much easier to lose all of them. What a colossal miscalculation by Tennessee. The talk-radio lines must be burning up down there."