We're Black and Blue All Over:
Late Sunday, we noted that the NFL shifted the Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers next Sunday to 4:15 p.m. ET. In the process, the league "flexed" what amounts to the NFC West title game to Sunday night, where it will be nationally televised by NBC.
Why would the league spotlight a game that could result in a sub-.500 division champion, especially in place of a meaningful game between its two oldest rivals? Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette tweeted an explanation I also believe to be true: As part of its push to discourage teams from resting starters in late-season games, the NFL didn't want a scenario where a team playing Sunday night would know its full playoff fate before taking the field.
Had the Packers-Bears game been moved, it's possible that neither team would have had anything to play for. Earlier games could have locked up the NFC's No. 2 playoff seed for the Bears, and the Packers could have clinched a playoff spot before kickoff with earlier losses by the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the league can't be thrilled with the records of the St. Louis Rams (7-8) and Seattle Seahawks (6-9), that matchup is guaranteed to have playoff drama. That couldn't be assured for a Bears-Packers game Sunday night.
Continuing around the NFC North:
ESPNChicago.com's Jon Greenberg on the Bears' offense after their 38-34 victory over the New York Jets: "The Bears aren't rewriting [Mike] Martz's 'Greatest Show on Turf' exploits, and they're still ranked near the bottom of the NFL, according to a slew of statistical evaluations. Still, against a Super Bowl-caliber defense, they scored four times from outside the red zone and looked positively formidable at times."
The Jets' fear of Devin Hester led them to an ill-fated fake punt call, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Rashied Davis made the play of the day for the Bears, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.
The Packers' domination of the New York Giants started with their offensive line, according to Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
The Packers were a "rugged, no-nonsense outfit" against the Giants, writes Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Jason Wilde of EPSNMilwaukee.com explains the John Kuhn phenomenon at Lambeau Field.
Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News on the Detroit Lions' 34-27 victory over the Miami Dolphins: "I've double-checked the playoff picture, and sorry, the surging 5-10 Lions won't qualify, even if you use the BCS computers. But they're doing something intriguing here, winning three straight, winning on the road, winning with big offensive plays and big defensive plays. Oh, one more thing: They're whetting appetites."
Lions receiver Nate Burleson, via Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com: "A reporter asked me earlier if we had turned the corner. We haven't, it's a constant battle of improving. But the corner's close and we can see it, we can see the street sign. So we've got to keep working."
The Dolphins' plan to pick on cornerback Nate Vasher was ultimately foiled, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune suggests television competition between ESPN and NBC was part of the decision to delay the Minnesota Vikings' game in Philadelphia to Tuesday.
Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was one of many who questioned whether the game needed to be postponed at all, notes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Oooooo, six inches of snow. Oooooo, I'm scared. Better call off the game and call in the National Guard. Heck, in Minnesota we dump six inches of snow out of our socks at the end of the day. What's going on with the NFL, anyway? Didn't the Vikings and Chicago Bears just play in a snowstorm at TCF Bank Stadium? Apparently, the league has become so sterile, so TV oriented that it now makes decisions based on precipitation. Suddenly, games are being postponed left and right."