Black and Blue all over: Game day
PHOENIX -- It's a crisp 50 degrees on Sunday morning in the desert, and we're not expecting the mercury to top the 60-degree mark. I know that comes as a huge disappointment for those hanging on through ice storms and blizzards around the country, but I'm just giving you a glimpse of the elements Minnesota and Arizona will play in later Sunday.
After I zip up my windbreaker, I'll be in the University of Phoenix press box -- along with ESPN.com colleagues John Clayton and Mike Sando -- to chronicle a game with all kinds of playoff implications. The Cardinals are looking at it as a battle for the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoff picture, while the Vikings know they need a win to maintain their one-game in the NFC North.
If all goes well, we'll check in before the game on the final results in Indianapolis (where Detroit is visiting) and Jacksonville (which is hosting Green Bay).
Until then, let's take a spin around the NFC North:
- Does the Vikings' moderately improved pass defense stand a chance against Arizona receivers Larry Fitzgerald Jr., Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston? Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune examines that and other (mis)matches.
- Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at the steps that Vikings coach Brad Childress took to get his team into playoff position.
- Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gets a head start on the overwhelming question in Green Bay: How much did the departure of Brett Favre affect the Packers this season?
- The Packers' porous run defense might catch a break in Jacksonville, notes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Colts quarterback Peyton Manning could put on a "clinic" against the Lions defense, predicts the Detroit Free Press.
- Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. Does that mean the Lions will take him No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft? A few mock draft scenarios are already emerging.
- Chicago is already preparing for its rematch with the Packers, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.
- Nick Hut of the Northwest Herald points out the recent emergence of Devin Hester at receiver and Danieal Manning as a kickoff returner.