We're Black and Blue All Over:
Week 12 brings us this revelation: The Chicago Bears are in the proverbial driver's seat in the NFC North. The standings with five games left in the season:
1. Chicago Bears (8-3)
2. Green Bay Packers (7-4)
3. Minnesota Vikings (4-7)
4. Detroit Lions (2-9)
The Bears have both a full-game lead over the Packers and an advantage in the top two tiebreakers for division championships. First, the Bears won the teams' Week 3 matchup, giving them the early edge in head-to-head record. And the Bears (3-0) also have a better division mark than the Packers (3-1), accounting for the second tiebreaker. The third is record against common opponents, which is too complicated for my pea brain to figure out at this point.
After all, we still have more than a month of football left to be played. All this means is that the Bears need no help to win their first NFC North championship in four years. The Packers must win at least one more game than the Bears, and possibly two, from here on out to win the title.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times on the Bears' 31-26 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles: "This had nothing to do with luck or a soft schedule or sidelined adversaries or the possibility that Michael Vick's body clock was set to Kazakhstan time. This had everything to do with a Bears team that, finally given an opportunity against a real, live, talented opponent, rose to the occasion and made us naysayers say, in so many words, yea. With a 31-26 victory over the Eagles on Sunday, the Bears proved they belong among the top teams in the NFL"
The Bears had a simple but effective approach to slowing down Vick, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler upstaged Vick in what was the signature game of his Bears career, writes David Haugh of the Tribune.
Bears safety Chris Harris provided a key interception, notes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
Special teams hurt the Packers in their 20-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, writes Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "The Packers have nothing to be ashamed of, and their overall performance would have been good enough to win against most opponents. But not against the Falcons, who own the best record in the NFL and improved to 19-3 at home under coach Mike Smith." They are also 19-1 in those games when quarterbacked by Matt Ryan.
Tight end Donald Lee was stunned to be deactivated for the game, according to Rob Demovsky of the Press-Gazette. Lee: "I think either last Monday or Wednesday I heard that some guys are going to have to compete to be [active] for this game, but I didn’t think in a million years it would be me. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes things work out different from what you hope for."
Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com wonders how big of a problem it will be if the Packers can't rely on their running game in December.
Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com on the nature of the Vikings' 17-13 victory over the Washington Redskins: "Who knows where all those good vibes would have gone if the Redskins hadn't been so determined to clown away this game?"
The Vikings relied on rookie tailback Toby Gerhart for 22 carries after starter Adrian Peterson was lost with an ankle injury. Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune has more.
ESPN.com's John Clayton reports that former New York Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger provided the NFL with additional information last week about its investigation of Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. A second interview of Favre could result.
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press playfully ridicules Favre's 10-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com provides a thorough film breakdown of the Detroit Lions' 45-24 loss on Thanksgiving Day to the New England Patriots.