We're Black and Blue All Over, and thankful to see the resolution of an Upper Midwest broadband outage:
As we put a wrap on Week 13 in the NFC North, we note a slight change in the NFC playoff picture. If the season ended today, the Green Bay Packers still wouldn't qualify for the playoffs. But as ESPN.com's handy playoff standings page shows, the Packers have jumped to No. 7 in the six-team race. The top 10 NFC teams based on playoff seedings, as of Monday morning and including the Minnesota Vikings:
1. Atlanta Falcons (10-2)
2. Chicago Bears (9-3)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (8-4)
4. St. Louis Rams (6-6)
5. New Orleans Saints (9-3)
6. New York Giants (8-4)
7. Green Bay Packers (8-4)
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
9. Seattle Seahawks (6-6)
10. Minnesota Vikings (5-7)
The Giants would earn a playoff berth over the Packers because of their conference record, but the Packers can rectify that situation in Week 16 in the teams' head-to-head matchup. Meanwhile, by virtue of their No. 2 seed and their Week 12 defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears have a nice chance to earn a first-round playoff bye if they continue winning.
More to come throughout the week. But first, our morning spin around the division:
Vikings quarterback Brett Favre will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of his sprained right shoulder. His streak of consecutive games is at 297. The Star Tribune has more.
The Vikings' 38-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills was a testament to the acrobatic receptions of receiver Sidney Rice and the stellar day of tailback Adrian Peterson, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com. Pelissero: "If anything, Rice's two sprawling touchdown grabs and Peterson's stellar day on a sprained ankle -- 16 carries for 107 yards and three touchdowns -- provided reminders of how little the quarterback had to do at times last season to keep this offense rolling."
The Vikings unveiled rookie quarterback Joe Webb for the opening kickoff return Sunday, but his day was cut short by a hamstring injury. The St. Paul Pioneer Press has more.
Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes that the Packers "took care of business" in Sunday's 34-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Gary D'Amato of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviews the 18-carry afternoon of Packers rookie tailback James Starks.
Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins' two sacks brought his season total to a career-high seven, but he also re-injured his calf. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com has more.
Bears receiver Earl Bennett matched his career high with seven receptions in Sunday's 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions, notes Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune.
Bears cornerback D.J. Moore stood up and made a huge fourth-down play Sunday, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Bears coach Lovie Smith isn't one to get caught up in extremes of emotion, but that didn't stop him from directing some well-chosen words at his defense at halftime of the team's 24-20 victory Sunday against the Detroit Lions."
Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com: "What's important to recognize -- which the Bears do -- is that there's going to have to be some of that in every facet for this team to reach its ultimate goal as the season lurches toward crunch time. The Bears don't have to apologize for winning ugly. The fact the club recognizes that, acknowledges its shortcomings, and harps on them -- even while basking in the luster of victory -- speaks to this team developing the mentality needed to excel in the all-important stretch run."
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo wasn't happy with the forearm shiver that quarterback Jay Cutler took from Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. Angelo: "He's too great a player for that. That was a poor sign of a football player in the National Football League, given all that our game stands for.''
Brian VanOchten of Mlive.com: "The reputation around the league Detroit has earned under [coach Jim] Schwartz's leadership is both a blessing and a curse. The Lions are much tougher and much more respected after putting together a fearsome foursome of pass rushers up front, but their total lack of discipline at inopportune moments late in close games is what has kept them from making some real progress in the NFC North standings this year."
Lions quarterback Drew Stanton made a point to shake the hand of his former coach, current Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, after the game. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press has more.
Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News: "Their intentions usually are good. Their spirit and effort usually are good. Their implementation of basic plays at key times? Incredibly, consistently ineffective. Gripe about the call if you wish, because it was the type of call the Lions don't get. Fine. It was borderline, but Suh also didn't need to hit with such a violent-looking flourish, something referee Ed Hochuli called an "unnecessary non-football act." It probably appeared worse than it was, but naturally, the Lions made it worse than it was."