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BBAO: NFC North race tightens

10/24/2011

We're Black and Blue All Over:

Week 7 brought our division a little bit closer. Yes, the Green Bay Packers are 7-0. But the Detroit Lions' second consecutive defeat dropped their record to 5-2, just one game ahead of the now 4-3 Chicago Bears. And the Bears could even themselves out in the loss column while on their bye this weekend if the Lions can't win this Sunday at the Denver Broncos.

We'll have plenty to discuss this week even as the Packers join the Bears on their bye. The health of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the future of Minnesota Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian and the fallout from Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder's first NFL start are all on our agenda.

But first, a look at local coverage from Sunday's action:

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune on the Bears' tight win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London: "This trip across the Atlantic always was about the destination, so there's no need to nitpick problems along the journey. Like a British pound is worth more than a dollar, the NFL exchange rate on this win gives it added value for the Bears."

  • With that said, the Bucs certainly gave the Bears added opportunities to win. Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune looks at quarterback Josh Freeman's four interceptions.

  • Bears quarterback Jay Cutler made no excuses for his shaky game, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.

  • Bears tailback Matt Forte has already surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for rushing this season, notes Dickerson.

  • Both teams looked affected by jet lag, writes Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times.

  • Although his leg injury doesn't appear serious, Stafford hasn't played well in the past two weeks. Writes Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "The NFL figures you out eventually. When you think you’ve got the biggest, most explosive array of fireworks, it’s only a matter of time before someone finds an extinguisher. The Lions’ offense is under water right now. There’s nothing dazzling about a total of two touchdowns and four plays of plus-30 yards in the past two games."

  • Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News: "The Lions' offense isn't going to be dynamic every week, especially with so much required of the quarterback. As long as Stafford's ankle isn't damaged badly, they can crank it back up. But as reality checks go, this was a wincing one. Stafford was touched and struggled with his touch, a sight these Lions can't afford to see."

  • Lions running backs Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams combined for 94 yards on 18 carries, notes Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.

  • Packers offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse after giving up a pair of sacks to Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, via Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com: "There were a lot of ups and downs. It's never going to go smoothly and never going to go the way you think it will, so you just have to keep playing and improve. I definitely have some stuff to work on, but the way we kept battling, it was fun to see."

  • Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "[H]ardly anything coach Mike McCarthy's team does is easy."

  • Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Make no mistake, the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings don’t like each other."

  • Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the Vikings' quarterback transition: "The difference between the two was astounding. The offense looked much quicker with Ponder taking shots down the field."

  • Vikings coach Leslie Frazier's trust in his defense wasn't rewarded, notes Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com.

  • Frazier said the organization will discuss the future of Berrian this week, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.

  • Vikings safety Husain Abdullah admitted to busting coverage on the Packers' 79-yard touchdown pass to receiver Greg Jennings. Mark Craig of the Star Tribune has more.