We're Black and Blue All Over:
The Green Bay Packers' defense isn't identical to the one that collapsed in the playoffs two years ago, but there are some similarities. That's the upshot of Pete Dougherty's measured analysis of the situation in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
A key line: "The 8-0 Packers are different now than in '09 -- their offense is better, and their defense, though giving up more yards than in '09, is making at least a couple of big plays a game. But there's the similar sense that a team with a good quarterback has a good chance to put up a boatload of points, and though it hasn't happened yet, get a score with the game on the line."
The loss of safety Nick Collins and the free-agent departure Cullen Jenkins have impacted the Packers even more than expected, Dougherty notes. The Packers rank No. 22 in sacks this season, and Dougherty suggests that quarterbacks are stepping up easier to avoid linebacker Clay Matthews' outside rush without Jenkins pushing the pocket from the inside.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Collins told Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com that he is going to try to attend meetings this week and, though injured, help where he can in terms of game-day communication by players.
The Packers are putting together the final details of a stock sale to raise money for a proposed $143 million expansion of Lambeau Field, writes Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Shares could go for as much as $250 apiece.
The Chicago Bears are in great shape for a playoff run, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune on the Bears and coach Lovie Smith: "Monday changed the perception and perspective of the 2011 Bears -- especially for Smith, Mr. Steady. It reminded us that even though the Chicago area has tuned out Smith, it doesn't mean his players have."
Dan Pompei of the Tribune on the Bears' victory over the Philadelphia Eagles: "… [W]hile cartwheels and backflips would be overreacting, a somersault or two seems to be an appropriate reaction."
Bears offensive lineman Gabe Carimi (knee) isn't expected to be ready for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions, according to Vaughn McClure of the Tribune.
New/old Lions running back Kevin Smith, who has not played in a game in almost a year, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "I feel great. I feel like I came out of the body shop brand new. Obviously, I've been playing football for a long time and had two seasons where I got injured and got put on [injured reserve]. I feel great, and God's blessed me with a second opportunity."
Lions coach Jim Schwartz wouldn't say whether new offensive lineman Leonard Davis will challenge for a starting job, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
The Lions aren't looking ahead to the playoffs, notes Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com.
Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune writes about the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry.
Vikings opponents in the second half of the season are a combined 38-26, notes Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton isn't happy that some stadium opponents want to use a clause in the Vikings' lease at the Metrodome to bind them to the building for another year. Dayton, via Rachel E. Stassen-Berger of the Star Tribune: "We shouldn't be engaged in that kind of hostile posturing with the Vikings … they're our team. And they want to stay here. So are we going to sue the Vikings? Come on. What are we doing here? This is about moving Minnesota forward."