We're Black and Blue All Over:
CHICAGO -- Well then. Sunday wrapped up the 2012 NFC North title for the Green Bay Packers, but it left two other division teams still in the playoff race as well.
I tried to map out the playoff scenarios for the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings late Sunday night. The short version is that neither team can control its destiny, but there are clear avenues for each to advance as well.
Finally, ESPN Stats & Information projects the Detroit Lions with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 draft if the season were to end today. The would lose the tiebreaker with the other two 4-10 teams, the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles.
I'm making my way back to NFC North blog headquarters but hope to have a steady stream of posts as things start getting real around here. For now, let's take our morning tour around the division, giving the Packers the top slot for obvious reasons:
Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes that the Packers' defense was the catalyst to their division-clinching victory over the Bears.
The return of cornerback Sam Shields has helped solidify the Packers' secondary, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Lori Nickel of the Journal Sentinel reviews the three-touchdown day of Packers receiver James Jones.
Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "The Green Bay Packers’ satisfaction was thick in the visitors’ locker room at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon."
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Sure, Adrian Peterson ran for 212 yards. What's new? But Everson Griffen, Christian Ballard, John Carlson, Stephen Burton and Jerome Simpson were among the background players that stepped front and center against the St. Louis Rams. The result was a 36-22 shellacking of the host team."
Everyone's getting a rush watching Peterson push toward the NFL record for rushing yards in a season, writes Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune.
Peterson, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: " his is probably the most I've talked trash in six years. Seriously," Peterson said. "Because these guys was coming in, hitting late -- not really late, but getting some extra hits in. I love it, because I play with that same passion. But I got up in some of the guys' face a couple of times, and I had to get away from that..."
If the Bears miss the playoffs this season, writes Michael Wilbon of ESPNChicago.com: "It'll be time to go back to the drawing board. Yes, I'm talking about a new head coach and new staff and entirely new philosophy about trying to win in the NFL."
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was right to call for accountability, writes ESPNChicago.com's Jon Greenberg.
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: The Bears' "narrative screams for change and, after seeing a team leader like Marshall emotionally call out the organization, the sooner the better."
Dan Pompei of the Tribune: " Yes, the loss to the Packers on Sunday probably killed the playoffs for the Bears. But it did more than that. It made it so very clear, if it wasn't clear already, that the gap that exists between the teams may never be bridged by [Jay] Cutler. [Aaron] Rodgers is just too good."
Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times: "[T]he bottom line is this: Cutler is 1-7 against the Green Bay Packers, including the 2010 NFC title game; he has completed 148 of 271 passes for 1,782 yards with nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in those games for a passer rating of 59.9. In contrast, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is 9-2 against the Bears with a 98.8 passer rating and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions."
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford addressed the team after Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Stafford, via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News: "That's about as bad as I can play," said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was picked off three times and sacked twice. "For us to be successful, I have to play a whole lot better than that and I understand that."
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he was "as mad as I've been in a long time." Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press writes "it shouldn’t be automatic that Schwartz returns next season."
Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch, via Justin Rogers of Mlive.com: "To lose six games straight with as much talent and ability as we have in this room, I don't know what to say. It's hard for me to explain. I know what these guys are made of, I know what this team is all about, we're just not producing right now."