NFC North Hot News

The Vikings have are the only team in the division with a winning record, but that could change if Daunte Culpepper misses any amount of time. The quarterback suffered three fractures in his transverse process, a small bone near the base of the spine, in the Vikings 23-13 Week 3 win over the Lions.

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Already down to a 1-2 record, the Lions are probably looking at tougher times ahead, in part due to their NFL schedule and in part due to another rash of injuries.

After beating Arizona in the season opener, the Lions have lost back-to-back games against Green Bay and Minnesota, and have to get through road games against Denver and San Francisco in the next two weeks before getting to the bye.

And with the dislocated shoulder suffered by cornerback Andre' Goodman in the 23-13 loss to Minnesota, the Lions have lost their second, third and fourth cornerbacks to injuries. Only starting right corner Dre' Bly has been able to stay healthy; Chris Cash (knee), Goodman (shoulder) and Chris Watson (back) all are out for the season.

Cornerback Otis Smith, cut by New England during the preseason, took over the nickel back job in the second game of the season and is likely to be joined by Jimmy Wyrick, Alex Molden or Roderick Babers on the field Sunday at Denver.

Wyrick is a four-year veteran who struggled in the opening game and lost the nickel job to Smith; Molden, who was cut by Washington, and Babers, a rookie cut by the New York Giants, were signed to improve the depth at cornerback after the second game.

Bears Week? Yes, it will be that for the Packers. But more than that it's Gut Check Week.

The Packers find themselves 1-2 in what was supposed to be one of the easiest season-opening schedules of any team in the league. Now the Packers go to Chicago on Monday night to open the "new" Soldier Field against a team they have beaten nine consecutive times in Illinois.

Already the Packers are two games behind Minnesota in the NFC North, a division they won by six games a year ago. Are they a dead team?

"Now we will find out what kind of team the Green Bay Packers have this year," guard Marco Rivera said. "If I'm right, we'll bind together and we'll come out of this slump we're in. I'm not going to give up on my teammates. We've had three rounds and we lost two. It's 15 rounds."

Mike Wahle, Rivera's running mate at guard, was almost as emphatic.

"We've really got to pick it up," Wahle said. "Our biggest thing is our really, really bad inconsistencies.

"It's frustrating because we know what we've done in the past. We think we're pretty capable. You come out scratching your head and trying to figure out what the hell went wrong."

The Vikings finally joined the rest of the league in having to deal with substantial injuries when it was announced Monday that quarterback Daunte Culpepper has three fractures in his transverse process, a small bone near the base of the spine.

While the injury sounds worse than it is –

"It's certainly an injury you can play with, depending on the toughness of the player," coach Mike Tice said -- Culpepper could be out two to six weeks.

Because of Culpepper's toughness, the Vikings are listing him as doubtful for Sunday's game against the 49ers. Culpepper didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday, but tried to get some work in on Friday.

Tice said Culpepper showed signs of improvement following the injury.

"He couldn't raise his left leg or throw on the sideline [after getting hurt Sunday at Detroit]," Tice said. "This morning, he could raise his knee to his chest."

Culpepper was injured in the end zone on his second touchdown run of the game with 4:57 left in the first half. Lions linebacker Wali Rainer dived onto Culpepper's back after he had crossed the goal line.

Gus Frerotte replaced Culpepper with the Vikings leading 13-10 and led them to a 23-13 victory. Frerotte became the first Viking to complete two passes of at least 70 yards in one game. He threw a 72-yarder to Randy Moss on his second attempt, and a 72-yard touchdown to Kelly Campbell in the second half.

As if Culpepper's injury wasn't bad enough, Moss revealed to the team Sunday that he's been playing despite back spasms since the season-opening victory at Green Bay.

Tice listed Moss as questionable. Moss didn't practice this week, but Tice said he definitely would play.

When asked if there was a chance Moss wouldn't play, Tice said, "Are you kidding me? I can't be without my two best players. I might be without one of them, but certainly not without two of my best players."

The Vikings played the first two games without any starters missing a start. Receiver D'Wayne Bates (foot) became the first to miss a start when he didn't play against the Lions.

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