Green Bay Packers (7-0)
LAST WEEK: The Packers are 7-0 for the first time since 1962, when Vince Lombardi's team won its second consecutive championship. That team finished 13-1 and is arguably the best team in NFL history. Whether these Packers will be remembered in that light remains to be seen. The Packers, who have won a franchise-record 13 consecutive games, got a week of rest and relaxation with their bye week. Coach Mike McCarthy welcomed back his players by having them work in pads on Monday, in addition to Thursday's regularly scheduled padded practice.
LOOKING FORWARD: The Packers haven't faced a team with a winning record all season but will do so when they play at San Diego on Sunday. The battle at quarterback will be must-see TV. The only quarterbacks to post 100-plus passer ratings in both 2009 and 2010 were the Packers' Aaron Rodgers and the Chargers' Philip Rivers. Through Week 7, Rodgers is the NFL's career leader with a passer rating of 101.9. Rivers is third at 95.9. Moreover, when Rodgers threw his 100th touchdown pass against Atlanta in Week 5, he had an NFL-record 34 interceptions. Second on the list? Rivers, who had 43 interceptions when he threw his 100th touchdown pass. The Chargers will be a formidable opponent. Under coach Norv Turner, San Diego has produced a 28-7 regular-season record after Nov. 1.
FUN STAT: Under McCarthy, the Packers are 4-1 in games immediately after the bye. They won after the bye in 2009 and 2010 by a combined 54 points. Interestingly, teams coming off their bye are 8-10 this season – it was just 3-9 before last week. It's absolutely unfair that the Packers will be facing a team that had to play a Monday night road game. For all the things the NFL does well, the computer program that spits out the schedule needs to be reprogrammed. Wouldn't it make sense for a team coming off its bye to play another team coming off its bye?
Detroit Lions (6-2)
LAST WEEK: Detroit's throttling of the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow did two things: It unhinged the offense from its stagnant state (Matthew Stafford tossed three touchdown passes), while allowing the defense to reassert itself as one of the league's more aggressive and unforgiving units. Stafford completed 21 of his 30 tosses, including a 56-yarder to Calvin Johnson and a 41-yard strike to an open Titus Young. Although they had struggled in recent weeks without Jahvid Best in the backfield, the second-year player's absence seemed of no concern for a Detroit offense that put up the most points (45) it's managed on the road in more than 40 years. Defensively, the task of handling Tebow proved beneficial to a defense that registered seven sacks while turning each of his two turnovers into touchdowns.
LOOKING FORWARD: The Lions enter the bye week with a win and, most importantly, some momentum following two consecutive home losses. Stafford entered Sunday's contest dinged up (ankle) and played through any side effects, but the team needs him and Best at 100 percent as they prepare for a grueling second-half schedule – it travels to Chicago, New Orleans, Green Bay and Oakland, with home tilts against San Diego, Minnesota and the Thanksgiving Day game against the Packers intermixed. In the interim, DT Ndamukong Suh used his bye week to visit with the league's office to get clarification on what is and isn't acceptable on the field. Although Suh has gotten a bad rap, most former players serving as league analysts have sided with him; and the tape has backed him up. Further, Detroit's defense continued to abscond with the "dirty" label after "Tebowing" -- a mockery of Tebow's kneeling prayer -- during Sunday's game; preceding the game, the league's official web site deemed Tebow vs. Suh, "Good vs Evil," drawing of the ire of coach Jim Schwartz. Yet all things considered, there's a growing consensus among fans and media alike that, after years of the Lions being the butt of everyone's joke, they should relish being the new "Bad Boys" of the NFL.
FUN STAT: Entering the bye, the Lions are 6-2, the same mark they posted in 2007 after destroying the Jay Cutler-led Broncos ... The Lions upset some fans and surprised pundits by not jumping into the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes during the truncated free-agency period, instead re-upping with veteran cornerback Chris Houston. Houston has responded with one of his best seasons, nabbing four interceptions while returning two for touchdowns. Asomugha has two interceptions with Philadelphia.
Chicago Bears (4-3)
LAST WEEK: The Bears were on bye last week, with the majority of players getting away from Halas Hall for the weekend. The team emerges from the off week 100 percent healthy. Rookie tackle Gabe Carimi and receiver Earl Bennett, both sidelined since Week 2, will return to the playing field this week. Starting nose tackle Matt Toeaina will also return. The team parted ways with safety Chris Harris during the bye week, ending a saga that saw the veteran safety benched, deactivated, started and then cut, all within the span of 10 days. The safety position will feature two youngsters going forward: rookie Chris Conte and second-year player Major Wright. Linebacker Jabara Williams was claimed off waivers from St. Louis to replace Harris on the 53-man roster.
LOOKING FORWARD: Chicago squares off against Michael Vick and the Eagles this week. After starting 1-4, the Eagles have won two in a row and are looking more like the "dream team" many thought they would be this offseason when they snatched up nearly every high-profile free agent. The Eagles ran all over Dallas' vaunted run defense this past weekend, so the Bears' front seven, which has performed well of late against the run, will have its hands full. Defensively, Philadelphia boasts a trio of talented corners in Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, which should limit Jay Cutler and the Bears' passing attack. As a result, the success of the offense will come down to the play of RB Matt Forte, who leads the league in yards from scrimmage.
FUN STAT: Nose tackle Anthony Adams has earned 10.5 sacks in his eight-year career in the NFL; 3.5 of those sacks have come against the Eagles. Additionally, in just four games played against Philadelphia in his career, CB Charles Tillman has forced three fumbles.
Minnesota Vikings (2-6)
LAST WEEK: The Vikings got their first road win of the season and Christian Ponder got his first win as a starter, a 24-21 victory over the Panthers. Ponder did it while looking even more comfortable than his first start at home the previous week against the Green Bay Packers. In Carolina, Ponder completed 18-of-28 passes for 236 yards, one touchdown and avoided throwing an interception. It was the first passer rating above 100 (102.7) for the Vikings this year, but their win against the Panthers didn't come easily. They trailed 21-14 for much of the third quarter before Adrian Peterson tied the game, and they needed a 31-yard missed field goal from Olindo Mare with 26 seconds left to avoid probable overtime.
LOOKING FORWARD: The Vikings are on bye this week and could use the time away. For most of the players, it will be a needed mental break from a first half of the season that featured three blown double-digit leads in their first three games. For some of the players, however, the bye will be a chance to heal up. Top cornerback Antoine Winfield is expected to play for the first time since Oct. 2 at Lambeau Field on Nov. 14 after suffering a neck injury. Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson is hoping the time off allows swelling in his knee to subside so he can return to a full-time role instead of coming off the field when the Vikings go their nickel defense in an effort to limit his snaps. Receiver Percy Harvin could also use two weeks without contact to his sore ribs, which he injured in training camp. Guard Anthony Herrera, who missed all of last week's practices and the Panthers game with a lateral collateral ligament injury, will be the biggest question mark when the Vikings return to practice next Monday.
FUN STAT: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ponder and Cam Newton became the first rookie quarterbacks to face each other in which both rookies threw for at least 200 yards and neither threw an interception.
Jeremy Stoltz is publisher of Bear Report, Nate Caminata is publisher of Roar Report, Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and Tim Yotter is publisher of Viking Update. >