NFC landscape changes on Monday night

The Vikings find themselves only one game behind the Packers, but a surprising two games behind the Bears after an improbable Bears win on Monday night. The Bears won in Bears fashion and now own the NFC's only unbeaten mark.

As the Vikings disperse across the country to spend their bye weeks, the lay of the landscape in the NFC has changed markedly.

In a sad tradition, the living members of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins pop the champagne corks when the last undefeated team gets beat. It's ironic that they actually cheer for failure of a team trying to live the same dream. Kind of like Fran Tarkenton railing on Brett Favre for wanting to continue playing. Something just doesn't smell right.

On the NFC side of things, through three weeks, the Chicago Bears are the only undefeated team in the conference.

Come again? The Bears are a fraudulent Super Bowl contender that has found ways to win as the franchise always does – one big play from the defense, one big play from the special teams and enough offense to win games. It seems like the football gods need to be involved for a memorable Bears win. Monday night's game was an example.

Green Bay outgained the Bears by 103 yards. The Packers held the ball for almost 36 minutes. They overcame a whopping 18 penalties. Yet they lost. Why? Because the Bears do what the Bears do. Devin Hester gets his first punt return TD in three years. A late fumble allows the Bears to get into position to score the game-winning points. Their inability to pound the ball into the end zone actually helped milk the clock down to nothing – begging the question if it's better to allow a touchdown with 90 seconds to play and no timeouts and hope your offense can move the ball, or pin your hopes on a chip-shot field goal being missed.

The Packers opted to play Bears-style football and got the usual result – they call it Bears-style football for a reason.

In the ever-changing landscape of the NFL, the Vikings are only one game behind the Packers and have an advantage in division record – the first tie-breaker for playoff consideration. Following Monday's game, one analyst postulated that the Bears could go on a 7-0 run. Unless the Giants allow themselves to play Bears-style football, they won't hit 4-0.

Welcome to the bye week, which now looks a lot friendlier than it did on Sunday morning.


  • Monday marked the 18th anniversary of Brett Favre's first start with the Packers. Since that day in 1992, the Packers have had only two starting quarterbacks. The Vikings have had 15 in that span – the most recent being Favre. The team with the most? The NFC's only undefeated team, the Chicago Bears – which had 21 starting QBs in the last 18 years before finally taking the plunge and making a huge trade to make Jay Cutler No. 22.

  • Brad Childress praised the role that Ryan Cook played as an emergency fill-in at center when John Sullivan suffered an unspecified calf injury that looked suspiciously like an aggravation of the calf injury he sustained in training camp.

  • Of the injuries to Sullivan and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, Childress said, "I think they'll live – both of them."

  • Sounds like Bill Cowher is joining the chorus of Favre-haters. The former Steelers coach and current CBS studio host said of Favre and his timing struggles with his receivers, "He's got a better rapport with the receiver in his jeans commercial."

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