It's a safe bet that the Bears will never be healthier than they'll be Monday night when they face the Eagles.
What remains to be seen is how the newly recovered players will be assimilated into the lineup.
Rookie offensive right tackle Gabe Carimi and wide receiver Earl Bennett will both be active in Philadelphia for the first time since Week 2, when Carimi suffered a partially dislocated kneecap and Bennett went out with a bruised chest. They were the only two Bears unavailable because of injury against the Vikings in Week 7.
"We have our 53-man roster, for the most part, intact right now," coach Lovie Smith said after his team returned to the practice field Tuesday afternoon following a four-day weekend. "This is the group we started the season with, that we wanted to win football games with. To have everyone eventually get in their role that we started off with is big. Most teams can't say that halfway through the season. We're in pretty good shape."
When the season began, Carimi was in a starting role, but there's no guarantee he'll get his job back immediately. Lance Louis has performed well the past two games after moving from right guard to right tackle, and Chris Spencer has done the same filling in at right guard.
"We don't have to make any of those decisions yet," Smith said. "We'll let (Carimi) tell us exactly how far he's come along."
Carimi says he's fine with that.
"I just have to keep on playing hard," he said. "The stability (of the knee) is fine, the pain's low, so everything's coming along good."
Bennett was off to a slow start, catching just three passes for 20 yards before he was injured early against the Saints. But he was second on the team last season with 561 yards and third with 46 receptions. This is his fourth week back on the practice field, so he's itching to get back into the action after being held out the past two games.
"The coaches just thought I wasn't ready to go," he said. "That's what it came down to. Just have to live with it and keep going, but nothing will hold me back from Monday's game."
As the No. 3 receiver last season, Bennett was often on the field as much as the two starters, but it's a more crowded position this year, with Devin Hester and Roy Williams (when he's been healthy) starting, Johnny Knox playing a lot and rookie Dane Sanzenbacher stepping into Bennett's spot in the slot and playing well.
"He's a starting (caliber) receiver," Smith said of Bennett. "We don't have to wonder what he can do, we've seen him in just about every situation. Whatever we've asked him to do, from returning punts for touchdowns to (playing) the slot receiver, (he's done)."
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has held up his end of the bargain through the first half of the season — meaning, he's stayed healthy.
Almost as if to quiet those who'd label him fragile, he posted a season-high rating of 130.8 Sunday at Denver, playing on a sprained right ankle.
"We expect so much of him and rightfully so," coach Jim Schwartz said. "When he has a game where he completes 50 percent of his passes with no interceptions, we're saying he was off. And it's true. The standard is so high for Matt and our offense; that was an off-day for him."
Stafford struggled against the 49ers and Falcons, but overall, he's been superb. He's the fifth leading passer in the NFL. The offense he runs averages 29.9 points a game (fourth in the league) and the passing offense ranks 10th.
Against the Broncos, in just three quarters of work, he threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns. He also broke off a 21-yard run.
"He was able to move, he was able to scramble," Schwartz said. "I mean it wasn't 100 percent, but I thought he threw well and he was able to make a lot of different kind of throws. There wasn't anything that he wasn't able to do in the game."
The important thing to Stafford was the offense got back to dictating the pace of play.
"We just wanted to come out and play like us — with attitude and tempo," he said. "We hadn't really done that the previous couple of weeks. We needed to go out and not worry about what they were going to do, just execute."
He's missed two straight games and still hasn't been cleared of his post-concussion symptoms. He has had two concussions in three months. And on Monday, coach Jim Schwartz couldn't definitively say whether or not he expected Best to be back after the bye week.
"We'll see," he said. "You can't have a timetable on these things. We've gone through it with Justin Durant and Tony Scheffler. Some come back quickly and some last longer."
Scheffler, whose concussion against the Bears was serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, missed only one game. Durant, who didn't have a history of head injuries, missed three weeks.
"The one thing we will be sure to do is be objective and listen to the people who are the experts in these decisions," Schwartz said. "Like I've said a hundred times, it's not something you can put tape on or tough out. We have to be conservative."
When asked if there was a point where he'd consider putting Best on injured reserve, Schwartz again deferred.
"That would be listening to the people who know more about these things than me," he said. "You evaluate every player on a week-by-week basis."
Best, because he hasn't been cleared to return to practice, hasn't been made available to the media, per NFL rules. On his Twitter account, though, he posted this last week:
"Thanks for your Tweets and prayers. I'm taking everything one day at a time."
The Lions signed free-agent running back Eldra Buckley after Jerome Harrison (brain tumor) went on injured reserve. His primary role has been, and is expected to continue to be, on special teams.
Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams have handled the bulk of the running game in Best's absence. The two combined have rushed for 177 yards (4.2 per carry) in the last two games.
Green Bay Packers
Facing an interconference opponent such as the San Diego Chargers, who are on the Packers' schedule Sunday, happens as often as a presidential election — every four years.
In the run-up to the impending matchup at San Diego, however, Green Bay's read on the Chargers may be as insightful as it would be getting ready for a division opponent.
The coaches not only had an extra week to get a jump on San Diego in the midst of doing their self-scout work during last week's bye, but many of them were tuned in until late Monday night watching the Chargers' overtime loss at the Kansas City Chiefs.
"It's good to watch the Monday night or Sunday night game if you're playing that opponent that week or even a week or two out," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. "You find out a little bit about the pulse of how they're playing, especially since they (were) playing Kansas City the second time (this season). We had an opportunity to evaluate their first game against Kansas City. You get a lot of information out of division opponents when they play each other, particularly a second time."
What looked to be a sexy midseason matchup when the schedule came out last spring now sets up well for the Packers to build on their league-best 7-0 record coming out of the bye.
The Chargers are slumping. They have lost two in a row as well as their hold on the AFC West lead, falling into a first-place tie with the Chiefs and Oakland Raiders at 4-3.
Besides the detailed coaches, the Green Bay players who took time out to watch the Chargers' late-game collapse Monday surely picked up on how their next opponent is struggling at the moment.
"Game film is your best tool to learn from, but it's always good to watch the TV copy," Packers safety Charlie Peprah said. "You kind of get a feel for the game flow, the emotions, how they're calling the game, how players react. It's just a different point of view."
Shields joined his teammates on the practice field Monday as the players returned from a six-day hiatus for the bye week. Shields had been sidelined since he suffered a concussion in the third quarter of Green Bay's win over the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 16 at Lambeau Field.
The injury occurred when Shields intercepted a pass from the Rams' Sam Bradford in the end zone and then tried to run it out, only to get pasted by St. Louis receiver Brandon Gibson while still in the end zone.
"Everybody said I should've went down (after the interception)," Shields said. "I should've, but things happen. I'm ready to go.
"It's a learning process," he added. "Next time, I'll go down. In my mind, I wasn't thinking about all that. I was thinking about scoring. But, making the right decision is going down and letting the offense go and score."
The team's medical staff cleared Shields to resume football activities before the players were excused for the bye week following meetings Oct. 24, a day after Green Bay beat the Minnesota Vikings to improve its NFL-best record to 7-0.
Barring a setback this week in practice, Shields is expected to be OK to play Sunday, when the Packers will play at the San Diego Chargers.
Head coach Mike McCarthy didn't let the players' first day back on the job go to waste Monday. He had them practice — and in pads — for nearly 90 minutes outside with the temperature in the 40s.
"It sends a message to your ballclub, letting us know that, 'Vacation is over now. It's time to get back to work,'" receiver James Jones said. "Get back to doing what we know we've got to do, and that's preparing for the San Diego Chargers."
The players will have their customary day off Tuesday, then practice Wednesday through Friday before leaving for San Diego on Saturday.
McCarthy said he would put the team through two padded practices this week. It will be the one and only time Green Bay will have more than one padded practice in a week this season.
Under the league's new collective-bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to have a total of just 11 padded practices in the first 11 weeks of the regular season — and two padded practices are permitted in only one week during that time frame.