For both the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, Sunday could be anything but an off day in the NFC North. While the most storied rivals in league history prepare for Monday night's battle for division supremacy, the reigning division champions will be fighting for their 2010 lives.
That's right, kids. The Detroit Lions have an opportunity to hand the Minnesota Vikings their playoff walking papers before the end of September. Sure 0-3 can be overcome but not if one of those 3 is a home loss to Detroit. Not if you're a club already rife with injuries at key positions. Not if internal turmoil has led to leaked information about the quarterback's lack of desire. How long after a loss like that would it take for Brett Favre to start blaming his bum ankle and look for the first flight back to wherever he's from in Mississippi? How long after a loss like that would the Minnesota fans start calling for the head of Brad Childress?
A loss Sunday for the Vikings means they'd enter their bye week three games back of the division leader, with their next four games at the Jets, home to the Cowboys, at the Packers and at the Patriots. Jesus. (The Vikes drew Miami/Buffalo at home. The Bears drew Pats/Jets at home. That's pretty nice.)
I admit I also have a hard time rooting against the Detroit Lions, especially the fourteen weeks a season they don't line up opposite the Bears. It's a great sports franchise in a great American city - both of which have seen far better days. For all that's said about the Saints' impact on the morale of the city of New Orleans, one has to believe the Lions could be equally impacting in a city with an unemployment rate of 15.2 percent. They don't have to win it all. Just a couple meaningful games.
And what could be more meaningful than Sunday in Minneapolis. The Lions have been close against the Vikings for years but the game always seems to slip from their grip in the fourth quarter. It'll be a costly interception, silly fumble, missed tackle or sometimes Dan Orlovsky runs out the back of the end zone for no particular reason. The Lions know they are improved and Sunday they'll have the opportunity to showcase that improvement by defeating Favre, their greatest tormentor during these down times, and sending his new team to the showers.
For the Bears and Packers, that should be the hope. The Vikings are certain to be a better team in the second half of the year, especially with their lightening schedule and suffocating run defense. But light schedule or not, a loss against the Lions would make the emotional mountain too high to climb.