Welcome to a critical Monday in the NFC, which will be impacted by the play of two backup quarterbacks.
Alex Smith has been ruled out for Monday Night Football, according to ESPN via Brad Biggs of the Tribune, which allows second-year player Colin Kaepernick to join Jason Campbell for a battle of backups.
It's not a great spot for both quarterbacks, who face very tough defenses.
Honesty, I suspect the 49ers were pretty sure Smith wouldn't make the game. I'm not saying they were lying or anything, but there may be a little gamesmanship in playing dumb.
I would also hazard a guess that the Bears weren't totally buying it. It's not a reach to assume that they prepared as much, if not more for Kaepernick as they may have for Smith.
For what it's worth, I'm a big fan of Kaepernick and like him more than Smith, who has had a good run since Jim Harbaugh showed up.
Kapernick has a good arm and deep-ball accuracy as well as mobility. He's inexperienced, though, and the Bears are certain to press him early and often. They'll also send a lot of different looks at him to try and keep him guessing where the pressure is coming from.
This is where a guy like Brian Urlacher makes his money and where the Bears would have missed him most had his injury taken him away from them for a lengthy period of time.
Urlacher will do a lot to confuse and obfuscate the Bears' defensive looks and make it hard for Kaepernick to get a read on the defense.
This isn't to say you could ring up a win for the Bears this morning. However, it makes the chess match even more fascinating.
On to the rest of the NFC North news and notes.
Biggs also reports at the Tribune that if the Bears were going to commit to the run, now would be a good time.
With rookie Alshon Jeffery returning, ESPN Chicago's Michael Wright says the Bears could finally have some help across the middle.
Justin Rogers of MLive.com grades the Lions after the loss to the Packers—it ain't pretty folks.
The loss to the Packers says nothing much good according to the Free Press' Steve Schrader.
Forget the Packers—the Lions are their own worst enemy according to Dominic Raiola, who spoke to The Detroit News' John Niyo after the loss on Sunday.
CheeseheadTV.com's Max Ginsberg takes another look at the Lions/Packers game.
The Press-Gazette's Rob Demovsky says it was the young players who stepped up in the defense.
Bob McGinn of the Journal-Sentinel says that when push came to shove, the offense finally clicked.
I've called it the one misstep of GM Rick Spielman's short tenure to day, but he still believes John Carlson has a lot of football left in him, according to 1500 ESPN's Tom Pelissero.
The Star-Tribune's Dan Weiderer interviews head coach Leslie Frazier, talking about the up-and-down road for the season, buying into a young quarterback and how stunning Adrian Peterson's progress has been.
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