Gotta give it up to the Chicago Bears. Most everyone was waiting for this team to spring some leaks along the way but it never happened as Lovie Smith and company wrapped up the NFC North title with a punishing 40-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings hosting their first outdoor home game in 29 years Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. Jay Cutler delivered three touchdown passes for the Bears (10-4) and Devin Hester broke the NFL record for career kick return touchdowns taking punt home from 64 yards out for his 14th career special teams score. The Vikings (5-9) were forced outside by the Metrodome roof collapse and on a night when they honored past heroes on the 50th anniversary team, Brett Favre was a surprise starter but not surprisingly, never finished the first half. Favre's consecutive starting streak ended at 297 when he sprained his right shoulder and SC joint against Buffalo. Listed as out on Saturday and upgraded to questionable Monday afternoon, Favre opened the game by hitting Percy Harvin with a touchdown pass. He threw a pick that led to a Bears field goal and in the second quarter, Favre was sacked hard by rookie Corey Wooten and thrown hard to the frozen Gopher turf. He had to leave with a concussion and it's quite possible he played his last down in the NFL. While I couldn't see the Bears division clinching season coming, sure could see this painful exit for Favre coming. Hungry twenty-something defensive players are no match for a 41 year old grandfather and its been a disastorous and painful farewell tour for Favre and entire Vikings oraganization.
With the divsion out of reach, the Packers now point toward the one of two Wild Card berths in the NFC. Hard as this is to believe, the prospects are better now with an 8-6 record and two game losing streak than they were when Green Bay was 8-4 with dozens of playoff senarios to ponder. For Mike McCarthy and the Pack, the playoffs start now, if they win out at Lambeau against the Giants and Bears, they'll make it to the party with a head to head tiebreaker over New York and a better strength of victory tiebreaker over anyone else who can finish 10-6. On Monday, McCarthy indicated it will be Wednesday at the earliest for an update on Aaron Rodgers. He missed the New England game with a concussion and still has not received the medical clearance to return to the practice field, much less the lineup. McCarthy also said Cullen Jenkins is likely to miss one more week with a calf strain and Nick Collins, who injured his ribs against the Patriots, isn't as serious as first thought and may practice later in the week.