Week 16 in the NFL: NFC North Heats Up as Weather Cools Down.

Brian Urlacher went off on the Chicago media this week. It was swift and nasty and it certainly appeared to purge a number of old, festering wounds.

Then again, Urlacher’s well-directed tantrum seemed to be just another day in the NFC North. After all, it’s December. It’s cold and windy and snowy in Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit and Minneapolis and it’s that time of the year when the NFC North really heats up.

Brian Urlacher: Loyal to his coach.

In Chicago, while Urlacher is yelling at the press (and we aren’t criticizing him here), the Bears are imploding.

In Minnesota, while Adrian Peterson is running for a record and a likely year-end award, the Minnesota Vikings are trying to make the playoffs with a noodle-armed college quarterback, who just got married to a smokin’ hot TV reporter (that should make his arm stronger).

In Detroit, the Lions are trying to overcome the media’s hatred for Ndamukong Suh, Matt Stafford’s penchant for throwing the ball to the other team and head coach Jim Schwartz’s head-scratching decisions.

And in Green Bay, the rock-solid but strangely unimpressive Packers are slowly but surely gearing up for a run at the Super Bowl.

It’s been a wild year in the Black & Blue Division, but it hasn’t been short of news or fun.

In Chicago, the Bears have taken to Twitter to come to the rescue of head coach Lovie Smith. Seems the Chicago media don’t think much of Da Bears 8-6 record (they were 7-1 at one point) and they need someone to blame. Lovie’s easier to blame than that wonky would-be quarterback Jay Cutler.

Urlacher got really pissed:

“Two of the people I don’t care about: fans or media,” Urlacher told WFLD-TV. “They can say what they want to about our head coach, about our players. It does bother me. They don’t know what they’re talking about, obviously.

“I know there are a lot of experts in the media, a bunch of smart guys out there who know exactly what they’re talking about all the time. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Lovie is the head coach of this football team and hopefully will be for a long time.”

Lovie Smith and Brian Urlacher

Urlacher also took a shot at Chicago fans after the Bears 21-13 loss to Green Bay last Sunday.

“The boos were really loud, which is always nice,” Urlacher added.

“The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us. … It’s unbelievable to me.”

In the meantime, almost every player on the team – at least those players with Twitter accounts – proclaimed their loyalty to their head coach.

For his part, Smith told ESPN that he’s only worried about this week’s game against Arizona.

“This week, we’re into that ‘must win,’ situation” Smith said. “I mean, the tournament has begun for us, so it’s about Arizona as soon as the players get a chance to watch the video. We have to find a way to get to 10-6 and see what happens.”

The Bears are Vikings are tied at 8-6. If the season ended today, the Vikings would claim the final Wild Card spot in the NFC. However, the Bears are in the driver’s seat. Chicago finishes with two dogs: 5-9 Arziona and 4-10 Detroit. The Vikings go to Houston to play the 12-2 Texans and then get 10-4 NFC North champion Green Bay at home. That’s no picnic.

Meanwhile, there are a few ways a 9-7 team can get into the post-season, but it’s extremely unlikely. Reality suggests both the Bears and Vikings have to win out to play in January.

Meanwhile, the Chicago media continues to speculate about Smith’s future as coach of the Bears. Although he has a contract that runs through next season, Chicago GM Phil Emery has not offered Smith an extension.

Call it crazy, but fans of the 8-6 Bears want to fire their coach while fans of the 8-6 Vikings want theirs, Leslie Frazier, to be coach of the year. Crazier still that the Bears have the inside track to the playoffs – at least, an easier schedule — and yet the folks in Chicago are screaming for Love’s head.

“Every year there are people in situations like this,” Smith said at his weekly Monday news conference. “Unless you’ve clinched a position right now, a playoff position, you’re still having to win football games to get in. But you don’t look at all the scenarios. You just look at what you need to do. And for us we need to win a game this week and then win another one the following week. It’s as simple as that.”

Adrian Peterson cuts on his surgically repaired left knee.

In Minneapolis, meanwhile, the Vikings have learned to depend on Adrian Peterson while the injured Percy Harvin (a) rehabs and (b) decides what he wants to do when he grows up. Peterson, meanwhile, closes in on a 2,000-yard rushing season, Eric Dickerson’s all-time NFL rushing record and the NFL’s most valuable player award.

While experts wonder and opine on how Peterson returned from a shattered knee to have one of the greatest seasons in NFL history, Vikings fullback Jerome Felton might have summed it all up with one Tweet this week: “That awkward feeling when your RB that you’re suppose to block for is free squatting 400-plus while you use the safety bar for 315.”

“Adrian Peterson is a beast,” said Felton.

Now that Beast has to find a way to run the Vikings into the playoffs. Facing the Texans in Houston and Green Bay at the Metrodome won’t be easy, but then again, it’s not supposed to be easy.

“Oh, of course, I’ll check out the little different scenarios,” said rookie offensive lineman Matt Kalil to the assembled reporters after Sunday’s game in St. Louis. “But if we just win, it takes care of itself. That’s all we’re focused on.”

Simple, isn’t it?

While the Lions try to figure out what went wrong – start with the coaching staff – and the Packers get ready to start the post-season, the Bears and Vikings have two weeks to prove that they’ve earned a playoff spot.

The NFC North is always fun in December.

Christian Ponder: Plays Houston and Green Bay to finish the season.

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