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NFL Preview - Green Bay (6-3) at Minnesota (3-6)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has highlighted his likely Hall-of-Fame career with thrilling comeback after thrilling comeback. His greatest one could still be yet to come, if he can find a way to get his team into the playoffs.
With their season possibly on the line, Favre will try to lead his Vikings to a much-needed win over the NFC North co-leading Green Bay Packers this Sunday at the Metrodome.
Projected by many to challenge for a division title, the Vikings instead have lost three of their last four games and sit third in the NFC North with just a 3-6 record. They picked up a road loss in Chicago this past weekend, falling 27-13 to the Bears.
One week after passing for a career-best 446 yards in a win over the Arizona Cardinals, Favre had just 170 yards against Chicago and was picked off three times in the second half in a back-breaking defeat.
"The last thing I want to do is make excuses. It's just disappointing," Favre said. "I don't know how to sugarcoat it. If we don't play any better than we played [Sunday], the writing's on the wall. I'd love to say something different, but that's the way it is."
The 41-year-old Favre once again came out of the game banged up, but head coach Brad Childress said he expects his quarterback to play despite a sore right throwing shoulder. Sunday will mark Favre's 295th straight regular- season start, extending his NFL record.
Favre, of course, spent 16 seasons with the Packers from 1992-2007, guiding the club to a pair of Super Bowls, and faces his former team for the fourth time since joining the Vikings for the 2009 season.
That third meeting came back in Green Bay on Oct. 24, just Favre's second visit to Lambeau Field as a visiting player, and he also threw three second- half picks in that 28-24 loss. The Southern Mississippi product nearly led his team to yet another comeback in that one, completing a 35-yard pass to wide receiver Percy Harvin in the end zone late in the game, but a booth review overturned the touchdown call after showing Harvin did not get both feet in bounds.
Favre could be in for better luck on Sunday, given the Vikings are 3-1 at home this season and have won 17 of their last 20 as the host team.
That victory over the Vikings was the start of a current three-game winning streak for the Packers, who blasted Dallas by a 45-7 score at home on Nov. 7 before enjoying the bye this past weekend.
Green Bay (6-3) is 3-1 under head coach Mike McCarthy following the bye and has won 10 of its last 14 overall after the break. The Packers will hope to avoid any extended rust from the layoff as they find themselves tied with the Bears for the top spot in the division after Chicago's win over Minnesota last weekend.
"We may be 3-1, but there is no secret to it," McCarthy said of the team's post-bye success on Monday. "Every year is different, and this year has definitely been a different challenge for us. We do want to pick up where we left off as far as winning. That's the most important thing, don't get me wrong, I'm stating the obvious here. But more importantly, we need to improve."
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 295 yards with two touchdown passes with a pair of interceptions in last month's win over the Vikings, and posted three touchdown passes in the most recent victory over the Cowboys.
Green Bay will play two straight and four of its next five on the road and has split its four games thus far as the visiting club in 2010.
The Vikings, meanwhile, are hoping to get wide receiver Sidney Rice back at some point this season. He began the year on the physically unable to perform list following hip surgery in August, and must be activated to the active roster by next week or be lost for the rest of the year.
Green Bay leads the all-time regular season series with Minnesota, which dates back to the 1961 season, by a slim 50-47-1 margin after its above- mentioned 28-24 win in Week 7. The Vikings recorded their first season sweep of the Packers since 2005 last year, following up a 30-23 victory at the Metrodome in early October with a 38-26 triumph in Favre's ballyhooed return to Lambeau Field during Week 8. Green Bay's last win in Minneapolis took place in 2007, a 23-16 decision with Favre at quarterback for the Pack.
The teams' only postseason meeting to date was the Vikings' 31-17 upset of the Packers at Lambeau Field in a 2004 NFC Wild Card game, a game best remembered for a broadcast overreaction by FOX announcer Joe Buck as Minnesota wide receiver Randy Moss performed an end-zone celebration.
McCarthy has a 6-3 advantage in his personal series against both the Vikings and Childress.
WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL
Green Bay's 14th-ranked offense had one of its best performances this season prior to the bye, posting 415 total yards against Dallas. It marked the Packers' second-highest total this year, behind only a 427-yard performance versus Washington on Oct. 10. Rodgers (2300 passing yards, 15 TD, 9 INT) matched his season best with three touchdown passes and completed 27-of-34 passes for 289 yards and a season-high 79.4 completion percentage versus the Cowboys. With wide receiver Donald Driver (28 receptions, 3 TD) out with a quadriceps injury, James Jones (27 receptions, 2 TD) stepped up for team highs of eight catches and 123 yards with a touchdown in the Week 9 win, while Greg Jennings (39 receptions, 6 TD) added seven receptions for 80 yards with a score. Running backs Brandon Jackson (460 rushing yards, 4 total TD) and John Kuhn (225 rushing yards, 1 TD) each carried the ball 13 times, but Jackson scored on the ground and also caught a touchdown pass. Helped by 41 rushing yards from Rodgers, Green Bay's 20th-ranked ground game totaled 138 yards, also its second-highest total of the season. Driver, who failed to catch a pass in two straight games prior to being inactive versus Dallas, is questionable to return for this game.
Minnesota yielded a total of 360 yards of offense to the Bears last weekend and ranks seventh in the NFL in total defense at 310.8 yards allowed per game. However, the Vikings have surrendered an average of 331.5 yards per game over the last four weeks. Minnesota's 130 rushing yards yielded to Chicago was the most it had given up since a season-high 155 versus the Jets in Week 5. The Vikings did force a pair of turnovers against the Bears, getting a pair of interceptions from safety Husain Abdullah (38 tackles) that were the first two of his career, but their minus-11 turnover ratio is the worst in football. Defensive end Jared Allen (31 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 INT) registered the lone sack for Minnesota, giving him 3 1/2 in his last two games. Allen has 8 1/2 sacks in his last four outings versus Green Bay. Linebacker E.J. Henderson (64 tackles, 2 INT) logged a game-high 10 tackles last week and weakside starter Chad Greenway (92 tackles, 1 sack) had nine. Starting corner Asher Allen (26 tackles) sat out last week's game with a concussion, with rookie Chris Cook (17 tackles) getting the start alongside Antoine Winfield (54 tackles, 1 INT). Asher is questionable to return.
WHEN THE VIKINGS HAVE THE BALL
After racking up a season-high 507 yards against Arizona two weekends ago, the Vikings and their 17th-ranked offense accumulated just 240 versus the Bears. Favre (2066 passing yards, 10 TD, 16 INT) completed 58.1 percent of his passes and logged a 44.5 passer rating last week, his second-lowest of the season. The gunslinger did complete a 53-yard touchdown pass to Harvin (44 receptions, 5 total TD), who played despite battling migraine headaches. However, wideout Bernard Berrian (18 receptions) aggravated a groin injury in warmups and did not play, while Harvin exited early after aggravating an ankle problem. Minnesota also lost starting center John Sullivan to a calf injury. The loss of Harvin could be a big one, as he ranks first in the NFL with 1.443 combined receiving, rushing and return yards. Running back Adrian Peterson (908 rushing yards, 8 total TD) was limited to a season-low 51 yards on 17 carries by the Bears and also caught four passes for 24 yards, while tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (28 receptions, 2 TD) also had four catches. Peterson, who had scored in four straight games prior to last week, has racked up 578 yards and five touchdowns in his last five versus Green Bay.
Favre and Peterson will be going up against a Packers defense that allowed just 205 yards to the Cowboys last time out. That includes just 39 rushing, the team's lowest total allowed since holding Detroit to 33 on Oct. 17, 2004. Green Bay's third-ranked defense also scored twice, getting a 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown from safety Nick Collins (41 tackles, 1 INT) and a 62- yard pick-six from linebacker Clay Matthews (31 tackles, 1 INT). Matthews leads the NFL with 10 1/2 sacks and is key to a Green Bay defense that is allowing the fewest points per game in the league at 15.9. The Packers also lead the NFL with 80 points off takeaways and have a plus-six turnover ratio. Green Bay logged four sacks total versus Dallas, getting one each from cornerback Charles Woodson (53 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT), linebacker Desmond Bishop (49 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (19 tackles, 1 sack). Rookie corner Sam Shields also grabbed his first career interception, while Woodson and Bishop forced fumbles. The Packers are hopeful defensive end Ryan Pickett can return to practice this week after he aggravated an ankle injury versus the Cowboys that had forced him to miss a game the previous week.
Rodgers and Jennings are must-starts for Green Bay, while Jackson is a flex play at best because of the tough matchup and his split-carry situation with Kuhn. Driver owners will probably want to wait another week before putting him back in the lineup, and Jones' value goes up if Driver again doesn't play. Green Bay's defense is worth a look based on how well it has played all year, while kicker Mason Crosby has one of the best legs in the game despite having missed five of his 18 field goal attempts this year.
The Vikings offer many risks outside of must-start Peterson. Favre has been very inconsistent and both Harvin and Berrian are hurting. Shiancoe isn't a bad play at the tight end spot, however. Minnesota's defense could struggle this weekend against a rested Packers offense, while kicker Ryan Longwell is 10-for-11 on field goals but has just one conversion from 40 yards or beyond.
Favre always seems to come up big when facing adversity, but one has to wonder if his age and current situation may finally get the best of him. Minnesota has been great at home and was able to knock off Green Bay in Minneapolis last season, but Green Bay comes to town rested and rolling. Rodgers has long stepped out of Favre's shadow, and it's time for him to put the final nail in the future Hall of Famer's career. Home-field advantage won't save Minnesota this weekend, but could allow the Vikings to keep it close.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 23, Vikings 21
11/19 15:11:51 ET
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