A couple hours prior to kickoff today in Foxboro, after his left ankle has been injected and immobilized, Brett Favre will test his movement and backpedal on the Gillette Stadium grass. It’s pretty simple. If Favre can move satisfactorily — we all know he can’t run for first downs anymore — then he will make his 292nd regular-season start in a game the 2-4 Vikings desperately need against the Patriots.
Although their relationship isn’t the best, Vikings coach Brad Childress still believes that Favre gives his team the best chance to win. The two may not agree on game plans and overall strategy, but Childress isn’t going to prevent Favre from playing because of his two bonehead interceptions last Sunday against the Packers. The two may not be the best of friends, but Childress, like his players, still believes in Favre’s magic and his leadership.
Favre did some light throwing Friday after wearing a walking boot for a stress fracture in his left ankle and something called an “avulsion” fracture in his left heel against the Packers. The fracture means a piece of bone is pulled off by a tendon or a ligament in his heel, but neither fracture requires surgery. In order to properly tape the left foot, Favre was fitted for a shoe one size larger (15 instead of a 14) for more protection.
On the record, Childress said, “I wouldn’t rule anything out in terms of the end of the week. I wouldn’t put it past him.”
Favre said that he would love to play. “That’s no secret to anyone,” he said. “I want to play. I want to do what I can this week to get myself ready to play. I know the bone will continue to be broken for quite a while. I’ve done it in the past. I think I can do it again. I just want to help this team get back on track.”
Of course, Favre has played with various injuries in the past. The only thing is he’s now 41 years old.
He suffered a left foot sprain in 2000, an injury that also left him in a walking boot, and a broken thumb on his throwing hand in 2003. Both times Favre not only didn’t miss a game but posted victories in his next appearance, the latter against the Vikings.
Favre said he trusts his ability to make the proper decision, although there will be many who believe he simply wants to keep his streak alive. Three years ago, before he retired for the first time, Favre was so popular he could have been elected governor of Wisconsin. But now, that has changed. Most Green Bay fans are sick of him, and nationally, with this Jenn Sterger sexting case hanging over his head, his reputation has taken a serious hit. It’s not comparable to Tiger Woods, but it’s safe to say more fans watch to see him lose games than to win.
Favre said that he will keep an open mind today and be smart with his decision.
“I don’t want to go out and play just to play and look back and say, ‘I should have known better, I couldn’t make that play.’ I do know that if I didn’t have a hurt foot, I’m not going to rush for 50 yards and with a broken foot.”
Childress and Favre did meet for more than an hour Tuesday to discuss the coach throwing his quarterback under the bus in his postgame remarks and also Favre’s shoddy play against the Packers.
In a span of seven attempts in the second half, Favre threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown and another that led to a touchdown. Childress criticized Favre for not playing within the system.
After meeting with Childress, Favre said: “I think we’ve been able to talk about things, but we don’t necessarily agree. I think that’s part of it. We’ve got to get this on track. We know that. How we get there remains to be seen. I didn’t come here hoping to get along with Brad any more or less than I did last year. He’s the head coach, and I know what’s expected of me. I don’t need him or anyone else to tell me that. My intentions are to do that and help this team win. That doesn’t mean we have to agree on it, though.”
Ironically, Favre probably had a better relationship with Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who had Brett under “football decision” control in his final seasons in Green Bay, than he does Childress.
But the bottom line is that Favre is in Minnesota because most of the players wanted him back. “They want to play with him,” said one team executive. “They believe in him. It’s as simple as that.”
Minnesota at New England, 4:15 p.m. ET
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Brett Favre will be making his 292nd consecutive regular-season start despite a messed up left ankle that has torn ligaments and a fractured bone. Vikings coach Brad Childress wants to make sure, though, that Favre can protect himself on the field. But if Favre struggles early and can’t escape the sacks, Tarvaris Jackson could replace him. Childress, who drafted Jackson, would make that call. However, you can expect a lot of Adrian Peterson, even though the Patriots limited the Chargers to only 38 rushing yards last Sunday.
Patriots CB Devin McCourty will have to stop Vikings WR Randy Moss, who definitely wants to prove that the Pats made a mistake trading him. But is Favre going to have the time to go deep? Short passes to Percy Harvin make more sense. The Patriots might struggle against the inside pressure of Kevin and Pat Williams. New England would like to run with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, but they have struggled converting on short yardage and that has put more pressure on Tom Brady and the passing game. Brady has a lot of great underneath receivers in Wes Welker and Deion Branch, but Brandon Tate hasn’t looked like Moss on deep throws just yet. Vikings CB Antoine Winfield will try to stop Welker at the line of scrimmage.
CZAR’S SCOOP: Patriots coach Bill Belichick always believed that the Vikings were using a little gamesmanship in talking like Tarvaris Jackson could start ahead of an injured Favre. Remember, the story for this game was the return of Randy Moss to New England. Moss, who was fined $25,000 by the league for refusing to be interviewed for two weeks by Minnesota writers and broadcasters, has had a positive impact on young Minnesota receiver Percy Harvin. The Vikings have told Moss that if they don’t give him a new contract — his demand for wanting out of New England — that they won’t place the franchise tag on him, meaning he can be a free agent.
There is no question that New England’s offense is different without Moss stretching the field and opening up coverages underneath. When Moss was with Brady, the quarterback averaged 8.3 yards a pass attempt in 2007, and this year, his average is 6.9 yards.
Childress had to address comments he made earlier about the Patriots stealing signals from the coaching staff to the quarterbacks. “I said what I said. That’s in the past,” Childress said. “We all try to get any tips that we can glean. Stand on the sidelines and I’m sure it’s done throughout the league, and we do it as well. I didn’t mean any offense to any of those people."
Tampa Bay at Arizona, 4:15 p.m. ET
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: With some of Max Hall’s three interceptions coming early in the game, the Cardinals plan to feature RB Beanie Wells — coach Ken Whisenhunt tired of Tim Hightower’s three lost fumbles — against the Bucs’ 31st ranked run defense that is allowing 158 yards a game. Hall really struggled with the wet ball in Seattle last Sunday, but Whisenhunt really likes him over Derek Anderson. The key, though, is that the Cardinals now have a healthy contingent of receivers for the first time since the season opener.
It would be silly not to try to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. Fitzgerald should be lined up against Bucs CB Ronde Barber, and it will be interesting to see how rookie FS Cody Grimm, son of Russ Grimm, does in the deep middle against Breaston and Doucet. This is an important game for the Cardinals, who want to keep pace in the NFC West race, which is wide open. But the Bucs have won twice on the road already. The Cardinals will probably stack the line against Bucs QB Josh Freeman, who has two new offensive line starters in RT James Lee and LG Ted Larsen. With Cadillac Williams struggling, look for LaGarrette Blount, who had 72 yards on 11 carries, plus had a 46-yarder called back against the Rams, getting more carries. If Blount can get to the edge, he’s tough on defensive backs.
CZAR’S SCOOP: The Cardinals finally activated LB Gerald Hayes and rookie LB O’Brien Schofield, their fourth-round pick. Schofield tore his left knee ACL in Senior Bowl practice last January, and this will be his first action since playing for Wisconsin last year. He had 12 sacks for the Badgers. Schofield will wear No. 50. The Cardinals will be wearing black jerseys today, stealing a color scheme from the Bucs.
The Bucs have been very impressive in how they have reduced their mistakes under coach Raheem Morris. In last week’s win over the Rams, the Bucs never made any major mistakes (+6 on the turnover chart) and they were able to hang in there until Josh Freeman pulled out the win in the final seconds. Five of Freeman’s seven wins have been the result of fourth-quarter comebacks. But nobody in the league believes like Morris that the Bucs are the best team in the NFC. They still lack a consistent running game and are also minus a dominant pass rush. It has hurt their defensive line rotation that UCLA rookie Brian Price remains out of the lineup with a pelvis injury.
Seattle at Oakland , 4:15 p.m. ET
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This could be a very fast game because both teams love to run and both use a short-passing attack. Jason Campbell starts again for the Raiders, although coach Tom Cable insists that Bruce Gradkowski remains his starter. Seattle will use its revamped running game against an Oakland defense giving up 139 rushing yards a contest. Running back Marshawn Lynch, an Oakland native, hopes to have a big game.
Defensively, the Seahawks need to figure out a way to bottle up Darren McFadden (5.7 yards a carry) and force Campbell to beat them through the air. The Seahawks, however, are giving up only 77.5 yards a game on the ground, second best in the league. Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha, a three-time Pro Bowler, will cover WR Mike Williams, who leads the Seahawks with 32 catches for 348 yards; 21 of those catches in the past two games. The Seahawks had a season-high nine players listed on the injury report Wednesday. Campbell’s favorite target is TE Zach Miller, who needs one catch for 200 in his career.
CZAR’S SCOOP: Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy has said that the Seahawks, not the Bucs, his former team, or the Giants, are the best team in the NFC right now. Veteran safety Lawyer Milloy said that he was honored that a coach like Dungy said that. “I think he sees our potential,” Milloy said. “I think that’s what he’s saying most of all. I know that he understands it’s a long season, and things happen and things change. But it’s definitely gratifying to hear it coming from somebody like that at this point of the season.” With Oakland WR Louis Murphy out with a bruised lung and Chaz Schillens still out, the Raiders’ receivers accounted for five catches, 76 yards and none of the eight touchdowns in Denver. In Oakland’s offense, the receivers have been little more than clear-out players for Miller and downfield blockers for McFadden and Michael Bush.
Other Sunday games
Tennessee at San Diego: Vince Young returns as the Titans quarterback and WR Kenny Britt, who had seven catches for 225 yards last Sunday, has caught a touchdown pass in five consecutive games. The Chargers have been a turnover machine, and that’s why they are 2-5; that and two horrible games by their special teams. PK Kris Brown, who missed a 50-yarder last week, kicks again for the Chargers. Phillip Rivers remains one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league, but his main receivers, like TE Antonio Gates, are hurting. There’s been a lot of talk that rookie RB Ryan Mathews will get more than his typical 10 carries today. Tennessee stunts a lot along the defensive line, and San Diego’s unit hasn’t been protecting that well.
Pittsburgh at New Orleans: After throwing only 11 interceptions last season, Saints QB Drew Brees already has 10, and he has no more excuses, his left knee is fine. Still, Brees won’t have Reggie Bush or Pierre Thomas for this game. The Steelers rank fourth in total defense, plus they have 14 takeaways in six games. There is good news for Ben Roethlisberger, because the Saints could be minus both cornerbacks, Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer. The Steelers tandem of Mike Wallace and Hines Ward have combined for 704 receiving yards and seven TDs. The Saints had nine defensive touchdowns during their run to 13-0, and this season they have zero. It should be a wild Halloween night in the Big Easy.