Packers-Vikings Preview

At 41, Brett Favre was hoping to play in the Super Bowl this season. Instead, a former team – and the one he’s most synonymous with – has another chance to add more misery to what could be the final season for the future Hall of Famer.

The Green Bay Packers will try to win their fourth straight game and sweep the season series from Favre and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in Minneapolis.

The Packers (6-3) return from their bye week battling Chicago for first place in the NFC North. They had won three straight going into the break, giving up seven points in the last two. On Nov. 7, Green Bay scored 28 second-quarter points en route to a 45-7 rout of Dallas.

That result was particularly impressive given how Green Bay has dealt all season with injuries, placing six starters on injured reserve. Still, the Packers are among the league leaders with 28 sacks while giving up only 16.2 points per game

Defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle) and outside linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) did not practice this week, but could be available Sunday. Matthews is among the league’s leaders with 10 1/2 sacks.

Green Bay’s defense had little trouble getting to Favre on Oct. 24 in the Packers’ 28-24 win that started their current run. Favre was picked off three times and was sacked once, injuring his surgically repaired left ankle.

Favre, who beat Green Bay both times last season, said he hasn’t thought about this possibly being the final time he faces the Packers.

”We can’t be concerned about anything else but winning the football game,” Favre said. ”There’s no time to think about those types of things.”

Favre and the Vikings have had a lot of distractions to deal with recently, from the reacquisition and release of Randy Moss after only four games to questions about coach Brad Childress’ job security to Favre’s health and accusations he sent inappropriate pictures to a former New York Jets game hostess .

Once a trendy pick to raise the Lombardi Trophy, Minnesota (3-6) has found its season rapidly spiral downward. It lost for the third time in four games last Sunday, 27-13 at Chicago.

Favre threw for 170 yards – his second-lowest total of the season – and three interceptions, giving him a league-leading 16. On Monday, a report had Favre planning to undergo an MRI for shoulder pain, but he denied it Wednesday. Childress said it was just normal post-game soreness.

One of Favre’s favorite targets last season, Sidney Rice, has yet to play following offseason hip surgery. He’s been cleared to resume practice but has yet to be removed from the physically unable to perform list. The Vikings said the decision to play is Rice’s and he said this week he hopes to play Sunday.

”This offense has missed him quite a bit – our deep passes, in the red zone,” fellow receiver Percy Harvin said of Rice.

Rice, who set career highs with 83 receptions for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns last season, denied speculation that he was taking his time coming back because of an expiring contract.

”I want to be playing. I want to be out there with my teammates, having fun with those guys,” Rice said. ”It doesn’t always happen like that. But know that I am pushing to be out there.”

Rice’s return is critical since leading receiver Harvin was limited in Wednesday’s practice, though he said prior to the workout his left ankle is "doing a lot better.” Bernard Berrian (groin) didn’t practice at all.

With the Vikings’ season all but officially lost, Childress said he hasn’t seen players giving up and the team agreed.

"It’s not like we’re not playing. We’re playing hard," cornerback Lito Sheppard said. "It’s not even about the coaches. Each individual in here has a job to do and is going to be held accountable regardless of if the coach is here or not. We understand that.”