Minnesota Vikings (1-2) at New York Jets (3-1)
Wide receiver Randy Moss made it clear Thursday he is happy to be back in Minnesota after a five-year absence.
Moss, obtained by the Vikings from New England for a third-round pick in the 2011 draft on Wednesday, called Minnesota home on more than one occasion during what amounted to a re-introductory news conference and expressed optimism about getting to play with Brett Favre.
"It kind of feels weird that I was just in New England, trying to make things happen and overnight just get traded back home," Moss said. "I thought about this, time and time again, about how this thing was going to play out. And it was the love for me still here in Minnesota. All I've been seeing is nothing but positive. To all the Vikings' fans that's coming to that Metrodome, pull your 84 jerseys out, man. I think this is going to be a fun ride."
It will be a fun ride assuming things go the way Moss and his new team hope they do. That means Favre and Moss hooking up frequently on passes and the Vikings winning games.
Failure for any of this to happen means things could turn south very quickly for the volatile Moss.
Favre to Moss on Monday?
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
"Knowing that I'm a little older, knowing that he's older, I know we don't have that far of a window. The opportunity is closing. We just have to take it one game at a time, one practice at a time. I know I'm coming in a little late. Hopefully, get our timing down and carry it on into the games."
Said Favre: "Who would have ever thunk it? But this game you never know. I can attest to that. We're happy to have him, no guarantees. You still have to do the things that are expected of you. I thought it was just an average practice on our part offensively (Thursday). As I've been saying it's a work in progress. He obviously brings a different dimension to any team. ... We're happy to have him."
Matchups to watch
Vikings CB Cedric Griffin, who returned from an ACL injury in Week 3, vs. Jets WRs Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. Holmes is returning from a suspension and Edwards, who has had his off-the-field problems this season, leads Jets wide receivers with 12 receptions for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Both figure to be an interesting test for Griffin, who played well against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 26 and did not miss a snap. It would be expected that Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will go at Griffin a few times just to test him. Sanchez also could try to test rookie Chris Cook, who plays the left corner in nickel situations when veteran Antoine Winfield slides inside.
Vikings RT Phil Loadholt, who has struggled at times this season in pass protection, vs. Jets DLE Shaun Ellis, who leads the Jets with three sacks. Loadholt appears to be a bit shaky early in the season and the Jets pass rush will try to take advantage of any weakness it can find. Ellis figures to provide pressure from the left side but the 3-4 defense means the pursuit of Favre also could come from linebackers Bryan Thomas or Bart Scott to name two. Loadholt will have his hands full and it wouldn't be surprising if the Vikings try to get him some chip help from a tight end or running back.
Chicago Bears (3-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-4)
Even though quarterback Jay Cutler's concussion is only expected to keep him out for one week, the Bears have to hope that backup Todd Collins, 38, can recapture the magic he flashed the last time he rode to the rescue of an injured starter.
Near the end of the 2007 season, the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Collins took over for Jason Campbell and led the Redskins to four straight victories and a spot in the playoffs. After Campbell suffered a season-ending knee injury in a Week 14 game at FedEx Field against the Bears, Collins relieved and completed 15 of 20 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in a 24-16 Washington victory.
Jim Luzzi/Getty Images
Starting and winning the final three games in '07, Collins compiled a 106.4 passer rating, throwing five touchdown passes and no interceptions. Amazingly, those final three starts in the 2007 regular season were the first for Collins in 10 years, but he says he can benefit from that experience as he prepares for Sunday's game against the Panthers in Charlotte.
"It helps," he said. "I've been around for a while. It's a team game, but I look forward to going out there and doing my part and contributing to a victory."
In between his three starts in 2007 with the Redskins and 13 starts in 1997 with the Buffalo Bills, Collins threw a total of just 27 passes in nine seasons. In five of those seasons, he didn't throw a single pass in a game.
"It's pretty tough," the 38-year-old Collins said. "There have been some long stretches being the backup guy when I didn't get a chance. You've just got to stay consistent and disciplined in your preparation year to year and week to week because, when you get a call like this, you can't let your skills diminish or not stay up with the game plan every week."
Despite Collins' late-season heroics in 2007, the starting job went back to Campbell the following season. Collins didn't see any game action in '08 but played in three games for the Redskins last season, completing 12 of 23 passes for 144 yards and a passer rating of 71.6. After relieving Cutler last week at halftime, Collins completed 4 of 11 passes for 36 yards and an interception before he was knocked from the game with a neck stinger.
"I played poorly, and we lost the game," said Collins who finished the night with an 8.1 passer rating. Caleb Hanie finished up for the Bears, completing 3 of 4 passes for 36 yards.
Hanie is in his third season with the Bears. Collins wasn't signed until Aug. 23, as insurance after Hanie suffered a sprained right shoulder in the preseason opener. Bears coaches believe that Collins' NFL game experience, even though it's been spread out over 16 years, gives him an edge over Hanie as the starter.
"Todd is a guy that has played a great deal and won," offensive coordinator Mike Martz said, "and played exceptionally well this summer. We know what he is. He demonstrated in the preseason that he could play at a high level. It's just a question of getting him a little bit more familiar."
With Cutler out, Hanie is, at least for a week, back to second on the depth chart but, barring any additional injuries or a setback for Cutler, he'll be back in the three-hole next week.
"Caleb easily could be No. 2 right now," Martz said. "But because of the experience and being in this competitive situation and knowing how to respond, and managing the game, these are going to be things that are all a little bit new for Caleb, all right? We know, at least I feel good about Todd in those pressure situations. And we anticipate him managing the game very well. That's why he is the No. 2 and that's just kind of how we feel about them."
Matchups to watch
Bears DRE Julius Peppers, who returns home to North Carolina, where he was born, raised, attended high school and college and was the first-round draft pick of the Panthers back in 2002, vs. Panthers standout LT Jordan Gross and RT Geoff Schwartz. The Bears are expected to move Peppers around, allowing him to match up with Gross and Schwarz, who is expected to fill in again for injured starter Jeff Otah (knee).
Bears MLB Brian Urlacher, who leads the team with seven tackles for loss and has forced a fumble and recovered two, vs. Panthers RBs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, who are off to slow starts this season.
St. Louis Rams (2-2) at Detroit Lions (0-4)
The Lions could not stop John Kuhn, a converted fullback, with the game on the line last Sunday in Green Bay. Before that, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson gashed them for 160 yards rushing. The Eagles' LeSean McCoy ran for 120. And in Week 1, the Bears' Matt Forte amassed 201 total yards.
Next is St. Louis and two-time Pro Bowl back Steven Jackson. All he did last year against the Lions was rumble for 149 yards, helping the Rams to a 17-10 win.
Steven Jackson vs. the Lions.
G Newman Lowrance/Getty Images
The plan is very simple: contain Jackson and make rookie quarterback Sam Bradford beat them. But the Lions don't exactly discourage the run. They are 26th in the league, allowing 134.5 per game.
"Steven Jackson is going to stress all 11 players on defense; he's that kind of guy," Schwartz said. "He can get on the edge, and the corners need to tackle him. He's inside with the safeties and linebackers and defensive linemen, too. It's going to take all 11."
Still, a lot of the Lions' problems against the run start with the inconsistent play of the linebackers. Starting middle linebacker DeAndre Levy has played one game due to groin and ankle injuries. He's not likely to play again until after the bye week Oct. 24. Zack Follett, a first-year starter, missed one week with a concussion and has been inconsistent. Landon Johnson spent all training camp working at outside linebacker, but he's been pressed into duty in the middle.
The only constant has been 32-year-old Julian Peterson, though he's being asked to rush the quarterback less and play more in coverage, something he's not done much in his career.
"I thought they played OK last week; good enough to win," defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. "But we've had some issues the last couple of days. We usually have a half-hour walk-through (practice), and I jacked that up to 45 minutes. The next one will be at 5 a.m. if we don't start understanding exactly what we have to do."
When asked to elaborate, he said, "Are there reasons for the mistakes? Yeah. Some guys don't know the schemes yet because they just got here a couple of months ago. And we've got injury problems. But like I said, they don't ask about injuries after games. They only want to know if you've won or lost."
Nothing good can happen for the Lions this week if they don't contain Jackson.
Matchups to watch
Lions RB Jahvid Best vs. Rams MLB James Laurinaitis. The last two defenses have been ultra aware of Best, particular on screen plays. Laurinaitis is phenomenally active. He has been on the field for every defensive snap the last three weeks, leads the team with 32 tackles and has two pass deflections.
Lions WR Calvin Johnson vs. Rams FS Oshiomogho Atogwe. The Lions learned last week that they can indeed get something positive out of throwing the ball to Johnson despite double-coverage. They will need to do it again. They have to at least threaten to stretch defenses vertically.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.