The Vikings have gone from fading to being right back in the thick of things in the mediocre NFC North.
A 24-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday put the Vikings (2-3) a half-game behind Green Bay (3-3) and a game and a half behind Chicago (4-2) entering next Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. Both the Bears and Packers lost this past Sunday.
"I don't think we're as good right now as we'll be four weeks from now," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "I've said that. There's no substitute for playing together and competing together and grinding together. Then you come out in that mix. We're just past the quarter pole here. My big charge with these guys is just make sure you don't get mentally ill (by getting down.) A win will help that a lot."
A victory over the injury-riddled Packers would be huge for a Vikings team that is in the midst of a difficult four-game stretch this month. They lost to the Jets on Oct. 11 and will finish the month by playing Oct. 31 at New England.
Beating Green Bay not would only assure the Vikings of a .500 record in the month but also give them division victories over Detroit and Green Bay.
"I think the NFC North is always wide open," Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "Every team is good and it is always a battle until the end. ... We're going to fight until we get to the top."
There will be no lack of story lines with this game considering that it will feature Brett Favre's second return to Lambeau Field as a member of the Vikings.
Favre was spectacular last season in his first game against his longtime team, throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38-26 victory on Nov. 1. That gave the Vikings a sweep of the season series against the Packers.
That also happens to be the last time the Vikings won on the road. They have lost six in a row on the road since that time, including losses this year at New Orleans and against the Jets at the New Meadowlands.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield said he was aware of what happened in the division Sunday with the Bears and Packers falling.
"Trust me, we had our eyes on those games, too," he said. "We check the scores when they flash up in the stadium. It was out of our control. There was no way that I thought we could have fought for this division if we had fallen to 1-4."
Lineup watch: Jamarca Sanford, a seventh-round pick in 2009 by the Vikings, replaced Husain Abdullah at strong safety in the first half Sunday after Abdullah suffered a concussion. There is a chance Sanford will end up starting again against Green Bay if Abdullah has not fully recovered.
By the numbers: E.J. Henderson became only the 10th linebacker in Vikings history to intercept two passes in a game when he did it against the Cowboys. He is the first Vikings linebacker to do it since Chad Greenway had two picks against Detroit on Sept. 20, 2009. The record for a Vikings linebacker in one game is three, set by Jack Del Rio on Dec. 5, 1993 at Detroit and by Roy Winston on Oct. 25, 1964 at San Francisco.
— Favre was expected to meet with NFL vice president of security Milt Ahlerich on Tuesday in the Twin Cities to discuss allegations that the quarterback sent inappropriate pictures and messages to former Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger when he played for that team in 2008.
— FB Naufahu Tahi was a healthy scratch Sunday against Dallas for the first time since the 2007 season. Tahi was inactive because the Vikings wanted to use more double-tight end packages to help block the Cowboys' 3-4 defense.
— CB Chris Cook sat out a second consecutive game Sunday because of a knee injury, but the Vikings are hoping he can return this coming weekend at Green Bay. Cook likely will take over as the Vikings' starting right corner when he does come back.
— DT Jimmy Kennedy was a surprise healthy inactive on Sunday. Kennedy missed the first two games of the season because of a knee injury but had been active since that time.
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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.