"You always have to be ready for Green Bay," says Vikings safety Orlando Thomas. "They ain't nothing but two miles away (actually, they're 279 miles apart)! We're going to be feuding on the field. It's always fun."
The game features the NFC's No. 2 passing offense (272.6), led by Packers quarterback BRETT FAVRE, against the conference's No. 3 passing "O" (253.0), led by Vikings QB DAUNTE CULPEPPER.
Favre is enjoying one of his best seasons ever. His passer rating (102.9), completion percentage (68.3) and passing yards (1,399 projected to 4,477) would all be career bests if he were to finish the season at his current pace. Favre's most impressive performance of the year came just last week when he and the Packers lit up the Baltimore Ravens, a team some observers claim boasts the best defense in NFL history, for 31 points.
"When you see him in person, it's kind of like Michael Jordan," says Baltimore tight end SHANNON SHARPE. "He's as good as I've seen at that position in my 12 years in the league."
But Favre cannot do it all by himself. He has an impressive supporting cast -- in particular, running back AHMAN GREEN, who has elevated his game to become one of the most versatile backs in the NFL along with St. Louis' MARSHALL FAULK and Indianapolis' EDGERRIN JAMES. Green ranks second in the league with 647 yards from scrimmage, leads the NFC with 439 rushing yards, and ranks second in the NFC among RBs with a team-leading 24 receptions. His three rushing touchdowns tie for second in the conference.
The man who leads the conference in rushing touchdowns? The Vikings' Culpepper, who has run in four as well as thrown for six. Culpepper has not been daunted in his past two games, connecting on 43 of 61 attempts for a 70.5 completion percentage. He has also thrown for 576 yards, three touchdowns and only two interceptions for a 102.9 passer rating in his past two games. But it's Culpepper's running ability that makes him extra dangerous to defenses.
"I always like my chances of running when there is a defensive back out there," says Culpepper, who rushed for a ho-hum 83 yards and two TDs, including one from seven yards out and another from 33, in the Vikings' 31-26 win over Detroit last week. "I'm trying to get a first down. I am trying not to get stopped. That is the attitude you have to have."
Minnesota wide receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss have come alive recently as well. The two had been relatively quiet this year, but have made an impact in recent weeks. Carter had eight catches for 111 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown, against the Lions. He raised his season numbers to a team-leading 23 catches and three receiving TDs. Moss leads the club with 321 receiving yards on 21 catches.
And don't forget about the tight ends in this game. The position is vital to the success of these teams' offenses. Both clubs possess players who are among the best in the league at the position. Green Bay's second-year TE, Bubba Franks, ties for second in the NFL with five receiving TDs. Minnesota's six-year veteran BYRON Chamberlain, acquired via free agency from Denver this past offseason, leads all NFC TEs with 289 receiving yards, and ranks second among the group with 20 catches.
Says Vikings veteran Carter of Sunday's matchup, "Packers-Vikes is always a big game."