Minnesota Vikings (2-4) at New England Patriots (5-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
VENUE: Gillette Stadium
TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
PREDICTION: Patriots 33-23
KEYS TO THE GAME: Randy Moss returns to New England less than four weeks after he was shipped out of town. His arrival in Minnesota has coincided with Percy Harvin becoming a bigger weapon in the slot and with the ball in his hand out of the backfield. But the big question is the availability of QB Brett Favre. If he plays on his injured ankle, he doesn't have much mobility to lose, and the Patriots have a young and vulnerable secondary. If he gives way to Tarvaris Jackson, busted plays and big runs are a factor New England must account for. Minus Moss, Patriots QB Tom Brady is relying on a bevy of possession receivers in the absence of a strong running game. That plays in New England's favor because Minnesota lacks quality depth in the secondary.
FAST FACTS: Harvin has five touchdowns in his past four games. ... Brady has won 23 consecutive regular-season home games as a starter. The NFL record is 25 by Brett Favre and John Elway.
Brett Favre missed practice for a second consecutive day on Thursday, but the quarterback remained optimistic that he would be able to play on Sunday at New England.
That would be no small feat considering Favre suffered a stress fracture in his left ankle and an "avulsion" fracture in his left heel in Sunday's loss at Green Bay.
Favre, 41, was wearing a walking boot on Wednesday as he addressed the media, but on Thursday he had gotten rid of the boot and had a wrap around the ankle area.
Asked if he thought he would be able to do some work in Friday's practice, Favre said: "I wouldn't put anything past me to be honest with you."
Coach Brad Childress has made it clear he needs to see that Favre would have some mobility if he's going to be allowed to extend his NFL record for consecutive regular-season games started to 292.
"We'll see," Childress said when asked if Favre needed to do some work on Friday. "He's been a little better every day. Whether it's good enough to play in an NFL football game remains to be seen. I'm just taking it a day at a time. That's all we can take it."
Part of Favre's plan is to wear a size-15 inch shoe on his left foot if he does play. He ordinarily wears a size-14. Favre wanted to give that a test on Thursday to see how it would feel. The Vikings athletic training staff would put a splint or some type of protection in the shoe as well.
As far as talking to Childress in the past day to make a determination about playing, Favre said: "We haven't talked really. I've been getting treatment. I don't think that is an unusual thing with me (to not have discussed it yet)."
For the first time in three years, Tom Brady will openly root against Randy Moss on Sunday when the Patriots host Minnesota at Gillette Stadium. Formerly Brady's No. 1 target, Moss is now a member of the Vikings after New England traded him back to the team that originally drafted him in 1998.
"I'm glad I don't have to defend him," Brady said. "I'm sure he'll want to come out and have a great game against us. It's a very talented team that we're playing. They have guys at each position that are all exceptional players -- offense, defense, special teams. It's a very talented team -- very similar to last week in San Diego in that they certainly have a ton of talent and could very easily be 6-0 as well.
"It's going to be a challenging week for all of us, especially defensively, defending all the things they have to defend over there."
Moss' motivation is simple -- revenge. As for the Patriots, they're in particularly good spirits returning home following a trip to San Diego in which they won despite not playing their best football. The challenge against Minnesota is to avoid the proverbial letdown (the Vikings are just 2-4) and avoid getting sucked into the weekly Brett Favre soap opera.
"We don't get away with much," Brady said. "(Head coach Bill Belichick) holds us to a pretty high standard, and I think by the film session we watched (Tuesday), in regards to our game against San Diego, you wouldn't have thought we had won that game by his coaching.
"He's trying to make sure we know exactly what the truth is. We have to play a lot better than we played last week on offense. We're going to have to go out and have a great week of practice. This defense presents some different challenges than the defense we faced, but that doesn't stop us from what we need to do execution wise. As a group, we've got to go out and do a better job."
The Vikings might be a bit desperate Sunday, but, according to Brady, so are the Patriots. They're still chasing the New York Jets, who are also 5-1 and have already beaten New England, so every game is equally important to them, too.
"They're trying to win every game anyway," Brady said of the Vikings. "I don't think it's, 'We're going to put a lot into it this week.' I mean, they've been trying to win all season. I'm sure they're not off to the start that they want, but there's still a lot of football left.
"You can always turn things around. You start getting hot at the right time; that's what it takes. We were 5-5 at one point and won the Super Bowl. You have to think that every team is still in it. There's no team that's eliminated with a team as talented as this. They're going to be in it. I know that."
--G Steve Hutchinson (quadriceps) returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after sitting out Wednesday.
--OL Chris DeGeare (ankle) was limited for a second consecutive practice on Thursday.
--DT Letroy Guion (hamstring) was limited for a second consecutive practice on Thursday.
--CB Lito Sheppard (hand) was limited for a second consecutive practice on Thursday.
--C John Sullivan (calf) was limited for a second consecutive practice on Thursday.
--NT Pat Williams (quadriceps) was limited for a second consecutive practice on Thursday.
--SS Husain Abdullah (concussion) took part in all of practice on Wednesday and Thursday and will return to his starting role Sunday after sitting out against Green Bay.
--CB Chris Cook (knee) took part in all of Wednesday and Thursday's practice and will play Sunday.
--S Patrick Chung returned to practice Thursday and should be ready to play Sunday after injuring his knee in the first half of last week's win in San Diego. Chung left that game and did not return.
--NT Vince Wilfork also returned to practice Thursday following a non-injury related absence Wednesday. Wilfork will be ready to play Sunday.
--RB Fred Taylor missed practice again Thursday as he continues to battle a toe injury and will likely be out of the lineup Sunday against Minnesota. This would be Taylor's third consecutive missed game.
--WR Matthew Slater suffered an ankle injury last weekend and missed practice Thursday, leaving his status for Sunday in doubt.
--DT Mike Wright missed practice Thursday for the first time this week, though there's no timetable on his return, or if his absence is injury-related.
By the numbers: Vikings-Patriots
Sunday slant: Tensions turned up
Key matchup: The coaches and Moss
Vikings prepare for a rare ‘true' 3-4
Preview: Patriots deep, but not overwhelming
Vikings bragging up Brady
Moss 360: Moss isn't talking, others are
Belichick tries to bore down the storylines
Patriots - Vikings: Game Plans & Matchups
Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots-Vikings Part 2
Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots-Vikings Part 1
Patriots Quietly Sneaking Up On Teams
Notebook: Signal-stealing remarks brushed off
Childress Raises The Signal Stealing Issue
Room For Improvement