For a moment, let's forget about Brett Favre's troubles off the field. It's his elbow that has the Minnesota Vikings concerned this week -- enough that backup Tarvaris Jackson is readying himself in case the team's No. 1 quarterback can't play Sunday at home against the Dallas Cowboys.
If Favre sits, it will mark the first time in a record 289 regular-season starts that he's unable to play. His elbow tendinitis is worse than ever, and you could almost feel his pain Monday night every time he grabbed his elbow in Minnesota's 29-20 loss to the New York Jets.
"This is probably the worst it's felt after four games," Favre said afterward. "I missed some throws the last drive I make in my sleep. I'm not going to make excuses. I have a little bit of tendinitis in it. But I also made some good throws, so I'm not going to say tendinitis caused me to miss throws."
If Favre is forced to sit for any length of time, it might not matter that the Vikings have a new deep threat in Randy Moss in their lineup. And a loss to the Cowboys would drop them to 1-4, making their hopes of winning the NFC North extremely difficult.
So Vikings coach Brad Childress is making sure that Jackson is prepared, just in case. Childress acknowledged that Favre missed some throws he usually makes, but he also threw for 264 yards and three second-half touchdowns, including a 37-yarder to Moss that was vintage Favre.
Still, the man turned 41 years old on Sunday, and anyone who has reached middle age knows that aches and pains are difficult to overcome the older you get. So it's understandable that Jackson is waiting in the wings.
"All those guys are prepared every week," Childress said. "Tarvaris … took way more practice snaps than anybody imagines a No. 2 (quarterback) would take. It's just kind of how we're set up here. He's got a pretty good pulse on the game plan. He gets a pretty good variety of throws and knows what's going on."
It would help if the Vikings knew what was going on with Favre, both on and off the field. But they don't, and that's why their season hangs in the balance in October.