The Packers have proved they can put points on the board early, but they have struggled to keep a lead. The Vikings have struggled out of gate, making it an interesting early-game storyline.
Of the keys that are going to be dissected in the hours leading up to the Packers game, one thing may go largely unnoticed but may be the biggest trend of both teams and could go a long way to deciding who wins and who loses on Sunday night.
It all has to do with how the two teams start and how they finish. The Packers have been notoriously strong starters. They have outscored their opponents 44-10 in the first quarter – scoring eight times on five touchdowns and three field goals, while allowing just one touchdown and one field goal defensively.
The Vikings have been notoriously slow starters. In five games, they have been outscored 31-14 – allowing four touchdowns and a field goal in the first quarter, while scoring just two touchdowns. The Vikings have been behind at some point in every game they've played and most of that can be attributed to allowing early points.
While the Packers have been fast starters, they have been hideous finishers. Through three quarters, they have outscored their opponents 125-60 – more than double the amount of points they have allowed. From the start of the fourth quarter on, they have been outscored 52-24 –more than a 2:1 ratio.
Need an explanation why the Packers are 3-3? Look no farther. Simply stated, if the Vikings can weather the storm early, or not allow the Packers to continue their trend of popping points on the scoreboard early, Green Bay is likely to collapse late. Trends are trends because they are recurring. If the Packers are to lose, would it be a shock if the Vikings won by three points? All three of Green Bay's losses have come by three points.
If the Vikings are to win Sunday, they will need to end their trend of slow offensive starts. The Packers have made it clear that those who struggle out of the gate find themselves in a hole – a significant hole. If the Vikings can come out of the gate hot and keep the game even through three, the Packers will find a way to lose in the fourth. The trends say so.
Husain Abdullah has been ruled out of Sunday's game due to lingering effects from a concussion sustained early in last week's game with Dallas. Former starter Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford will take his place.
Center John Sullivan is listed as probable. Brad Childress said Friday that Sullivan will "most probably" start and may be spelled periodically by backup Jon Cooper. Translation? If Sully plays well early, he stays in. If he doesn't, Coop gets his helmet.
Chris Cook and Lito Sheppard have apparently traded places. Cook is probable with a knee injury, while Sheppard is questionable with a hand injury.
In other injury -report news, guard Chris DeGeare (ankle) is listed as questionable. Nine players are listed as probable. Aside from Chris Cook and Sullivan, the list includes Brett Favre (ankle/right elbow), Percy Harvin (hamstring), E.J. Henderson (knee), Jim Kleinsasser (groin), Brian Robison (ankle), Ryan Cook (wrist) and Letroy Guion (toe).
On the final Packers injury report, guard Marshall Newhouse (back) is doubtful, and four players are listed as questionable – LB Clay Matthews (hamstring/will play), DE Ryan Pickett (ankle/will play), guard Mark Tauscher (shoulder/may not play) and LB Brandon Chillar (shoulder/will play sparingly).
The NFL fine cops hit Ray Edwards with a $20,000 fine for a spearing penalty on Cowboys running back Marion Barber. It increases Edwards' fine total for the year to $32,500.
On Thursday, a day before the NFL came down with the latest fine, Edwards was asked about the revamping of rules to punish defenders who make "devastating" hits. Edwards may have known another fine was coming, because he was never mentioned among those who were highlighted on Sunday.
"It is what it is," Edwards said. "It's the rules. There ain't nothing you can really do about that. Maybe you can just get guys by the jersey and sling him down that way. But, if you sling him down too hard, you might get fined."
It may seem like fine prices are going up. Jared Allen was fined $50,000 for two knee shots on Houston QB Matt Schaub and summoned to New York.
Considering Edwards was a victim of the new rules of free agency by the collapse of the existing collective bargaining agreement, you would think the league would give him some slack on his fines, seeing as he accepted a low-ball, one-year contract from the Vikings. Had the CBA still been in place, Edwards would have a contract with eight figures guaranteed. He doesn't.
Apparently, the NFL's investigation of Brett Favre is going to be on hold until it can get evidence that the messages allegedly sent from Favre to Jenn Sterger are produced.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.