Vikings, Packers Ready to Roll

The Vikings and Packers renew one of the game's best rivalries tomorrow with one of two things -- the unofficial coronation of the Vikings as the new king of the NFC North or the resurrection of a Packers team left for dead a month ago.

Define a rivalry.

It must include two teams with passionate fans, long histories and players that mark an era. As the Vikings and Packers square off for the 86th time Sunday, tradition will take on its next chapter and the NFL's best rivalry will continue.

In the 85 games played between the Vikings and Packers, each team has won 42 times, with one game finishing in a tie. Each of the last three years, the Packers have won the NFC Central/North title. Each of those years, one of their losses has come against the Vikings. The last time the Vikings won the division title was in 2000. That year they lost both games to the Packers, who missed the playoffs. If the Vikings win either of those games, the NFC Championship Game is played in the Metrodome – and who knows how history might have changed.

While most of the talk this week has centered on the lack of Randy Moss, the key to Sunday's game is the rivalry. Home field doesn't matter. Bye weeks don't matter. It's the Vikings and the Packers. That's enough.

* The Vikes had hoped not to see Packers safety Darren Sharper Sunday. But he's practiced the last two days and is likely to play.
* Rookie RB Mewelde is all but assured of being deactivated Sunday.
* Former Viking Nick Rogers, now a linebacker for the Packers, is also likely to be deactivated.
* NFL fine czar Gene Washington handed down $5,000 penalties on Lance Johnstone and Brian Williams. While Johnstone has little defense for his WCW Dusty Rhodes bulldog move on Peyton Manning, Williams was tapped 5-large for a facemask penalty on the Colts' Reggie Wayne. Apparently Washington has forgotten how quick the NFL game is and that, when a player grabs a face mask, there's rarely bad intent. Then again, Gene may have worn a single crossbar mask "in the day."
* From the VU Ministry of Stupidity comes this: Why do they call him Bubba? Daniel Lamont Franks, a tight end for the Packers, was questioned by beat writers for the regional media about the Packers coming from behind on the Vikings. His quote? "Minnesota is doing the same thing they're [sic] doing every year." For a guy with 17 receptions, that's some pretty tough talk.
* From Linebacker Central, the juggling act continues. Chris Claiborne practiced Friday without setback and appears set to start Sunday. On the flip side of that coin, Raonall Smith's visit to Pittsburgh came back with bad results as it pertains to his multiple concussions. The injury was described as "severe" by the doctor who checked him out and, not only is Smith ruled out for Sunday's game, but for next week vs. the Lions. After that game, he will go back to Pittsburgh for a follow-up consultation before being cleared to play.
* In their last three games, the Packers have outscored their opponents by a scary margin of 107-44.
* The Vikings are No.1 in total yards on offense, while the Packers are No. 4. Both have earned their salt passing – the Vikings are No. 2 in passing yards, while Brett Favre and his caddies are No. 3.
* Those numbers contrast less favorably on the defensive side – where the Vikings are ranked 29th overall in total defense and the Packers rank 17th.
* Favre has only been sacked five times this year – tied for the least of any regular starting QB. Daunte Culpepper has been has been sacked 20 times – which ties for 21st in the NFL.
* Favre has nine interceptions this season, which ranks him 27th in the league in that category.

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