If not for the pathetic state of the NFC North union, today's game between the 1-4 Vikings and 1-4 Packers would be little more than "get it done" regional telecast that would be available to virtually nobody in 48 states other than those transplants with Direct TV and hard-core fantasy footballers with a vested interest.
Instead, today's game has a big impact for the winner and a near-toll of death for the loser. While 7-9 could legitimately win the division, one team is going to go 5-1 or 4-2 within the division. To that team will go the challenge of playing an 11-5 wild card team as a home dog. While the Vikings and Packers are currently the divisional bottom feeders, few people believe the Bears or Lions can hold up over a 16-week schedule with pedestrian quarterbacks. Most NFL analysts still believe the lone NFC North representative will be the Vikings or the Packers. Today's winner takes a big step to make that belief reality.
Most of those same analysts – ranging from a national panel of the most respected pro publications to the local Twin Cities media – are predicting a Packers win, to the winner goes the chance to be in first place in the division. As impossible as it may seem, a one-game winning streak is momentum in the NFC North.
The controversy around the Vikings isn't going away. But, with a win today, it will give fans something else to talk about. A loss? The word "exponential" comes into play – and rightfully so.
* The trade for guard Toniu Fonoti is not being viewed as a short-term fix at guard. VU has been told that, if the team can lock up Fonoti, that rookie guard Marcus Johnson could be moved to right tackle on a permanent basis.
* In his last five games vs. the Packers, Daunte Culpepper has 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.
* The last time both the Vikings and Packers started a season this poorly was in 1991 – the last team neither team made the playoffs.
* Packers RB Ahman Green hasn't rushed for more than 58 yards in a game this season.
* The Packers, despite their 1-4 record, have the 10th-rated defense in the NFL. The team is 10th vs. the run and 11th vs. the pass. The Vikings defense is last vs. the run and eighth vs. the pass for an overall ranking of No. 23. Offensively, the Packers are 28th rushing, 10th passing and 21st overall. The Vikings are 27th rushing, 13th passing and 24th overall.
* Fans of football history will likely have to wait until next week for Packers QB Brett Favre to set another personal milestone. Heading into today's game, Favre trails John Elway by 485 yards for second place on the all-time passing yardage list. Elway currently trails only Dan Marino for second place with 51,475 yards.
* Coming out of the bye week, the Packers have won their last four games – three vs. the Vikings – and eight of their last nine.
* The Vikings are at minus-7 in the giveaway/takeaway stats – tied for fourth-worst in the league.
* The Packers have averaged 25 points a game this year. The Vikings are averaging 13.5 points.
* The Vikings have allowed their opponents more than twice as many points (135) than they have scored (67).
* The Packers are 0-2 on the road this season, while the Vikings are 1-1 at the Metrodome.
* As if the Vikings boat scandal couldn't get worse, the FBI has become involved. Because allegations have stated that strippers/escorts/prostitutes were flown in from Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, FBI officials are looking into the potential of a sex-for-hire ring that caters to professional athletes.
* A pre-trial court hearing for Kevin Williams on allegations of domestic abuse is scheduled for Monday. Williams pleaded not guilty to the charges at his initial hearing.
* The Vikings signed defensive end Earl Cochran to the practice squad to CB Ukee Dozier – cut earlier this week.
* With a win over hapless Houston, former Vikings defensive coordinator Tony Dungy will remain the only undefeated NFL coach and earn his 100th career win as a head coach.
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