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10 questions that need to be answered regarding Favre and the Vikings

Vikings coach Brad Childress and quarterback Brett Favre will meet the media on Wednesday.  They’ll likely be asked a question or two, and they’ll likely offer up at least a semi-plausible answer to each one.

Here are 10 of the questions that we think need to be asked, regardless of whether all we get is a semi-plausible answer, or worse.

1.  When will Favre take the field for the first time?

Few expected Favre to show up in time to take the trip to San Francisco for a Sunday night preseason game against the 49ers. 

Will he travel with the team to California? 

Will he take a few snaps against a 49ers team that probably would like to snap that bum ankle in order to improve its chances of qualifying for — and advancing in — the 2010 postseason?

2.  Will Favre’s contract be adjusted?

A member of the media has reminded us of this quote from Gordon Gekko:  “It’s all about bucks, kid.  The rest is conversation.” 

At this point, it’s widely believed that the Vikings will give Favre a hefty raise.  It’s also believed that Favre will “aw, shucks” his way through a monologue regarding how it’s not about the money.

If that’s the case, someone should ask him to declare that he’ll take nothing more than the $13 million he already is due to earn.

3.  Are we really supposed to believe that a supposedly impromptu visit from three teammates prompted Favre to make up his mind on the spot?

The actual answer to this one is meaningless.  It’ll just be interesting to see Childress and/or Favre try to offer an explanation that passes the smell test.

4.  What did Dr. Andrews say last week about the ankle?

Favre’s ankle supposedly wasn’t recovering quickly enough.  Last week, he visited with Dr. James Andrews.  In the aftermath of the visit, no details have emerged regarding the condition of the joint.  

So what did Andrews say to Favre about the ankle?  Is it  all of a sudden at 100 percent?  Is it less than 100 percent?  Will it improve or has it reached its ceiling?

5.  What other injuries does Favre currently claim to have?

Last year, Favre talked openly (and repeatedly) about a laundry list of ailments and maladies.  The exercise eventually forced the NFL to fine the Jets for failing to report the partially torn biceps tendon that he suffered during the 2008 season.

And it all became so ridiculous that we eventually added extra body parts (including “taint”) to the list of Favre’s supposedly injuries, along with a trio of illnesses — polio, swine flu, and lupus.

Beyond the ankle, he’ll surely point to some other injured area, if for no reason other than to have a built-in excuse in the event he throws five interceptions against the Saints on September 9.

6.  Is the double standard that applies to Favre hurting the team?

Jimmy Johnson of FOX had some pointed remarks regarding the Vikings’ approach to Favre during Wednesday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show.  (More on that later.)  While we don’t expect Childress or Favre to say anything insightful or, you know, truthful on that point, it’s a fair question that needs to be posed to anyone and everyone in the organization.

The Vikings have been bending over backwards for Brett, and it possibly has created a sense in the locker room that other players deserve similar consideration.  Some think that receiver Sidney Rice has been milking a hip injury; others think that receiver Percy Harvin made the very most out of his most recent bout with migraines.  And don’t forget about running back Adrian Peterson’s bizarre decision to skip a mandatory minicamp so that he could attend a parade in his hometown.  Could the treatment of Favre be emboldening them?  

The 2009 Vikings by all appearances sold their souls for the possibility of getting back to the Super Bowl, and they seem to be willing to do it again, even as they deal with the possible aftermath of the first season with Favre in the fold. 

7.  Will the Vikings keep Sage Rosenfels?

It’s an issue that we’ve addressed in today’s edition of PFT Daily, which will be posted soon.  (We suspect that you’re holding your breath, and possibly other bodily functions.)

Though we doubt that Childress will be providing a straight answer to the question, it remains a highly relevant question to the make up of the 2010 edition of the team.

8.  Will the Vikings be as good in 2010 with Favre as they were in 2009?

This is a question that no one will be able to answer until the regular season begins to unfold.  But it likely will be very difficult for the Vikings to match or improve on their 12-4 mark from a season ago.

For starters, they’ll play the teams of the NFC East this year, not the NFC West.  Also, the Vikings have to face every team from a top-heavy AFC East, including trips to Foxborough and the new Meadowlands Stadium.

The team’s 13 opponents (they play three teams twice, obviously) will have had an entire offseason to study the film from Favre’s first year in purple for any and all tendencies and tells.  We also have a feeling that every defensive coordinator will try to replicate the “remember me” shots the Saints applied to No. 4 in the NFC title game — and that the Saints likely will try to reprise on September 9.

While much of the roster has remained in place, the departure of underrated third-down back Chester Taylor and primary offensive line backup Artis Hicks could present real challenges for an attack that produced career-high statistics for Favre.  Meanwhile, tailback Adrian Peterson will continue to be a pin cushion for pulling and punching and poking and prodding every time he tries to put the football under wraps. 

On defense, everyone is a year older — and the secondary remains the biggest weakness on either side of the ball.  With cornerback Cedric Griffin still recovering from a torn ACL suffered on the overtime kickoff of the NFC title game and linebacker E.J. Henderson still working his way back from a gruesomely broken leg, it remains to be seen whether the Vikings’ defense continues to be among the better units in the league.

9.  Can Childress and Favre get along?

Last year, Childress himself drove Favre from the airport to the team facility.  This year, Childress was nowhere to be seen.

We’ve heard persistent rumors that the players in Minnesota generally don’t like or respect Childress.  Though no good head coach openly aspires to be liked by his players, a lack of respect could kill a team’s chances — especially if it starts with the quarterback whose ring, feet, and ass everyone kisses.

Last year’s twelve-men-in-the-huddle routine probably didn’t help matters.

After a home field advantage-killing loss to the Panthers on Sunday Night Football, troubling reports emerged regarding Chilly’s effort to bench Favre, regarding Favre’s resistance, and regarding Chilly’s angry reaction to news that Favre had blabbed out it.  Thereafter, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported based on unnamed sources (i.e., Favre) that Childress “seldom” discussed the game plan with his quarterback, and that Childress “bristles” when Favre changes the play at the line of scrimmage.

For the Vikings to reach their full potential in 2010, whatever it may be, Favre and Childress need to be on the same page.  Mo
re importantly, Favre needs
to ensure that his teammates buy in to Childress’ schemes and tactics and decisions, even when Favre otherwise may be inclined to disagree.

10.  How will the Vikings fare this year?

In the PFT Season Preview magazine, which was written under the assumption that Favre will be back, I picked the Vikings to win the NFC North, but not to make it to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV.  The rest of the crew pegged the Packers as division champs, with Rosenthal and MDS predicting a wild-card berth for Minnesota.  (Silva has them not getting in at all.) 

Whether the Vikings can win the division again or not, Favre probably will get the team back into the postseason tournament.  But with the Cowboys looking to avenge last year’s 34-3 drubbing in the Metrodome and with the widely-overlooked Saints as potent as they were in 2009 and with a surprise team or two likely to emerge in the NFC, it will be even harder in 2010 for Favre to cap his career in the manner that he clearly covets — by winning another Super Bowl and walking away as the credits start to roll.

UPDATE:  Someone also needs to ask Favre about Jenn Sterger.  And then run.

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Packers knock off Buccaneers, clinch playoff spot

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Packers are headed back to the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.

With their offense sharp and balanced and their defense stout and disruptive, the Packers pulled away to a 20-3 victory at Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 31-of-40 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown for Green Bay, which improved to 11-4. The Packers will win the NFC North with a victory next Sunday vs. Detroit.

The defeat dropped the Buccaneers to 2-13 in Lovie Smith’s first season as head coach. And as Tampa Bay nears the offseason, fixing the offense looms as a major priority.

In defeat, the Buccaneers were limited to just 109 yards on 47 plays. Quarterback Josh McCown was sacked six times and connected on only 12-of-26 passes for 147 yards. The Buccaneers’ running game was punchless, racking up just 16 yards on 14 carries.

The Packers, on the other hand, got 99 yards on 17 carries from tailback Eddie Lacy, whose 44-yard rushing TD late in the first quarter gave Green Bay a lead it would not relinquish. The Packers also had two 100-yard receivers, with Randall Cobb (11 catches, 131 yards) and Jordy Nelson (nine catches, 113 yards, one TD) combining to catch all but three passes thrown their way.

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Richard Sherman says Patrick Peterson would be benched in Seattle

Sherman Getty Images

The war of words among the best cornerbacks in the NFL continues.  This time, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL tries to kick another one out of the club.

Bob Costas of NBC’s Football Night in America asked Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman if he’ll watch the work of Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson during tonight’s showdown in Arizona.

“Not really,” Sherman told Costas.  “I really don’t care what happens in his game.  I’m concerned about what we’re doing, the win-loss category, and what the scoreboard looks like.  I think at the end of the day, the tape will speak for itself.  I don’t know if everybody’s compared on an even scale, and I don’t know if he should be mentioned with [the great cornerbacks in the league].  You give up eight touchdowns in a year; it’s hard to put you in that discussion.”

So what would happen in Seattle if a cornerback gave up eight touchdowns?

“At any point, if I gave up that many touchdowns, I think I would be benched on our team,” Sherman said.  “We have a level of accountability and that’s what we strive for.  You can’t give up big plays like that and still play.”

The game needs no further intrigue, but Sherman just provided some.  It would only be better if Peterson plays a little receiver, with Sherman covering him.

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Mangold, Coughlin honor slain NYPD officers

Mangold AP

On Saturday, a gunman killed New York City police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu as revenge for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island.  On Sunday, members of New York’s two football teams acknowledged the murders.

Jets center Nick Mangold wore an NYPD hat before the game against the Patriots.  Via Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon, coach Tom Coughlin will wear a black stripe on his shirt and a peace sign under the “NY” logo.

The Giants are playing in St. Louis, where several Rams players made the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture before a game three weeks ago, after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who killed Michael Brown.

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Ben Roethlisberger hurts knee, stays in game

Ben Roethlisberger AP

The Steelers scored and then they had a scare.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown and then departed for the locker room while Bruce Gradkowski started warming up on the sideline. He was quickly determined to be probable with a knee injury, however, and returned to the game on the next Steelers drive.

That drive started with the lead cut to 17-9 after the third Chiefs field goal of the afternoon. The Chiefs got some help from a third down flag on Steelers cornerback William Gay for taunting, although his post-play antics didn’t appear to be much more than we’re used to seeing on plenty of unpenalized plays.

That flag upset Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and helped push the Chiefs close to the end zone, but they failed to get the ball into it for the fourth time on the day.

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Saints season going down in flames after fumble ruling

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints season might be ending, just as it looked like it was getting going.

Tight end Jimmy Graham scored what appeared to be a touchdown, but fumbled as he was going into the end zone.

A replay review of the call confirmed the ruling of a fumble on the field, so instead of cutting the Falcons lead to 20-14, they’re now down 20-7 in the fourth quarter.

A Falcons win could set up a win-and-in game against the Panthers next week, but the Panthers are actively trying to blow a game against the Browns.

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Pats move in front after Geno Smith interception

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

The Jets Defense has done a great job against the Patriots on Sunday, but the Jets have lost their lead in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to a miscue by the offense.

Geno Smith threw his 13th interception of the season on an underthrown ball to tight end Jace Amaro as the third quarter wound down with the Jets nursing a 13-10 lead. Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins picked off the pass and then flirted with danger by lateraling it to Brandon Browner in a bit of traffic, but Browner held on and the Pats had the ball inside the Jets’ 40-yard line.

Tom Brady threw quickly to keep the Jets pass rush at bay and then ran for 11 yards when the Jets coverage held up to set up a one-yard touchdown for Jonas Gray. Both Patriots touchdown drives have started in Jets territory, making things easier for a unit that’s had a hard time against the Jets for most of the afternoon.

The Jets Offense hasn’t scored touchdowns of their own, though, and they made the first turnover of the game to give the Patriots the lead with a first-round bye waiting for them if they hold it the rest of the way.

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T.Y. Hilton inactive for Colts

Hilton Getty Images

If the Colts are going to beat the Cowboys on Sunday, they’ll be doing it without one of the best young receivers in the NFL.

T.Y. Hilton will miss the game with a hamstring injury.

Listed as questionable, Hilton traveled to Dallas.  Ultimately, it was a game-day decision that became a decision to not play.

With the Colts already in the playoffs and chances fairly slim of getting a first-round, it makes plenty of sense to give Hilton the week off.

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Buccaneers make goal-line stand, but Packers later add to lead

Bradley McDougald, Eddie Lacy AP

The Buccaneers are hanging in against the Packers.

Turning away a 4th-and-1 attempt at their one-yard-line, the Bucs remain within one score at 10-3 as the fourth quarter begins in Tampa Bay.

On the fourth-down try, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ throw to Randall Cobb fell incomplete. On the previous two plays, the Buccaneers stuffed Green Bay rushing attempts.

The Packers would force the Buccaneers to punt on the ensuing possession, which again puts the onus on Tampa Bay’s defense to keep the team in the game.

UPDATE: The Packers have added to their lead and hold a 13-3 edge in the fourth quarter.

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Lions’ Dominic Raiola stomps on Bears’ Ego Ferguson

Dominic Raiola AP

Ndamukong Suh isn’t the only Lion who stomps on opposing players.

Lions center Dominic Raiola stomped on the leg of Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson in the third quarter today in Chicago. It looked intentional.

Ferguson limped off the field afterward although he did not appear to be seriously hurt.

Suh’s infamous Thanksgiving stomp on Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith resulted in a two-game suspension. Raiola will surely be hearing from the NFL’s disciplinary department as well.

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Joe Flacco has first half to forget

Joe Flacco AP

After a nightmarish first half from their quarterback, the Ravens are in a halftime hole in Houston.

The Texans, behind three Randy Bullock field goals and a TD pass from Arian Foster, hold a 16-0 edge after two quarters.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has struggled mightily, completing just 3-of-18 passes for 27 yards with two second-quarter interceptions, with one coming on a deflection. Overall, Baltimore gained just 31 yards on 28 yards.

The Texans’ second pick, which came courtesy of cornerback Kareem Jackson, set up Foster’s five-yard scoring pass to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, which give Houston the 16-0 lead with 1:53 left in the half.

Texans backup quarterback Case Keenum has been serviceable, completing 13-of-27 passes for 140 yards with one pick.

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Jets lead Patriots 10-7 at halftime

Tom Brady AP

The Jets have nothing left to do with the playoff race other than play spoiler and they’ve done a pretty good job of it through 30 minutes at MetLife Stadium.

They’ve sacked Tom Brady four times and held the Patriots to an anemic 60 yards in what could be Rex Ryan’s home swan song as the team’s head coach. The offense got off to a slow start in the first quarter, but Geno Smith got hot in the second quarter and moved the team to a pair of scores that put them up 10-7 as the teams went to their locker rooms at halftime.

Sheldon Richardson had two of the sacks for the Jets, including one just before halftime that ended any Patriot thoughts of scoring, to do his best to back up his assertion that he belongs among the best defensive linemen in the league. The Patriots have heavily favored the pass, dropping back to throw 19 times against five rushes, and it hasn’t worked out as their offensive line has been overwhelmed by the Jets pass rush all afternoon.

They’ll get a chance to make some adjustments during the break and they’ll need to if they want to end Week 16 as the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

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Falcons go up 13-7 on Saints just before halftime

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Once upon a time, opponents worried about going to the Superdome.

That hasn’t been the case this year, and the Falcons are the latest to make themselves at home there.

Matt Ryan hit Eric Weems for a short touchdown just before halftime to give the visitors a 13-7 lead at the break.

The Falcons have played an alarming amount of defense, limiting the Saints to 78 yards and sacking Drew Brees three times along with picking him off once.

There have also been several fights over the course of the game, as both sides are desperate to hang onto playoff chances.

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Steelers hold on fourth down to hold onto halftime lead

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Chiefs have moved the ball well against the Steelers on Sunday, but only until they get anywhere close to the Pittsburgh end zone.

Once the Chiefs make it onto the Pittsburgh side of the field, things have played out much better for the Steelers. They held the Chiefs to field goals on their first two drives of the game and then held firm on fourth down on the final drive of the half to hold onto a 10-6 lead at Heinz Field.

Officials initially ruled that Chiefs running back De’Anthony Thomas got a first down on the previous play, but the booth called for a review that found Thomas short. Jamaal Charles was stuffed on fourth down and the Steelers remained in front. There wasn’t much time left in the half and the Chiefs may have had to settle for a field goal even after converting, which opens the door for criticism of coach Andy Reid given the team’s established red zone issues.

The Chiefs never punted in the first half, gained 181 yards and held the ball for more than 17 minutes, but they weren’t able to make any plays in the red zone outside of a successful fake field goal pass to Travis Kelce for a first down. It’s not a new problem for a team that hasn’t thrown a touchdown to a wide receiver all year and it’s not something that Reid has even admitted is a problem, but it’s a big reason why the Chiefs could find themselves losing this Sunday.

The Steelers have pulled off a couple of long drives of their own, twice scoring at the tail end of 11-play, 80-yard voyages down the field. Ben Roethlisberger is 10-of-15 for 131 yards, but the Chiefs have done a good job against Le’Veon Bell outside of his one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

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Johnny Manziel leaves game with hamstring, questionable

Cleveland Browns v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Browns might start looking at quarterback options sooner than anticipated.

Rookie Johnny Manziel had to leave the game after taking a hard shot just before halftime, and Brian Hoyer replaced him.

He was driven into the ground by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Colin Jones as he ran for the sideline. Trainers took him to the locker room, as he draped a towel over his head.

They announced his injury as a hamstring, and he’s questionable to return.

Manziel has had a largely ineffective first half, though the playoff-hopeful Panthers have something to do with that. He’s still 3-of-8 for 32 yards passing, with two rushes for 3 yards.

Brian Hoyer didn’t exactly light it up in relief, as the Browns still trail 10-3.

UPDATE 2:44 p.m. ET: Hoyer took the field in the second half.

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Packers starting to assert themselves vs. Tampa Bay

Eddie Lacy, Mason Foster AP

Heavy favorites over the Buccaneers, the Packers have generally looked as much in the early stages of Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.

Tailback Eddie Lacy’s 47-yard TD run put the Packers on the board first, and they have added to their edge since, taking a 10-0 second-quarter lead over the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay’s offense has struggled mightily, gaining a grand total of zero yards on 15 plays. Meanwhile, the Packers have the passing and ground games going. After something of a slow start, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has settled in, completing 13-of-17 passes for 121 yards. According to the Fox telecast, Rodgers is dealing with a cold.

Lacy, for his part, has added 84 yards on 10 carries for 10-4 Green Bay, which is tied for the NFC North lead.

Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown has a tough go of it thus far, completing just 1-of-8 passes for five yards.

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