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Friday, November 13, 2009
Final Word: NFC North

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

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Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

Brett Favre
Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has always put up big numbers against Detroit.
Fantasy players, listen up: Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre has thrown more touchdown passes against Detroit (56) than any other NFL team. And here’s an interesting note from ESPN Stats & Information: Favre has thrown at least two touchdown passes in 11 consecutive games at the Metrodome, dating to the 2000 season. The NFL record is 12, set by Favre earlier in his career at Lambeau Field and Kurt Warner with St. Louis. What does it all mean? Favre has had the Lions’ number for a long time, and he is especially comfortable lately at the Metrodome.

Much is made of Detroit’s 18-year drought in Wisconsin, but the Lions have also built a dubious mark in Minnesota as well. They’ve gone 11 seasons without a victory at the Metrodome, last winning a 14-13 contest in 1997. There have been some close calls, most notably a 12-10 loss last season. (That game was in doubt until Ryan Longwell’s 38-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining.) To this point, the trend has transcended general managers, coaches and a generation of players. Whether it’s a trend or just coincidence, new coach Jim Schwartz and this group of players will have their hands full trying to reverse it Sunday. In a related statistic: The Lions have lost 16 consecutive road games.

Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) has missed most of the past three games, and he’s unlikely to play Sunday. What does that mean for the Lions? In Winfield’s absence, the Vikings have given up a net passing total of 781 yards and six touchdowns to Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, especially, should have a favorable matchup no matter how the Vikings decide to defend him. The big question will be whether the Lions’ offensive line gives quarterback Matthew Stafford enough time to throw. The Vikings lead the NFL with 31 sacks.

In the parlance of our youth(ful): OMG. I’m not sure any Green Bay fan wants to give much thought to the matchup with Dallas’ pass-rushers, including linebacker DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys have 20 sacks this season, including five from Ware, but they have to be licking their chops as the Packers embark on another changeup on their offensive line. This week, it looks like rookie T.J. Lang will replace Mark Tauscher (knee) and Allen Barbre (concussion) at right tackle. The Packers’ porous pass protection has been well-discussed all season, but this isn’t a friendly matchup even by 2009 standards. Now would be a good time for quarterback Aaron Rodgers to quicken his release.

The Packers’ linebacker depth will be tested Sunday as well. With Aaron Kampman (concussion) and Brady Poppinga (quadriceps) expected to miss the game, the Packers are down to a pair of players who have seen almost no playing time on defense this season. Rookie Brad Jones is the likely starter at the left outside linebacker position, while Jeremy Thompson could see some action as well. Thompson worked with the first team for much of the offseason, but injuries sent him tumbling to the bottom of the depth chart. Jones, a seventh-round draft pick in April, is a natural outside linebacker in the 3-4 but otherwise is unheralded.