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Friday, November 19, 2010
Final Word: NFC North

By Kevin Seifert

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:

Brett Favre and Brad Childress
The Packers have a chance to make life more miserable for Vikings QB Brett Favre and coach Brad Childress.
Put 'em away: I can't help but think the Green Bay Packers are viewing Sunday's game at the Metrodome as a symbolic opportunity to vanquish the team, player and perhaps the coach that has cast a shadow over them during the past two years. The Minnesota Vikings have won the NFC North in both seasons since quarterback Brett Favre's 2008 departure. Favre single-handedly knocked the Packers out of contention last season with two signature performances against them. But the rivalry between these two franchises goes beyond Favre. The Packers would love to bury the Vikings in their home stadium, and if a by-product is getting their second opposing coach fired in as many games, then so be it. As we discussed earlier this week, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf isn't eager to fire coach Brad Childress. But the Packers can dream, right?

Packer time: Yes, this is traditionally the time when coach Mike McCarthy's teams start churning out victories. In 2006, the Packers went 7-4 after their bye. In 2007, they were 8-2, and last season they were 9-3 after it. (The 2008 season is the exception, when the Packers slumped to 2-7 after their bye.) Whether or not they are motivated to bury the Vikings, the Packers need to win in order to keep pace with the 7-3 Chicago Bears. Through the purple haze, I can only assume they saw this quote from Bears coach Lovie Smith after Thursday night's victory against the Miami Dolphins: "We wanted to put the pressure on that second-place team behind us."

Getting after it: The Packers blitzed Favre on 43.3 percent of his dropbacks in the teams' Week 7 meeting, causing two of his three interceptions and resulting in a 37.8 passer rating. I'll be curious to see whether the Packers feel obligated to pressure him at the same rate, or if they sit back and allow Favre's less reliable arm to create its own mistakes. ESPN Stats & Information has tracked each of Favre's 16 interceptions this season, grading eight of them as underthrown. I realize an underthrown pass can be in the eye of the observer, especially when a quarterback might intentionally be throwing a back-shoulder pass. But anecdotally, I think we can agree that Favre's accuracy hasn't been as good this season. Elbow tendinitis and soreness in his right shoulder have assuredly played a part. Pass rush is still the best way to force Favre into making mistakes, but the point is that he has made plenty on his own this season.

Two forces: The Packers have caused 19 turnovers this season, tying for the fifth-best mark in the NFL. The Vikings have committed 23, the league's fourth-worst mark. Moreover, the Packers lead the league with 80 points scored off of turnovers. Those numbers and rankings have built up over 11 weeks, so it would be reasonable to expect more of the same Sunday at the Metrodome. If that's the case, it's hard to imagine a Vikings win. Their three victories this season have all come at home, but they were against the Detroit Lions (2-7), Dallas Cowboys (2-7) and Arizona Cardinals (3-6).

Something's gotta give: The Detroit Lions have lost 25 consecutive road games. The Dallas Cowboys haven't won at home all season. Per their typical luck, the Lions might be catching the Cowboys about two weeks too late. Interim coach Jason Garrett appears to have breathed some life into this talented but underachieving outfit, and if he wants to earn the permanent job, he'll need to start winning some home games at owner Jerry Jones' debt-ridden palace. The Lions won in Dallas the last time they played there -- a 39-31 victory in Week 17 of the 2006 season. But tellingly, they've only won twice away from Ford Field since then.