Once again, the Patriots will be in one of the games of the week in terms of profile, this time against the Vikings. This maybe a must win for the Vikings as they can barely afford to be another game behind the Bears and Packers. The Patriots however are sitting pretty on top of a 5-1 record, but wouldn't like to lose and fall behind the Jets.
Both teams have injury concerns to key players heading into the game but only one will be stealing the headlines. We'll start with the slightly lackluster name, but a very key one, for the Patriots. That name is Patrick Chung who has become a key player on not only defense, but also special teams for the Pats. Chung was limited in practice in the week, but is expected to play after being injured during the Chargers game.
However, we all know the big name injury news is going to be about Favre. There are just so many questions though. Will he play? How much pain will he play through if he does play? Can he withstand a few hits? How will the injury affect his performance level? Is that really his junk? Hopefully all these questions will be answered on Sunday (well, maybe not the last one).
But for now here are some keys to deciding the winner in this match up of the 5-1 Patriots and the 2-4 Vikings.
The Vikings have one of the best defensive lines in football with the Williams, Wall, Ray Edwards and Jared Allen on the edges. All four of them have Pro Bowl-caliber talent and can get pressure on the QB. However, this season all four have combined have only mustered 3.5 sacks so far.
After last week's game against the Chargers, the left side of the Patriots offensive line has come under scrutiny with Dan Connolly being benched at halftime and Matt Light garnering much criticism.
If the line performs how it was doing up until last week then Brady will be fine, but if not then he will be forced to throw the ball quickly giving him few opportunities to go deep. Luckily for him he has plenty of receivers who are made to catch quick passes with Welker, Edelman, Hernandez and the recently acquired Deion Branch all being viable options in the short passing game.
The Patriots are in a difficult position as they prepare for the Vikings as they can't be sure which QB will be lining up against them on the Sunday. Will it be Favre or Tavaris Jakson, as both QB's bring such different games to the table.
If Favre plays and doesn't have a stinker then he should be able to carve up the Patriots secondary with targets like Randy Moss and Percy Harvin to work with. If the injury bothers him and the Patriots are able to get something resembling a pass-rush going then the Patriots could have another big game for turnovers and run away with the game.
If Jackson plays then he brings a more mobile QB game and it will need planing for. However, Jackson as a pure passer is nowhere near as good as an injured Favre, so if Favre sits out then the Patriots secondary could have a coming out party.
Moss is a going to be a big part of this game. It's almost inevitable that he will either have a big game or a big mistake that will be remembered. Moss will most likely be covered by rookie corner Devin McCourty who made a terrific interception last week off of a Phillip Rivers pass.
The Patriots defense has been weak against the pass all year and Moss has the talent and motivation to get crazy yardage on Sunday, but it really all comes down to the QB situation.
One also has to remember that Moss may not only be helping with his on-field performance, but also with the game plan as he knows many of the Patriots schemes and how they like to run things and this could be a huge advantage to the Vikings come game time.
The Vikings secondary has not been significantly strong this year, losing Cedric Griffin to IR and being hit by a barrage of injuries to other key players in the secondary. Despite this they are still a very respectable 13th against the pass.
The Patriots come into this game 17th ranked pass attack, but they have thrown the ball much less then the higher ranked teams and are also first in points scored with many of the points coming through the air.
It will be interesting to see on Sunday how the injury-riddled secondary of the Vikings matched up against the stacked receiving core of the Patriots.
The Patriots run defense has been given new life since their bye week as they held Ray Rice to just 88 yards on 28 carries and then the very next week holding the whole Chargers offense to just 38 yards on 19 carries. A major key to this has been moving NT Vince Wilfork over to DE to shut down one side of the field to the run.
Another key to this is the top-notch play of Patrick Chung, Brandon Spikes and most of all, the amazing play of Jerod Mayo, who is on track to record over 200 tackles after recording 29 in his past two games.
However, even with the new revamped run defense of the Patriots we have to remember this is Adrian Peterson we are talking about. And from what I have seen of Peterson this year he is running as good as ever and one key stat so far this season is that he has no fumbles after 157 touches of the football.
Maybe the biggest key to this game is whether or not the Patriots can contain AP as I'm not sure a defense can shut him down in his current form.
Going into this game I have one thing I am pretty sure about and that is it will be a close fought game for the most part. One team or the other might pull away near the end but the stats will be pretty even for the teams unless one team, or particularly one 41-year-old player, gets turnover happy.
In the end I think Brady will come out strong and have a big game against the Vikings and lead the Patriots to a hard fought victory.
Score: Vikings 27, Patriots 31