|10.31.10 at 3:12 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In a mild surprise, safety Pat Chung will be inactive for today’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. Chung suffered a bruised knee in last week’s win over the San Diego Chargers. Meanwhile, Deion Branch, who suffered a mild hamstring strain and will play for the Patriots.
For the Vikings, cornerback Lito Sheppard will sit this one out. Their complete inactive list reads as follows:
QB Joe Webb (3rd QB), WR Hank Baskett, S Tyrell Johnson, CB Lito Sheppard, RB Albert Young, LB Erin Henderson, G Chris DeGeare and DT Jimmy Kennedy.
|10.31.10 at 3:05 pm ET|
The Patriots listed the following players as inactive this week: wide receiver Taylor Price, wide receiver Matthew Slater, running back Fred Taylor, safety Pat Chung, safety Jarrad Page, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, offensive lineman Mark LeVoir and defensive lineman Kyle Love.
The biggest name that jumps out is Chung, who bruised a knee last week against the Chargers. He was able to go in practice late this week, but ultimately wasn’t deemed healthy enough to get the call. The fact that Chung and Page are sidelined means the Patriots will be forced to lean more on rookie Sergio Brown, who made his professional debut last week against the Chargers and played well. It could also affect the way New England defends the Vikings’ pass-catchers ‘ as a result, the Patriots could turn more to linebacker Gary Guyton, the fastest linebacker on the team and considered one of the better linebackers on the team when it comes to pass coverage.
One of the names that is not on the list is wide receiver Deion Branch, who was hobbled late in the week with a hamstring injury, but appears to be good to go this week against the Vikings. Two other names conspicuous by their absence from the list of inactives are cornerback Terrence Wheatley and defensive lineman Ron Brace, two players who have struggled with injury and some subpar play over the first six weeks of the season.
|10.31.10 at 2:56 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Minnesota Vikings announced shortly before 3 p.m. ET that there would be no changes to their starting offense, meaning Brett Favre will take the field and start at quarterback as they take on the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
The quarterback will extend his starting and games played streak to 292 games, the longest in NFL history.
|10.31.10 at 1:33 pm ET|
Of course, all eyes at the beginning of the game will be on the Minnesota sideline when the Vikings’ offense first takes the field. Will Brett Favre start and be under center and where will Moss lineup on offense in his first set of snaps against the Patriots defense since practice before the Miami Dolphins game on Oct. 4?
The word is Favre will attempt to play, extending his NFL-record games played streak to 292. Favre suffered two breaks in the area of his left ankle last Sunday night in a 28-24 loss at Green Bay. Favre wore a walking boot until taking the field for the first time in practice on Friday, where he was limited.
Deion Branch (hamstring) and Pat Chung (knee) are the two big question marks on the injury front. Both were limited on Friday in practice and both are considered questionable for today. Both are expected to be active and play but their injuries on the first truly brisk, chilly day of the season bear close watching.
Bother were lightly jogging and doing high leg raises with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash along the Patriots sideline about an hour and a half before kickoff.
The wind figures to be a significant factor, with a breeze howling out of the north at 15-20 MPH, with gusts up to 30 MPH. Temperatures will start in the lower 50s and fall as the Patriots will play their first home game of the year under the lights by the time halftime rolls around.
The Patriots are playing their first home game on Halloween, having posted a ghoulish 2-5 road record in seven previous games on the scariest day of the year.
The Patriots are on an amazing regular season run at home. They are 3-0 this season. 8-0 last season and won their last home game in 2008. That adds up to a 12-game streak. Of course, that doesn’t include one somewhat important hiccup – the 33-14 loss to Baltimore last Jan. 10 in the first round of the playoffs.
Tom Brady hasn’t lost at home since Nov. 12, 2006 against the Jets, a run of 23 straight regular season wins, second only to – appropriately – Brett Favre, who won 25 straight for the Packers at Lambeau Field between 1995 and 1998.
|10.31.10 at 12:28 pm ET|
With kickoff looming, here are 10 final thoughts on Patriots-Vikings:
1. You’re fooling yourself if you think Brett Favre doesn’t start. And by the way, it was a savvy move by Favre telling ESPN that he feels like he’s ready to play. That way, it’s Brad Childress who takes the fall as The Guy Who Stopped The Streak. As I Tweeted earlier this week, the relationship between the coach and quarterback speaks to the raging dysfunction within the organization.
2. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t include this in the 10 things to look for, but it was initially Tweeted by Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk and then retweeted by our buddies at Pro Football Focus: ‘Good news Percy Harvin: Patriots vulnerable to slot receivers. Slot WRs have led the opposition in receiving against NE in 4 straight [games].’
3. Fascinated to think about the reaction that both Favre and Randy Moss get both pre and postgame from the Gillette Stadium crowd. Gut feeling is that Favre gets booed and mocked heavily coming in and out the tunnel, while Moss hears loud cheers early and often. It’ll also be interesting to see what sort of reaction both draw coming off the field from players and coaches. In a region where postgame handshakes are analyzed like the Zapruder Film, the scene after the field and in the tunnel will likely be talked about for a few days.
4. The Patriots aren’t going to run a whole lot of Sunday, but they have to get more production out of the running game than they did last week. Doesn’t matter how many yards they get ‘ that 4.0 yards per carry average is the magic number. If the crew of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Sammy Morris can hit that, it’ll be all good for New England.
5. Final thought: I think the Patriots win this thing, pulling away in the second half. Moss will catch a touchdown pass, but New England’s going to do a good job bottling up Adrian Peterson (which means holding him under 100 yards). It’s going to be close, but a late touchdown or turnover from the Vikings is the difference: Patriots 24, Vikings 17.
|10.31.10 at 12:10 pm ET|
Wrote Fowler at approximately 11:45 a.m.: Been calling around about Favre. Heard from at least one person that it’s becoming “obvious” Favre will start.
Favre previously said that his injured left ankle has shown significant improvement and that he expects to start, but Vikings coach Brad Childress has been non-committal. Favre also said he isn’t sure that he will last the entire game, and that he’s prepared for Childress to insert backup Tarvaris Jackson if Favre struggles.
|10.31.10 at 10:42 am ET|
FOXBORO — When he looks at the film of the Minnesota Vikings, Bill Belichick doesn’t see Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page and Gary Larsen and the “Purple People Eaters” that devastated NFL offensive lines in the 1960s and 70s.
And while this group – a much-heralded group coming into the season – ranks a measly 30th in the NFL in sacks with six through six games, Belichick sees what a lot of others don’t. This Vikings front four can still pressure the quarterback and cause match-up nightmares for the offensive line.
“Definitely, it’s one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league,” Belichick explained on Friday. “They’re all a problem, really, but [Kevin] Williams, [Jared] Allen and [Ray] Edwards in particular, those three guys. I think Edwards is a very underrated player. Allen, we all know what he is. Kevin Williams, we all know what he is. Their linebackers complement their pressure well with [E.J.] Henderson and [Ben] Leber and [Chad] Greenway.
“Those guys are fast and they get pressure in a different way, but they are fast in the line of scrimmage. If you have to commit a blocker to them, if you have to commit one of your linemen to them, then you’re basically singled up across the board on the other four guys, as opposed to having a three-on-two or some kind of three-on-two situation, whether you’re three-on-two inside, or three-on-two to one side or the other if nobody blitzes. Once they blitz a guy, then whoever blocks that linebacker leaves you singled across the board. I think their pass rush is very good. They get a lot of pressure.”
And in the three years before this one, Jared Allen has been the single-most feared pass rusher in the NFL, collecting sack totals of 15.5, 14.5 and 14.5 dating back to his final season with Kansas City in 2007. This season he has one. Eventually, one would think, he’s going to break out. Pats left tackle Matt Light is hoping that’s not today.
Edwards and Allen on one the ends and both Williams form the middle of the line. Double-teams are tricky but necessary to prevent one of the Williams from getting through the middle of the offensive line and blowing up the run game. And if the middle of the line disintegrates, Tom Brady becomes a vulnerable target.
Let the coach explain.
“I think the double team guy on that is [Kevin] Williams. That’s the problem: if you don’t help the guard with Williams then the guard is really isolated on Kevin Williams because the center is tied up on Pat Williams and the tackles are tied up on the ends, whichever guy it is Allen or Edwards. And so a lot of single opportunities come from Williams, but it’s hard to double him with a center because the center is on the same side as the guard.
“So you either have to do it with the tackle and that leaves you with a back or a tight end or whatever the combination is, it leaves you with somebody else out there on Allen and Edwards, which is a problem. Or if you leave your tackle on them, then it leaves your guard singled on Kevin Williams, which [is] a problem. That’s kind of the idea of the over and under front ‘ to have a player in that three-technique who’s got a nose tackle on the other side of the center and an end on the other side of the tackle, so that those guys have to kind of block their respective guys and then you have the three-technique singled on a guard.
Many times this year Belichick has moved Vince Wilfork out to the end to try and overpower the opposing tackle. Well, Belichick pointed out that in Kevin Williams the Vikings have the luxury of doing just the opposite, which could mean a long, long day Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal and Dan Connolly.
“Guards generally play in, obviously, a more confined space than the tackles do, so if you have a guy that’s really a good defensive end playing tackle, like you have with [Kevin] Williams, then you really have an end on a guard instead of an end on a tackle. He’s a tall guy with good range, real good quickness. He’s powerful. He could easily play defensive end, but he’s matched up the guards and that’s a tough matchup.”
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