The Minnesota Vikings do not know if Brett Favre will make his 316th straight NFL start (including playoffs) Sunday in Foxboro against the Patriots, and that's the truth. This is how it's going to work with Favre and his injured ankle this weekend: Coach Brad Childress will watch him at practice Friday in Eden Prairie, Minn., and then again Saturday in the team's walk-through practice before flying to Massachusetts in the afternoon, before deciding whether Favre or Tarvaris Jackson will play in the vital game at New England.
Favre wants to play, or at least try to play, despite a stress fracture near his left ankle and chip fracture of his left heel. My guess is he figures if he's gone this far, and he's in the last couple of months of his NFL career, he'll have a long time to heal -- like, the rest of his life. Childress is more pragmatic. If he doesn't think Favre can escape the rush, he'll play Jackson.
Don't expect to hear much leaking out of the Vikings, because Childress is likely to want to see how Favre responds Saturday after testing it Friday. I expect Favre to get out there and look pretty mobile, based on the lack of severity of the injury and his ability to play with pain. Then it'll be up to Childress to see if he thinks a perfectly healthy but inexperienced Jackson -- who has not started a game in 34 months -- is a better option than the battered Favre.
Here's the other thing I know entering this interesting weekend for the Vikings: The decision whether Childress will play will have nothing to do with their personal relationship or Childress' frustration with Favre's recent play. Favre threw one of his classic, brain-freeze interceptions Sunday night -- resulting in the winning points in a 28-24 loss to Green Bay -- that Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop returned 32 yards for a touchdown. Favre is having one of his worst seasons, at age 41; he's already thrown three more interceptions this year (10) than he threw all of last season, and his passer rating is 29 points lower than in 2009. But Childress' decision, I'm told, will be based solely on health and not on Favre's inability to find, and hit, open receivers.
Favre is not a big numbers guy. Deep down, he's pretty sure Peyton Manning will pass his career touchdown total (Favre has thrown 504 TD passes, 125 more than Manning), but the one number than matters to him is the consecutive-games streak. Say Favre doesn't play Sunday, and his consecutive-games streak ends at 315. That'd mean Manning would have to play till at least the end of the 2015 season, and perhaps into 2016, when he would be 40-and-a-half years old, to pass Favre. Factoring in playoff games, Manning is at 216, and he'd have to play 100 straight games to get to 316. Obviously that would depend on how many playoff games the Colts play to determine when he'd get there.
My guess? Favre shows Childress enough Friday and Saturday to prove he can evade the Patriot rush Sunday. Childress would do well to remember one other thing as he deliberates: The last time Favre was in Foxboro, a Thursday night two years ago, he was magnificent in a 34-31 overtime win against New England -- 26 of 33, two touchdowns, no interceptions, a vital long third-down conversion in overtime to lead the Jets to the win. It's got to be tempting for Childress, even with how bad his team and his quarterback have played in recent weeks, to try to recapture that magic and revive their season this weekend. Isn't that why the Vikings begged Favre so fervently to come back?
He's the forgotten man this week in the midst of the Favre-Childress maelstrom, and I'm sure he likes it that way. But whoever quarterbacks the Vikings is going to have a Moss desperate to make more of an impact than he has in his first three Viking games (12 catches, 166 yards, two touchdowns). Moss will jump a little higher -- unlike on the last Favre pass Sunday in Green Bay -- and play a little faster. No doubt he'll be extremely motivated to show the Patriots why he should have been their go-to guy this year, not their forgotten one, before the trade to Minnesota.
San Francisco running back Frank Gore's rushing line against Denver in London:
This is the week the running game needs to be Troy Smith's best friend.
Great question by Ross Tucker on our Sirius NFL radio show Wednesday: "Can someone please explain to me why the 49ers gave away Shaun Hill to Detroit?'' Half of the Bay Area (well, 1/10th maybe, considering the place has World Series fever) is probably asking the same thing, seeing how the Niners have to turn to an absolute unknown quantity instead of a passer who has played passably in Matthew Stafford's absence (61-percent passing, nine TDs, seven INTs). The fact that Smith is playing is a major indictment of David Carr; if you get benched as the backup to Alex Smith in favor of a guy who's never practiced in your system before -- in a game that counts -- turn out the lights, baby. Party's over. What we should see out of Smith, the 6-foot ex-Buckeye: some mobility, lots of simplicity, and a heavy dose of old reliable Vernon Davis, the tight end who can catch the ball with defenders hanging on him.