Favre could return next season with the Vikings

NFL sources are telling New York Daily News football columnist Gary Myers that Brett Favre cannot peacefully retire until he gains his revenge on the Green Bay Packers. He wants back into the NFC North Division in order to play the Packers twice next season. Favre wants to play well and show them that it was mistake in trading him away last season.

Myers is connecting the dots and seeing where this may lead:

• Favre retired in February, but the New York Jets refused his request to release him, wanting to keep his rights in the event he changed his mind and wanted to play again – he is prone to flip-flop, of course – and Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff stunk up their new $75 million practice facility in the offseason.
• The Jets traded up to get Mark Sanchez in the draft last weekend and the text-messaging between GM Mike Tannenbaum and Favre intensified. Favre still wanted to completely cut his contractual ties with the Jets. Three days later, the Jets released him. Sources say Favre, who will be 40 in October, wants to keep his options open. Favre released a statement saying, “At this time, I am retired and have no intention of returning to football.”
The three key words: “At this time.”
• The Minnesota Vikings are a quarterback short of being a Super Bowl contender, and they need to sell tickets and have been trying for years to get a new stadium.

Favre’s bitterness is creating this scenario, and he has authorized his agent to indirectly contact the Vikings about playing for them next season. Media reports from Minnesota have reported that the Vikings have had internal discussions about adding Favre to the roster. And many in the NFL believe that we haven’t seen the last of him on a football field. As long as a team is willing to give him a roster spot, Favre will play.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Are the Bears now the favorites in the NFC North?

In one day, the Bears seemingly addressed their 20-year old quarterback problem and also added a significant piece to their offensive line. In one day, the Bears might have gone from a .500 team to the perennial favorites in the NFC North.

It’s way too early to be getting into predictions for the 2009 NFL Season. Voluntary workouts have begun, but the draft is still weeks away and teams are still trying to reshape their rosters.

But with the trade acquisition of Jay Cutler and the signing of left tackle Orlando Pace, the Bears significantly upgraded their offense and hopefully made current players like Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Frank Omiyale and Chris Williams better.

Make no mistake – Chicago is far from a Super Bowl contender. They still need to upgrade their wide receiver position, could use another defensive end to throw in the mix with Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson, and even though they signed Josh Bullocks this offseason, they could still use an upgrade at safety as well.

But while every team in the division has arguably gotten weaker, the Bears have upgraded. The Vikings are still pretty strong, but they lost long-time center Matt Birk and still have questions to be answered at quarterback. The Packers are planning to run a 3-4 defense next season, but have done next to nothing to add true 3-4 personnel and the Lions will continue to take a sandblaster to their entire roster.

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NFL Week 16 Primer Late Games

Here’s a quick Week 16 preview for all of the late games with playoff implications in the NFL this week:

Tarvaris JacksonFalcons at Vikings, 4:15PM ET
Who would have thought this game would have so much meaning when the season started? Minnesota needs just one more victory to win the NFC North and put the Chicago Bears out of their misery. They’ll start Tarvaris Jackson again at quarterback this week as Gus Frerotte continues to recovery from a back injury. With a lot of help from Adrian Peterson and the running game, Jackson has been absolutely outstanding since subbing for Frerotte two weeks ago and has thrown five touchdown passes in the last six quarters. The Vikings’ defense took a hit this week when it was discovered that run-stuffer Pat Williams would miss the next 2-6 weeks due to injury. That should help Michael Turner and the Falcons’ dynamic running game stay on track, although they’ll still need a huge contribution from rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, who struggled last week against Tampa. Atlanta needs to win out and hope Dallas or Tampa lose one of their two remaining games. And considering they host the Rams next week, their playoff hopes may reside in beating the Vikings. Can the Falcons’ defense contain Peterson and force Jackson to beat them through the air? Or will the Vikings continue to build momentum as they make a playoff push?

Jets at Seahawks, 4:05PM ET CBS
The Jets are clinging to a slim lead in the AFC East as they currently hold tie-breakers over the Dolphins and Patriots in the division. However, they’re 0-3 on the West Coast this year and a trip to Seattle is never fun for any team come December. This game will also mark Mike Holmgren’s final home game, so you can expect the Seahawks to be ready to play. Still, this is a team the Jets should beat, especially if they consider themselves a legit playoff squad. Seattle’s defense has been brutal this year and as long as Brett Favre can keep from turning the ball over, NY should come up with a big road win.

Bills at Broncos, 4:05PM ET CBS
All the Broncos have to do is win and they clinch the AFC West crown. They won’t have the fortune of facing J.P. Losman, though, as Trent Edwards will resume his starting quarterback duties after missing the past couple weeks due to injury. Denver has been consistently inconsistent this season, especially at home where they currently post a 4-3 record. Buffalo is a disaster, but they did give the Jets a game last week at the Meadowlands and Edwards might (emphasis on might) give the offense a boost. But as long as Denver’s run defense can contain Marshawn Lynch, they should (emphasis on should) be fine.

Eagles at Redskins, 4:15PM ET FOX
The Redskins were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week after an embarrassing loss to the Bengals but you’re crazy if you don’t think they would love to play spoiler. Led by quarterback Donovan McNabb and a stingy defense, the Eagles have played inspired football over the past month and proved two weeks ago in New York that they could win a huge road game. Philly needs to win their final two games to have a shot at a postseason berth and it won’t come easy. After playing in Washington this Sunday, they host the Cowboys next week, who will also be fighting for their playoff lives. If Jim Zorn continues to play things tight to the vest with his play calling, Philly defensive coordinator Jim Johnson might have a field day calling blitzes and confusing quarterback Jason Campbell. But first and foremost, the Eagles have to stop the run or else the passing game will open up and it might allow Zorn to get more creative than he has been of late. Washington’s defense has been solid all year but can anyone slow down McNabb and Brian Westbrook? As long as the Redskins are motivated to ruin the Eagles’ postseason dreams, this should be a great game.

Panthers at Giants, 8:15PM NBC
The battle for the No. 1 seed in the NFC is on the line this week in East Rutherford as the G-Men host the suddenly Super Bowl-caliber Panthers. These are two teams heading in opposite directions as the Giants have lost two straight while Carolina is winners of two in a row. The Panthers have been dominating opponents with their running game over the past two weeks, but they’ll get a huge test this Sunday against a stingy New York front seven. Still, the Giants’ offense has struggled without Plaxico Burress and a healthy Brandon Jacobs, so losing three in a row isn’t out of the question. They need to do a better job of protecting Eli Manning or else the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will run through Carolina this year. Jacobs is expected to play so that should help, but it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be. And can anyone stop the Panthers’ Steve Smith?

Saints could start living up to expectations Thursday in Chicago

Sean PaytonIt’s essentially now or never for the New Orleans Saints. After a season in which some thought they would make a deep postseason run, the Saints need a victory to keep their slim playoff hopes alive in the NFC.

Tonight the holy men are in Chicago to do battle with a Bears team that is in desperate need of a win themselves. The Bears remain one game behind the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North and considering the Vikes are likely to start backup Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback on Sunday against Arizona, a win over New Orleans could leave Chicago tied for first in the division by Sunday evening.

But nobody outside of Chicago expected too much from the Bears this year. The same cannot be said for the Saints.

In the offseason, New Orleans made a great effort to rebuild their beleaguered defense by adding LB Jonathan Vilma (trade/Jets), DT Sedrick Ellis (draft/first round) and CB Randall Gay (free agent/Patriots). The moves were supposed to be enough to keep opponents in check while the explosive Saints’ offense put up 30 points a game. But while the offense has done its part (No. 1 in the NFL in total yards), the defense has yielded just over 25 points a game and ranks in the bottom half of the league in stopping the run (20th) and pass (26th).

Part of the issue this year has been injuries as both Mike McKenzie and Charles Grant, two starters, have missed more than half the season. But the main issue for the Saints has been a lack of consistency – on both sides of the ball. The defense has done a decent job of loading the box and taking away the run at times, but then leaves itself vulnerable to opponents’ passing attacks. And up until last week when they beat the Falcons, head coach Sean Payton has been publicly criticized for abandoning the run and not having enough offensive balance.

A win tonight in Chicago would go a long way in saving the Saints’ season. It won’t be easy – Solider Field is a tough environment to play in December – but the Bears have only beaten one quality opponent in their last seven games (Week 7 vs. the Vikings) and have struggled mightily with consistency themselves. The key will be weather or not Payton will show the patience to stick with the run against a Bears’ defense that has been solid in taking away opponents’ rushing games. If they can, Chicago has proven that its not afraid to give up the sideline route and has had issues all season putting opponents away when they have a lead. And can the New Orleans defense force Kyle Orton to make mistakes? If they load up to stop Mike Forte, they better get pressure on Orton because he’s had success throwing vertically this season.

Should be a good one.

Are the Vikings who we thought they were?

Adrian PetersonBefore the season started, the addition of Jared Allen to the defensive line and then the continued development of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson had many NFL purists believing the Minnesota Vikings were the team to beat in the NFC North.

But Jackson was replaced by the ageless wonder Gus Frerotte, the team lost three of its first four games and suddenly the Vikings were like many other annual chic picks in the NFL – overrated.

Minnesota appears back on track, however, winning four of their last five games and seizing control in the NFC North by soundly beating the Bears 34-14 on Sunday Night Football. So the question is – were the purists right all along and the Vikes just needed time for things to fall into place?

The Vikings have a couple of key elements that make them a sound football team. They can run the ball (Adrian Peterson was a beast in their win over the Bears) behind a solid offensive line, they can stop the run and Allen gives them a dominant pass-rush. They still have some issues stopping the pass and both of their defensive tackles could be suspended soon, but they’re clearly the best team in the weak North division at this point.

Assuming Minnesota wins their division, the question now becomes – how far can they go? Peterson is such a weapon, but we saw Sunday night how much of a physical pounding his body takes because of how hard he runs. Frerotte has been a major upgrade over Jackson, but does his play have a ceiling? It’ll be interesting to see if not only the Vikes can wrap up the division, but also whether or not they can compete with the Panthers, Falcons, Cowboys or any other Wild Card team they would face in the first round.

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