For Vikings placekicker Ryan Longwell, who has spent 14 seasons playing with the Packers and the Vikings, this is his 29th game in the rivalry. It is his 10th game on the Vikings' side.

For the Vikings, who are 3-6, it is a crucial game to win if they are to stay in the race for a playoff berth. They will have to play better than they did against the Bears, and I believe they are ready to play their best game of the season.

"For me, it has been a great rivalry, a lot of fun," Longwell said. "It's pretty special to see it from both sidelines and both places, and certainly that's why they're rivals, because [the games] seem to always be close and always important.

"[It's] a big game for us. I think we've got a good group of guys. ... I wouldn't say fragile. I think that with everything that's gone on off the field that this is the group of guys that you'd want in this type of situation, because they are used to it, they are resilient, and we're going to come out swinging. I mean we're not sitting where we want to be, but the group of guys in this locker room is the group you want fighting out of this hole. It gives us the best chance to win, no doubt."

Longwell looked back to the big late rally to beat Arizona to show what the team can do.

"It didn't happen for us for 56 minutes against the Cardinals, and we still had enough fight to get that one, so no, I never worry about the effort of these guys," Longwell said.

Longwell said the Packers have proved they are one of the best teams in the NFL. They are tied for first in the NFC North with the Bears at 6-3.

"They're sitting up top in the division, and we certainly are running out of time, so we need to take advantage when we get these games against division opponents because the wins count like two for one," he said. "You don't want to pass up on too many of these games, like the last one [a 28-24 loss at Green Bay on Oct. 24]."

There has been a big turnover in players at Green Bay since Longwell left after the 2005 season.

"I talk to a few of the guys, but really I've been here for five years now and this is my 10th time playing them, so it's certainly different than my first time," Longwell said. "[Quarterback] Aaron Rodgers, [defensive end] Cullen Jenkins, [receiver] Donald Driver, I think, are a few that come to mind [who are still there from when Longwell was with the Packers]."

One thing Longwell stressed is that the Vikings are not 3-6 because of finger-pointing in the locker room.

"We've got guys that take care of their own jobs and root for each other," he said. "I think there's always disagreements between coaches and players, it's happened all 14 years that I've been in the NFL. But I don't think they have a problem with each other. No, I mean I know we're fighting for each other, we're fighting for ourselves and we're trying to get a win and all the stuff that goes on off the field is really irrelevant to trying to get that done."

Packers tough on road

Unlike the Vikings, who have lost nine in a row on the road, the Packers under coach Mike McCarthy have a 20-16 road record. The Packers were 5-3 on the road last year. This season, they've won at Philadelphia and New York (Jets) and lost at Chicago and at Washington in overtime.

However, the Vikings aren't the only team to have trouble on the road. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, only 11 of 32 NFL teams have winning records on the road since 2006. The Packers' road record this year will be tested in the next few weeks, with four of their next five games on the road: at Mall of America Field on Sunday, at Atlanta, and then -- after a home game against the 49ers -- games at Detroit and New England.

On the other hand, the Vikings have four of their next five at home. The Bears have three of their next five on the road, with games at Miami, Detroit and Minnesota.

Rodgers, the outstanding Packers quarterback, told reporters this week his vocal cords are really tested when he plays in the Metrodome.

"The toughest thing for me is losing my voice, screaming from the first quarter on," he said. "The toughest stretches are the first quarter and drives after a [Vikings] score, because the crowd is obviously into it. Third down is easy on my voice because we use a silent count, like all teams do on the road. But you have to manage your voice."

It's amazing to look at how few sacks the Vikings have this season (14). The Vikings had a total of 14 alone in the two Packers games last year, including 7 1/2 by Jared Allen.

They will need some sacks Sunday to win, and they can't allow a repeat of what happened in the loss at Green Bay, where Packers wide receivers Greg Jennings and James Jones combined for 10 catches for 181 yards and one touchdown.


• There was a lot of second-guessing after the Wolves took Syracuse guard Wes Johnson with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft instead of Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins, who was taken with the fifth pick by Sacramento. So far this season, Cousins is averaging 10.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 22.6 minutes per game, while Johnson is averaging 9.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 28.9 minutes per game. ... Henk Norel the 23-year-old forward who the Timberwolves selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, is averaging 7.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for DKV Joventut Badalona in Spain.

• Eden Prairie native Willie Mobley has appeared in seven games at defensive tackle for the Arizona Wildcats during his sophomore season; he has six tackles, including 1 1/2 for a loss. ... Also on the Wildcats defense is Waconia, Minn., native Derek Earls, who transferred to Arizona from North Dakota State and is the Wildcats' fourth-leading tackler with 42 (6 1/2 for a loss), including one sack.

• Calvin Godfrey, the former Cooper forward who signed with former Timberwolves executive Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State, is off to a nice start in his freshman season. Godfrey is averaging 3.7 points per game, but is second on the team in rebounds per game with 7.3. Godfrey recorded 14 rebounds in the Cyclones' 91-43 victory over Drake on Wednesday.

• Former Minnesota Transitions forward Kevin Noreen got some playing time in West Virginia's first game against Oakland, a 95-71 victory, clocking two minutes without recording any points.

• Former Gophers point guard Justin Cobbs is sitting this season out for the University of California after transferring from the Gophers this summer.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. •