Lots of thoughts on this game – huge game for both teams.
If MN loses, they are done – completely. They are partially done right now, but a loss here and they are totally out of it (no, not quite mathematically, but mentally for sure).
Favre and the Vikings will try to downplay the meaning of this game, but the fact is, the Vikes realize this may be the last game they can genuinely get up for this year. They will be ready to go.
Favre leads the NFL in turnovers committed at 21. Packer fans know what Favre does when he doesn’t have confidence in his team’s offense (and by extension, in himself): he forces things. That’s exactly what he’s been doing this year and it’s killing the Vikes.
The Vikes are a talented team and everyone knows it. But that Vikings’ game a few weeks ago against Arizona got the wrong kind of attention afterward (Favre’s dramatic comeback! Vikes not out of it yet! etc, etc). The focus should have been on this question: what the hell were the Cardinals doing up by 2 TDs with 5 minutes left? The Cardinals are awful this year…awful. The fact that the Vikes couldn’t get it going for 3.5 quarters at home against a weak, weak AZ team was revealing.
I expect Peterson and Harvin to be scary this week, per norm. But I can also see, perhaps for the first time, a more public expression of frustration by Peterson if Childress does weird things like take him out for the whole second quarter again. For someone who doesn’t have the patience to drive anywhere near the speed limit (Peterson just got his second speeding ticket in the last year for going way over the speed limit), I can’t believe Peterson has been patient enough to put up with poor coaching for his entire stay in MN. It will boil over at some point.
In fact, one key to this game for the Packers is doing something to bring quick frustration to the Vikes’ sideline. It’s no secret Childress has a mutiny on his hands, so just 1 or 2 significant negative situations for the Vikes (turnovers, quick/early TD by the Pack, big 3rd/4th down stops, a few dumb offensive playcalls) and things could unravel pretty fast.
I’m starting to get the feeling that TEs, RBs and WRs catching passes uncontested over the middle all day against the Packers may be a thing of the past. There is a different dynamic over the middle when Desmond Bishop is in there. I would characterize both Hawk and Barnett as relatively “non” when it comes to the intimidation factor. Bishop, on the other hand, can be downright scary. It’s a matter of time before he starts hitting folks like Ray Lewis does.
Sidney Rice is apparently going to play. He may help them even though he’s injured. That is, until he goes across the middle and runs into Bishop.
The Packers now face the additional challenge of keeping up with the Bears. Many poked fun of my preseason post suggesting that the Bears could be good this year. Well, they’re 7-3 and presently hold the tiebreaker over the Pack. And that defense looks very tough. Whether others believe it or not, the Bears think they’re very good now – and that is usually all a team needs to succeed (see the Jets). So a win in this game is crucial for both overall record reasons and tiebreaker reasons (Chicago also has the better division record – thanks to their gift “victory” over the Lions.)
I’m eager to see Sam Shields returning kicks. The guy is super fast. I have enjoyed watching him close on guys when making tackles as a DB. On more than one occasion, I’ve thought his tackles have had a weird feel to them – causing weird facial expressions from the guy he’s tackling…as if the guy were saying: “where did this guy come from?”
If our O-Line can continue to play together like it has of late, Brandon Jackson could have just enough holes to help keep the pressure off our passing game. And of course, continued good pass blocking may give Rodgers time to pick apart an only OK Vikes’ secondary.
It helps that Driver appears to be ready to go again. Even at 90%, Driver adds a savvy veteran element to our offense that could be really useful if Winfield shuts down Jennings (possible…not likely).
Rodgers, importantly, has gotten into a bit of a better rhythm in the last few games and this is key. When he’s out of rhythm/lacking his usual keen sense for the game, he quickly becomes more vulnerable to sacks/picks in particular because his ability to determine when to run and when to throw it away is off. McCarthy and Rodgers need to work hard early to make sure Rodgers gets into a good rhythm. Because they both know this, I can see some early, short, 5 yard slants and curls to just build the rhythm.
Overall, offensively, expect a heavy dose of short/quick passes, misdirection plays, play action and screens from the Pack Sunday. In the first game, these kinds of plays really threw off the Vikes’ normally active pass rush.
Defensively, Capers needs to mix things up and confuse Favre. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some brand new defensive play calls this week. For some reason, I can see a few more corner/safety blitzes than normal – as risky as that can be when AP and Harvin are on the field. Two guys who should probably get more blitz calls are Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. Both are so fast that if they can get through cleanly, they can disrupt the play much quicker than pretty much anyone else on the field. (Of course, they can also most easily be knocked off their line to the QB.)
I want Mason Crosby to have a big game. This may be my skeptical memory writing here, but I’m not sure he’s ever had a major impact on a very important game. In big games, he always seems to miss at least 1 FG. How about Crosby making all of them in this one!
I like that Tim Masthay has now had a huge confidence-boosting game. We’ll need him again Sunday.
One scenario seemingly nobody has mentioned leading up to this game, is for the Packers to go in, continue to play well, and tear apart a team that is really and 1-2 mistakes away from caving mentally in any given game. Packers 31, Vikings 24 (only because the Vikes get a late TD).
Well Andy, I hope with all I can hope with that you are correct. Nothing I would love to see more than the Pack just absolutely crush the Vikes. I agree that this is probably the last “Big” game of Favre’s career and his most recent history in “Big” games has not been very flattering, especially the last play. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t come down to that today. I know that Packers have addressed this all week but I’m concerned about Bulaga & crowd noise. Hopefully he’ll settle in quick and hopefully they still have that rhythym going after the bye. Really looking forward to this game.