Sunday, October 24, 2010

Packers vs. Vikings: Sunday eve Favremageddon

Installment #3 of the duel between the Green Bay Packers and the Ol' #4-led Minnesota ViQueens kicks off at 7:20 p.m. tonight at Lambeau Field. The Packers are favored by 3 points -- the home field advantage. Temps will be in the mid-50s, great for late October. Showers are expected to taper off. If rain persists, it may turn the event into a running game...which would favor the 'Queens and RB Adrian Peterson. Especially since the Packers' running game has basically been put on the back burner of head coach Mike McCarthy's play calling, despite his protestations to the contrary. One of the keys to this game, though, is really about keeping Peterson contained more so than getting the moribund (look it up!) running game of the Packers going. Keep Peterson in check, as the Pack did in their two games last season, make Ol' #4 have to throw the ball, get pressure on him -- as the Pack did not in their two games last season -- and that will go a long way to determining the outcome of this game.

On the flip side, Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers has to play better than he did against his counterpart in the two meetings of last season. It would help, of course, if his offensive line also protected him better than it did then. 'Queens DE Jared Allen isn't the sack machine he was a year ago and tonight is no time for him to begin reprising that role. Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga -- likely getting the start at tackle again for Mark Tauscher -- will have to be on their game. Rodgers, for his part, needs to get rid of the ball more quickly than when these teams last met. Of late, he seems to have reverted a bit to this old habit which could come back to haunt him and the Pack. Let's hope not. RB Brandon Jackson and whomever else coach McCarthy tosses in to run a few times need to do enough to keep the Minnesota defense honest and out of a constant blitz barrage. Rodgers and his receivers also need to do a much better job of converting third downs. To date, that has been a situation which has contributed directly to the Pack's three losses. If it's the same old tune tonight...well, that wouldn't be good.

The Packers' defense should get a boost from having linebackers Brandon Chillar and Clay Matthews back in the lineup, along with DE Ryan Pickett. All three are still listed as questionable on the Packers' injury report, but expectations are that they will see action. Matthews is obviously critical to getting pressure on Favre. And Chillar's ability to cover over the middle will also play a role in the defense's success tonight. Pickett's ability to anchor the end of the line will also be key to helping contain Peterson. The news on the return to practice of CB Al Harris and S Atari Bigby this week was a plus, but no moves were made to make them active as of yet. Newly-acquired S Anthony Smith should see some action today backing up Charlie Peprah.

Special teams? Well...containing Minnesota returner Percy Harvin will be a challenge. And if they don't that could be the difference between winning and losing this game. Add in the need by punter Tim Masthay to do a much better job than he has done recently in helping the Packers manage the opponents' starting field position and this is still a major area of concern.

What's the bottom line? For a lot of reasons, the Packers need to win this game. The season is not done, however, if they don't. But getting the 'Queens at Lambeau, with a distracted (we hope) Brett Favre, and with a healthier (relatively speaking) defense, is a plus. If the Packers offense can just put 4 quarters of consistent effort across, the Pack should take this game. But it will be close. Very close, as most of the games between these two teams are.

I'm calling it 24-23 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

SNL parodies Favre
If you happened to catch Saturday Night Live last night, you saw them lampoon Ol' #4's recent alleged "incident," so to speak. They created a parody of Favre's Wrangler Jeans ads (which, by the way, Wrangler has pulled from airing recently) which is spot-on. If you didn't catch it, you can see it here. Very funny. But also very sad for the QB who once was known for something other than this.