Sunday, October 27, 2013

Week 8: Packers vs. Vikings Preview

Tonight's game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings will be the first meeting between the two teams this season and the last ever in the stadium generally referred to as the Humpty Dump. While the site of some epic battles between these two NFC North Division opponents over the years, players and fans alike will be glad to get into new surroundings next season.

But that's a side story to tonight's primetime game, obviously one of those scheduling decisions which didn't work out perhaps as well as imagined at the time it was set. The Packers, after all, are coming into the game atop the division at 4-2 riding a three-game winning streak despite a plethora of injuries, while the ViQueens are bringing up the bottom at 1-5 with a two-game losing streak and a mess at quarterback.

In our early-week glance at this game, we stated: "Packers and ViQueens is always a tough game, particularly when played in Minnesota. Even with the depleted roster the Packers are playing with right now, they should still win the game against this group of ViQueens. Especially if the 'Queens make the decision to start Freeman at quarterback once again."

Well, despite playing the entire game versus the Giants in a losing -- and inept -- effort Monday night, newly-acquired QB Josh Freeman will not play tonight. The decision was made earlier in the week. It was announced, to the surprise of many, that Freeman had actually sustained a concussion during the Giants game and would not be cleared to play against the Packers. Hmmm. How convenient. The announcement was met with some skepticism by pundits around the country. How was it that Freeman was not identified as being concussed during the Giants game? Some even asserted that Freeman or, more likely, the 'Queens, was faking the injury so Freeman wouldn't be fed to the Packers this weekend. We will make no such assertions here, but rather we leave it to you, dear readers, to come to your own conclusions.

So instead of a clearly not-ready-for-primetime Josh Freeman at quarterback, the Packers will instead see Christian Ponder. Ponder, as some have described him, is a capable quarterback. Not great, but if given protection and time, can execute a game plan and keep the 'Queens in the game. Especially with lots of handoffs to RB Adrian Peterson.

Let's not forget Greg Jennings
One of the best Packers receivers over the past seven years had been Greg Jennings. He was the epitome of class. Until he turned down more money to stay with the Packers and instead went to where many Packers' castoffs go, Minnesota. Then he began bad-rapping the Packers, Aaron Rodgers, you name it. Turns out he might have been a bit bitter. Now, when he has to line up against his old teammates, he claims all that mouthing off was just kidding around. Let's just hope Tramon Williams and the other D-backs hold Jennings to as few catches and yards as possible tonight. It will be a reminder to him that you're only as good a receiver as the guy throwing you the ball. Aaron Rodgers? Or Ponder, Freeman,'s that all working out for you, Greg???

What's it going to be?
The 'Queens secondary is woeful, meaning Packers QB Aaron Rodgers should have a big day despite the loss of some of his best receivers. Throw in a now solid running game and it will be enough to give Minnesota fits all day. That's not to say that Minnesota DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison won't cause some problems, especially with Allen going against Packers rookie LT David Bakhtiari. Still, Bakhtiari has held up well in each game against other good talent and we would expect him to do so tonight, as well.

Minnesota's offensive hopes rest on the legs of league MVP Adrian Peterson. The Packers can't give him any room to run, and they can't arm tackle. Peterson will get his yards, it's expected. But as long as there are no major game-long breakdowns in the Packers defense, Peterson won't be enough to overcome the ViQueens many other woes.

The Packers are favored by anywhere from 7-1/2 to 8-1/2 points depending upon who you are looking at for your line, with an over-under 47-1/2.

We're calling this game 31-20 in favor of the Packers.

It will be a battle, as these divisional games always are regardless of records, and it may even be close for a good portion of the game. But the Packers will separate and maintain the lead until the final seconds tick away, maintaining their lock atop the NFC North.

Go Pack Go!!!