There is some debate here in the Twin Cities as to whether there's more pressure on the Purple or the Pack to win Sunday night. After all, both teams have gotten off to much slower starts than expected.
If the Vikings lose, they fall to 2-4 with a date in Foxboro on Halloween. If the Packers lose, it's their third straight and fourth in five games--including two straight at Lambeau. Plus they get to visit the well-rested Jets next Sunday. They could be looking at 3-5 a little over a week from now.
To me, it's no contest: the pressure is on the Pack. This is a home divisional game, and they've dealt with and heard about being swept by Favre and the Vikes last season for nearly 12 months. Green Bay needs to exorcise some demons on Sunday night and win this game.
It looks like both teams come into the game a bit healthier. The Vikes will get rookie Chris Cook back at corner, probably as a nickel back and center John Sullivan returns to try to help settle down the offensive line. They will be without safety Hussain Abdullah, out with a concussion. Tyrell Johnson replaces him--look for the Pack to test him early and often.
The Packers should welcome back three vitally important defensive players for this game: Matthews, Pickett and Chillar. As of now, it looks like they're all back. Pickett is very stout against the run--and the Pack is much better with him in there (Mike Neal will miss another game, making Pickett's presence on running downs even more vital). Chillar's return helps in the nickel package which will have its hands full with Favre's multiple targets.
But clearly the biggest difference-maker is Matthews. His return would allow Dom Capers to give Favre and that leaky offensive line a lot of different looks and pressures. Capers is 0-8 against Favre as a head coach and coordinator. Last year his D couldn't get a sniff of Favre and as a result the gray haired texter played flawlessly.
With Matthews on the field the Packers lead the league in sacks. Favre looks different this year. He seems tentative early in games, like he doesn't completely trust his line, his blocking back, his ankle, his elbow, something. Capers needs to bring pressure early and try to rattle him. It seems like he finds his rhythm as the game goes along, so the Pack is advised to strike early and put them in a hole.
Offensively, this is Rodgers' opportunity to show the nation why he's being mentioned by many prominent football mouthpieces as the next great QB. The loss of Grant and Finley means this offense will not be as dynamic as it looked in August. But that doesn't mean it can't be efficient. We need to see a commitment to the run Sunday night. The Dolphins and Jets have shown you can run on this defense. The Pack must mix in some run, while testing the weak third and fourth corners in the Vikings secondary. Some quick slants need to be back in the mix--they're vulnerable at safety, I would test their tackling ability.
This game could turn on special teams, where Percy Harvin showed last week how he can turn a game around. This will be a major test for the Pack's unit, which has been underwhelming, to say the least.
I have a hunch this game turns on turnovers. The Pack has not been anywhere near as proficient with turnovers this season as they were in '09. Look for the defense to make the big plays that turn this thing in the Pack's favor late. The return of the three injured guys, plus the possible debut of Al Harris should be enough for Dom Capers to finally beat a QB who's nearly as old as he is.
Much more on this game Sunday morning at 8am CDT on KFAN and kfan.com. It's the week 7 edition of "Packer Preview" on the Vikings flagship station.
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