Random thoughts, every Thursday at theheadcheese.com:
Meeting #99 between these two rivals could go a long way in telling us which team will be a factor in the NFC North race and which team is fading: both teams face stiff road tests the following week so a win on Sunday is crucial. The Packers will meet the well-rested Jets while the Vikes head to Foxboro for a date with Tom Brady.
The Pack leads the all-time series 49-48-1. This marks the third straight year, and fifth in six years, that these teams have met in prime time. It's the first Sunday night game since 2003 (a Packer victory at the Dome).
One thing is clear: the Packers need to jump on the Vikings early. The Purple offense has been dormant in the first half of its last two games. After putting up 188 total yards at home against the Cowboys (60 in the first half), it's obvious they're nowhere close to finding their rhythm. Pack needs to apply constant pressure on Favre, while keeping Peterson in check...The Packers' streak of 19 games without allowing a 100 yard game by a running back is the longest in the NFC. When Favre is sacked two or less times, the Vikings are 10-1. When he's on the ground three or more times, they're 4-6.
We're watching reports from practice extra carefully this week to see if the defense will welcome the return of Clay Matthews, Ryan Pickett, Brandon Chillar, Al Harris and Atari Bigby. As of Thursday morning, Bigby seems to be the longest shot to return to action--the trade for safety Anthony Smith would indicate the team isn't relying on seeing Atari right away--or that Nick Collins' knee is a concern. Clearly, Matthews' return would carry the biggest impact: last week Chad Henne had all the time he wanted to locate Brandon Marshall and convert third downs. With Mike Neal ruled out, a healthy Pickett is also needed: the Pack has zero reliable depth after those two.
Never thought I'd make this statement when the season began: I can't wait to watch the Randy Moss-Tramon Williams matchup Sunday night. I have to think the Pack will see if they're emerging (dare I say, shut down) corner can handle the mooning receiver. It would allow Woodson to keep an eye on Harvin.
Both QBs enter this game with as many picks as they threw all last season. As Favre allegedly makes his final appearance at Lambeau, he comes in ranked 28th in the league with a 72.1 passer rating, a sore elbow and ankle, a bit unfocused after meeting with some of the NFL's top honchos to discuss allegations against him. All that adds up to a dangerous QB, who saves his best efforts for when you least expect it. I expect Favre to make some big plays and that's why this game is all about Aaron Rodgers.
This is Rodgers' night to reclaim the team. Much has been made this week of the Pack's inability to win close games. Back to back overtime losses will do that, but you can't escape the numbers: 1-11 in games decided by four points or less. Favre was 33-30 in those games as a Packer. This game will undoubtedly be close. It will undoubtedly be up to Rodgers to get the most out of the offense when the game's on the line.
Realistically, the Packers need to win at least two of their next three heading into the bye. It must start Sunday night with a win over Favre and the Vikes. If for no other reason than the mental health of those of us living in the Twin Cities!
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