Packers @ Vikings

Brett Favre is gone and almost forgotten.  Does this take a tiny little edge off the ancient rivalry between the Pack and the Purple?  It shouldn’t.  Especially not when the teams are both 4-4 and trying to get a leg up on the other in the division.  This game has huge implications for both squads.  The winner will be in the thick of the NFC North race, and the loser will be looking up at two teams that are definitively better than them.  It would perhaps be an exaggeration to say the season is riding on this game for both clubs – but it’s not a huge exaggeration.  It’s probably more true for the Vikings, who would trail the Packers by a game if they lost, and be 0-2 in the head-to-head, putting them on the short end of the most important tiebreaker.

There’s one particular member of the Vikings family for whom this game has even greater meaning – Brad Childress.  He’s in his third season, and there have been whispers – okay, shouts – that this could be his last.  If he wants to save his job, he needs to get to the playoffs this year.  And if he wants to put together any kind of a decent legacy as a Vikings coach (i.e. not spend the rest of his life being compared to Les Steckel) he needs to beat the Packers at least once.  Perhaps Brad doesn’t appreciate the kind of agony Purple fans feel when the Packers get the best of them – and there’s been nothing but agony since Childress took over.  Five straight losses.  Six would be just about unforgivable.  Thankfully, Childress’s much-maligned offense has finally begun showing signs of somewhat kicking ass.  They hung 41 on the Bears, then looked darn good against Houston.  Green Bay’s defense is pedestrian, at least statistically – they’re 20th overall, 5th against the pass but 28th against the run.  Fire up Adrian Peterson.  But don’t forget to protect Gus FrerotteAaron Kampman is known for terrorizing the Vikings, and will likely be extra motivated for this game given that he’s been held sackless the last two.

Speaking of big-time pass-rushers…the Vikings’ Jared Allen is having a sensational year after the big trade and signing, but that season is in danger of being derailed after Allen sprained his shoulder against Houston.  There’s been no official announcement, but it’s likely that Jared will not play today.  This should make life slightly easier for Aaron Rodgers who is having a Pro Bowl-type season.  The Packers were already probably inclined to come out flinging it, given their lack of a reliable running game, but if Jared’s on the bench, they will almost certainly try to air it out.  This will put added pressure on a Vikings pass defense that was left somewhat in tatters by the less-than-fearsome Matt Schaub/Sage Rosenfels combo last weekend (yes I realize their gameplan was to clamp down on Andre Johnson and let every other receiver on the Texans run wide open underneath).  And while we’re on the subject of pass defense…it would be really nice to see Darren Sharper finally make a play.  Actually, it might be even nicer to see a preview of next year’s safety duo, Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams.  Sharper may be savvy, but that doesn’t count for much when you run like Tony Siragusa after an afternoon at Old Country Buffet.  Sorry, but I think Sharper’s done.  I could show some optimism and call for a last-hurrah type game against his old team I suppose – but unfortunately I’ve been watching him play all year.

As for my prediction…I am officially out of the game picking business.  I’m wrong too often.  My only prediction is that I will have had enough of Joe Buck by the middle of the second quarter and will enjoy the remainder of the contest with the sound muted.  Go Vikes.

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Tags: Aaron Kampman Aaron Rodgers Adrian Peterson Andre Johnson Brad Childress Brett Favre Darren Sharper Green Bay Packers Gus Frerotte Houston Texans Jared Allen Joe Buck Les Steckel Madieu Williams Matt Schaub Minnesota Vikings Nfc North Sage Rosenfels Tony Siragusa Tyrell Johnson

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