Nothing more needs to be said about the drama attending tonight’s Vikings-Packers tilt at the Metrodome presented by Mall of America. We all know why this game means more than other Vikings-Packers games. We all know why the nation – even the world – will be watching.
It isn’t because Daryn Colledge is playing left tackle instead of Chad Clifton.
No, there is no need to rehash all of that. If you’ve been watching ESPN today, you’ve gotten your fill of Favre.
So, instead of concentrating on the extra drama and the reasons for it, I will now endeavor to look through the blinding glare of hype and consider the actual game.
It is, first and foremost, an NFC North division match-up. We know why such games are important. We know that, if the Vikings win, they will put the Packers down two games in the race. We know how vital division wins are to tiebreakers and such at the end of the season.
This has nothing to do with bragging rights or who is up in the rivalry – it’s all about standings and positioning. The Packers win, they pull even with the Vikings and Bears atop the division. They lose, they slide.
The game also has significance in terms of our perception of the two teams. We thought the Packers might be pretty good after the defensive effort they mustered in Week 1 against Jay Cutler and the Bears. Then they laid an egg against the Bengals, at home, and we wondered if maybe we didn’t over-estimate them.
Coming off pounding the Rams – not a great accomplishment – the Packers want to show that they can go into a hostile environment and win a tough game. They want to show what their new 3-4 defense can do against Adrian Peterson. They want a signature victory, something that will put them on the map.
What better statement could the Packers make than to defeat Brett Favre and the Vikings with all the sporting world watching? What better statement could Aaron Rodgers make than to outplay the man he replaced?
Yes, it’s impossible to separate the game from the hype.
And the Vikings, too, would like to make a statement. They may have beaten the 49ers last week, but they know they didn’t play well. They know AD was getting stuffed. They know they had that game lost before Favre bailed them out.
They need to come back, at home, and play better on both sides of the ball. They need to run it better. They need to pass block a lot better. They need to cover better.
They had problems handling Shaun Hill and Vernon Davis. Aaron Rodgers is better than Shaun Hill, and the Packers’ receiving corps is vastly better than the Niners’. They’re hoping the loss of Clifton will lead to a big pass rush from Jared Allen. If Allen can harass Rodgers, then they should be able to control the Packers’ passing game.
If not…Rodgers has a lot of weapons.
Of course Brett Favre has weapons too. The problem is that, so far, he hasn’t been able to consistently use them. He still hasn’t found any chemistry with Bernard Berrian, who didn’t help matters by developing Kleinsasser-like hands last week. And Visanthe Shiancoe hasn’t been as big a part of the offense as we hoped.
Mostly we are hoping for a bounce-back game from Adrian Peterson, but we are also hoping for crisper, more efficient offensive execution overall. The machine has been sputtery. The Vikings need to put together two good halves. As exciting as last-second game-winning touchdowns are, they are not something we want to become overly familiar with.
This is a home game for the Vikings, and they are favored, and they should be favored. Now they have to come out and play like a favorite, take control of the game from the start and hold on. Unfortunately, this being a Viking-Packer game, I expect that there will be numerous gut-wrenching turns. Some more #4 heroics may be needed.
Aspirins may be required. Or perhaps something stronger.
Topics: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian, Brett Favre, Chad Clifton, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Daryn Colledge, Green Bay Packers, Jared Allen, Jay Cutler, Jim Kleinsasser, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Shaun Hill, St. Louis Rams, Vernon Davis, Visanthe Shiancoe