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Friday, October 21, 2005
Game Preview: Packer (1-4) at Vikings (1-4)
by Thomas Pyc
Anxious? Most Packers’ fans are ready to see their team take the field again. Especially when it involves playing a controversy-ridden team like the Minnetonka Vikings. The Packers are still 1-4 with plenty of questions surrounding their own franchise but the last time they took the field they posted 52 unanswered points. That’s the first time an offense has done that in 16 years. (Elias Sports Bureau)
The Packers’ Offense vs. The Vikings’ Defense
Green Bay has been experiencing its share of injuries this season. Both TE Bubba Franks and RB Ahman Green being listed as questionable (50% chance of playing) but after the past bye week they are both expected to contribute. Second year center Scott Wells will start in place of Mike Flanagan and despite not having the same experience and athleticism Wells plays with a solid base. Wells knows how to use leverage, that same leverage helped him win the state championship in high school wrestling at the heavyweight class. Who is lining up under center still has not changed this season despite the cries of those who are ready to leave the Favre era. Entering this game No. 4 is second in the NFL in touchdown passes (12) but to be fair he is ranked just as high for his interceptions (8). A big part of Favre’s continued success is the development of tight ends David Martin and Donald Lee. Lee was recently acquired but his Mississippi background and his all-out play has put him and Brett on the same page quickly. With Franks back in the fold the tight end position does not appear nearly as bleak as it did during the offseason.
For eight years Vikings’ safety Darren Sharper faced Brett Favre in practice and definitely got his hands on his fair share of passes. But outside of Sharper’s past history on the Packers practice field the Vikings’ defense is anything but threatening. In fact, up until last week the Vikings were using a 4-3 defensive scheme. In a surprise move after just four games the Vikings used a 3-4 scheme against the Bears last week. Without knowing the move was coming until game time the Bears struggled. One paper the Vikings’ secondary looks good but with cornerback Antoine Winfield underachieving the entire group is struggling. Underachieving youthful talent coupled with some injury has kept this group ranked towards the bottom of the league.
The Vikings’ Offense vs. The Packers’ Defense
The only quarterback in the league with more interceptions than Favre is Viking QB Daunte Culpepper (12). When arguably the best receiver in the league, Rrrrrandy Moss, leaves your team there will be repercussions. But when you also lose your best running back, the offensive coordinator, a Pro Bowl center and an All-Pro guard thing are bound to get ugly. Matt Birk and David Dixon were two of the best at their position and the opposition is exploiting the weakness every week. The Vikings should be getting WR Nate Burleson back after spraining a knee ligament and that will help keep Daunte off his back. Outside of Burleson the biggest threat has been TE Jermaine Wiggins. The running game and the pass protection have hindered Minnesota’s ability to produce points.
Improving the defense was probably the top priority of the Packer organization this offseason. It all started at the top of the unit with the hiring of defense coordinator Jim Bates. After that move, the staff and the roster got some fresh faces and kept on developing the youthful talent. Cornerback Al Harris was named the NFC player of the week for his performance against the Saints. But before this group is dubbed ‘fixed’ they will have to show some consistency in the areas of quarterback pressure and turnovers. Another veteran, besides Harris, who looks to be performing up to par, is DT Grady Jackson. According to Jackson he’s right on schedule to have a solid season since he missed most of training camp. Then again, he will have to have another good performance to prove his last game was not merely an effort to get back at his former team. Grady’s impact improves this entire defense and helps MLB Nick Barnett utilize his speed and add to his total of 69 tackles.
The Bottom Line
Let’s not sugarcoat this matchup, both of these teams are 1-4 and are in serious contention for a top draft pick. The winner of this game will have a chance to salvage their season, especially in the NFC North. The Vikings have no where to go but up and should be fighting like a cornered animal but if the Packers can strike early and keep any big plays from happening they can add to Minnesota’s sorrow.