I don't like this game at all.
Offensively, the Packers do a lot of things that can exploit the Vikings' defensive weaknesses. They can run Ryan Grant off tackle and outside, which the Vikings are vulnerable to. They can throw a lot of short passes over the middle, which the Vikings are always susceptible to, and I maintain it is even worse without E.J. Henderson. And they have WRs like Greg Jennings and Donald Driver that can go for some deep routes, which the Viking cornerbacks can give up. And Mike McCarthy is a good coach that can exploit those weaknesses.
The key will be the pass rush: if the Vikings pressure Aaron Rodgers, they'll have a chance to contain the Packer offense (Oh, please play Jared Allen. And please, NFL, don't announce a suspension of Kevin Williams or Pat Williams just days before a game).
Defensively, the Packers have a good secondary, and will make it difficult for Viking WRs to get any space. Bernard Berrian has been playing very well, but he'll have to make some excellent catches against good coverage Sunday. The running game has to be excellent for the Vikings. It can be, too: while the Packer defense ranks very well against the pass, it ranks very poor against the run.
The Viking special teams were at their best against the Texans last season; let's hope there has been some permanent improvement in their kick and punt coverage.
But the Packers won by five points at Lambeau Field earlier in the season. Now both teams are 4-4, and they've both had their problems and their successes. Can the Packers sweep the Vikings for the third consecutive year? That's all that gives me hope. The Metrodome, and two teams that rarely dominate this rivalry for long. And if the Vikings do lose six straight games to the Packers, if they really get swept three straight seasons, I've made my opinion clear: Brad Childress has to go. If Brad Childress can't beat the Packers once in three seasons, then for me, it would take a trip to this year's NFC championship game to justify keeping him as head coach of the Vikings. Mike Tice was 5-4 against the Packers. Dennis Green was 11-9. In the Metrodome, the Vikings under Green and Tice sometimes beat the Packers when the Packers were much the better team (1996, 2002). This is it Brad Childress: beat the freaking Packers.
When the Vikings beat the Packers, I'm filled with a giddy feeling. Remember this 2005 game? It's probably the one that's most memorable for me: after Edinger made that kick I was yelling and screaming and jumping and running. And I haven't had that euphoria since 2005. You know, normally this is the part when I would wax miserable on the trauma of rooting for the Vikings. But I'm happy this week, so I don't even want to.
Week 10's Intriguing Games
Colts-Steelers: Surprise! I'm interested in a Colts' game. When I watch the Colts play, I feel like every rushing attempt is just a waste of a down. They gain 0-2 yards, then they have one fewer down to pick up the first down with a pass. They're committed to trying to improve their running game, but I say screw it: you've got a slew of good pass catchers and the smartest quarterback in the game, just wing it 75% of the time.
Cardinals-49ers: Surprise! I'm interested in a Kurt Warner game. My fascination with his career continues, and I'm looking forward to watching him play on Monday (the Cardinals aren't really televised terribly much).
In addition to Vikings-Packers and Colts-Steelers, there are four other games between teams .500 or better: Titans-Bears, Bills-Patriots, Giants-Eagles, and Saints-Falcons.
Wacky League and MVP
Check out the standings: 21 of 32 teams are currently .500 or better. There are three divisions with four .500 or better teams. The league is very open and it will be very fun watching the second half of the season.
More than usual, it is completely pointless to discuss an MVP of the league through 8-9 games. If a star QB or RB is on a team currently around .500, and has put up even decent numbers at this point (meaning he has cumulative numbers to build on), he's still eligible. And since performance in the second half of the season is what will really stick in voters minds, it likely doesn't matter who was the best player through the first half of the season. I'll stick with my hopeful pick of Adrian Peterson. He's certainly not the MVP at the half-way point, but his team is 4-4, and his 823 rushing yards in 8 games gives him a solid total to build on. If he puts up a couple of monster games (around 200 yards), puts his yardage total around 1,800 yards, and helps get the Vikings to 10 wins and the playoffs, he can still be MVP.
But the MVP almost always goes to a QB or RB on a team with the best record in its conference. Thus, the league standings mean more than numbers when you're trying to assess potential MVPs.
I'm always interested in following the league leaders in various categories; Pro-football-reference.com's leaderboard has the top-10 listed for most categories on one page, which is nice.
I assume Favre is the all-time leader in two categories: interceptions returned for touchdowns, and passes hitting defenders square in the hands but being dropped. I'm sort of glad he came back: he gets to continue to showcase his immense ability to throw passes at defensive players.
Tony Parker scored 55 against the Timberwolves.
I know defense. Defense is a very good friend of mine.* You, Timberwolves' guards, can't play defense.
*This sentence isn't even remotely true.
Pat Reusse talks to a couple of Vikings about Barack Obama.
Grant's Tomb says the Vikings will beat the Packers.
Kurt Warner's season (Cold, Hard Football Facts).
Alan Faneca has epilepsy, and he tries to help others who have it, too (New York Times).
Donovan McNabb on Obama (New York Times).
Dave Zirin interviews Jim Brown (Edge of Sports).
Those "Saved By Zero" commercials (Awful Announcing, Shutdown Corner). I noticed these commercials because my toddler son sometimes dances when music comes on TV, and late on a Sunday afternoon of watching football, I suddenly wondered how many times I had heard that song. According to James Twitchell in "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz," "The American Association of Advertising Agencies [...] estimates that of the three thousand ads we consume each day, we notice only eighty and have some sort of reaction to only twelve." But if you watch sports regularly, you're watching the same networks for hours and you see the same commercials again and again. Good times. Hey, I sort of like advertisements: I even assign a paper on advertisements in my freshman composition class. But then again, I also like skipping commercials with my DVR. For over two years I blogged about sports without even getting ESPN at home, and now I watch games on the NFL Network and talk about my DVR. What happened to you, man? You've changed.
You're all suckers.