Leading up to the beginning of the NFL Season I’ll start looking at the Vikings upcoming opponents for the year and offer both a Good, Bad, and Ugly scenario for each opponent.
Consider this a level headed opponent preview done in an effort to not pump any sunshine to the Viking reader base and to hopefully prepare your expectations for reality. Today, we continue with their week four opponent, the disgusting Green Bay Packers …
The Good: Before we dive right into this I just want to remind readers that the Packers are not an easy team to preview, mainly because I greatly dislike them. But! In the interest of journalistic integrity (What does that mean anymore, Ed Werder?) I’m going to try to be honest about the Packers and provide the truth about this team.
The truth is they may be a real good. Aaron Rodgers had a fantastic year in 2008, essentially stepping into the quarterback role as a rookie in his fourth season and passing for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns to his 13 interceptions. While the team itself wasn’t very good, finishing at 6-10 , the offense was fantastic when led by Rodgers and was surprisingly a top five unit in 2008. With all the main pieces coming back in place, and healthy to boot, there’s no reason why the offense in Wisconsin shouldn’t be able to keep chugging along at a stellar pace.
The Bad: The only chink in the Green Bay armor last year was the defense, which finishes 22 overall and a disappointing 24th against the run in a division dominated by impressive running backs. During the offseason the Packers decided to bring in Dom Capers, notable Houstan Texan coach, to revamp the defense into the intimidating 3-4 set run by such feared teams as the Patriots, the Steelers and the 49ers.
Early reports of the success of the 3-4 in Green Bay have been mixed. Former defensive end Aaron Kampman has allegedly had difficulty transitioning, and several of the young linebackers have struggled to pick the schemes up. First round pick, BJ Raji from Boston College, is also behind the game after missing all of training camp with a hold out and is just finally getting his feet wet with the defense during the preseason.
The Ugly: Yet despite these shortcoming and alleged difficulties of the players picking up Capers schemes, the product that has been seen on the field during the Packers’ preseason, both offensively and defensively, has looked scary good. BJ Raji may be the real deal, even if he’s not the brightest bulb in the room, and he could provide havoc for many NFC North offensive lines that either have questions at center or are just plain terrible.
When you’re playing a divisional opponent though, all bets are off. When you’re playing your divisional opponent who is also one of your most hated rivals who during the offseason just signed your most beloved player in team history to try and beat you twice a year, well, you better prepare for bloodshed.
Several things stand out that help predict a Vikings win against the Packers during their first meeting of the season though. To begin, the Vikings now have Brett Favre who will be playing against old teammates that he’s practiced against several times in the past. Of course, they’ve practiced against him as well, but the edge goes to the veteran. Also, the Vikings will by this point in the season have seen a healthy dose of 3-4 defenses, so anything that the Packers throw at them shouldn’t be a surprise. Also, they’ll be playing the first meeting of this series at home, which typically provides a distinct advantage for the in state team.
No doubt about it though, this one will be a nail biter. Could the Vikings lose just as easily as they could win? Yes. But with the aforementioned factors in the Vikings favor, the early season push goes to the Vikings. Chalk up a 4-0 start after they beat the Packers to the anxiety producing tune of 27-24.