Sarah: Round two of Brett Favre vs. the Green Bay Packers unfolds Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome. The first round ended with a defeated old man limping off Lambeau Field following a 28-24 loss.
Will anything be different this time around? Probably not.
The Minnesota Vikings’ season has been a letdown, to say the least. All of the begging they did to get Brett Favre back was a waste of time. Coach Brad Childress is en route to be the next Wade Phillips if his team keeps losing, and Minnesota went from being in the NFC Championship game last year to seemingly not having a shot at the playoffs in 2010.
As for the Packers, they’re fresh off a bye week and well prepared for another emotional contest. Aaron Rodgers keeps finding people to throw to every week despite a depleted receiving corps and the Packers have one of the toughest defenses in the league. Linebacker Clay Matthews leads the league in sacks with 10.5.
Favre leads the league in something this season, as well. Oh wait, that’s right — interceptions, with 16 so far.
Green Bay is a half game behind the 7-3 Chicago Bears in the division, so a win this week is crucial.
The Metrodome is never a kind venue for Green Bay, and division games are always a crap shoot, but the Packers should prevail again this week and continue their quest for the NFC North title.
Packers 31, Vikings 24
Steffen: Can anyone remember the last time this match-up wasn’t a huge game?
Minnesota has seemingly spent the entire season teetering on the brink of oblivion. The team has dealt (poorly) with a myriad of problems ranging from injuries, player mutiny, an off-the-field sexting scandal and on-the-field suckage. Even with a loss on Sunday, the Vikings would remain mathmatically eligible for the playoffs, but one has to assume that if the Packers complete the season sweep in the Metrodome it would be the death blow that sends this team to the trash heap.
The Packers, meanwhile, appear to have overcome their own issues. They were fairly inconsistent during the beginning of the season. They struggled to find a rhythm while dealing with a staggering amount of injuries. They have bounced back and are currently on a three-game win streak, due in large part to better-than-advertised performances by some of the backups, especially linebacker Desmond Bishop.
None of it matters though. Throw it all out. Anything goes when the Packers play the Vikings, especially in Minnesota.
Much has been made of the Vikings “we’re playing for us” attitude and while it hasn’t necessarily served them well, I fully expect them to come into this game motivated. This is their last opportunity to prove anything this season and it’ll be Brett Favre’s last chance (probably) to stick it to Green Bay — even though he’s claimed that it isn’t about that. And at this point, I don’t even know what exactly he’d be sticking to the Packers.
The Packers come off their bye healthier than they were in the last match-up. Having Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins back can only help Green Bay slow down Adrian Peterson. The key to victory has been the same all season long. Big plays from Clay Matthews and the defense, mistake-free ball from the offense. The Packers are 3-1 after the bye under Mike McCarthy so one shouldn’t worry about rust or a post-bye letdown from Green Bay. On paper, the Packers should win this easily.
I have a little voice in my head. It’s ridiculous, conspiratorial and cynical, I know. But sometimes I listen to this voice. And it’s often been right when it comes to the Vikings and Brett Favre. This voice believes that the NFL isn’t above manipulating outcomes of games. Because Brett Favre is a ratings bonanza for the league and all of the networks, it’s in their best interest to keep Minnesota relevant and in contention, even if it’s just one more week. This will be another nail-biting, hair-pulling, frustrating game. Unfortunately, Packers fans will be the ones complaining about the blown calls this time around. Aaron Rodgers will suffer a couple more unflagged helmet-to-helmet hits and Brett Favre will be the beneficiary of a few dubious illegal contact calls that will help him “magically” lead his team to a come-from-behind victory.
Vikings 28, Packers 23
Shawn: Some could say this is the Vikings’ Super Bowl. I don’t know about that, but I do know this is probably Brett Favre’s Super Bowl. It’s about 99 percent certain this will be the last time he faces the Packers, and there is no other big game in his future unless he buys a ticket and attends one. So, we know there will be at least one Viking playing hard this Sunday.
Similar to the first time these two teams met, the game very much hinges on how the old QB plays and how well the Packers harass him. If the Packers have a hard time getting to him and he plays well, the Vikings can certainly win this game. If he shows more of the form from the second half of the first meeting, the Packers will win this game easily.
Personally, I think the Packers’ defense is playing too well for the Vikings to recover any of the magic they had last year against Green Bay. Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett will both be playing in this one, and most of the secondary has improved their game from the first meeting.
How will the bye affect the Packers? Obviously they should be healthier, and having an effective Donald Driver back would be huge for the offense. We’ve already seen teams come off the bye sluggish, so that is a threat, but the Packers have a history of playing well after a bye.
In the end, I simply believe the Packers are the better team. Vegas made the Packers a 3.5-point favorite, which means bettors believe the Packers are about a TD better than the Vikings. I would concur with that. I think the Vikings give a spirited effort, but like last time, I pick the Packers by four.
Packers 24, Vikings 20