In what could be the most watched regular season Sunday afternoon game of all-time, the Packers will host Brett Favre for the first time in his career. In Week Four, Favre torched his old team in a 30-23 victory that seemed more like 30-3. But four weeks later, some things have changed for each team. Here’s five reasons why the outcome will be different this time around.
Last time around, Brett Favre and the Vikings had the leisure of not only playing at home in the Metrodome, but also playing without the weather factor. Fast forward three weeks and the weather conditions call for temperatures in the mid-40s with a 30 percent chance of precipitation.
Lambeau Field calls for a 100 percent chance of a hostile environment that is sure to shake the “ol’ gunslinger” into making errant passes. Naturally, the nerves have to be getting to Favre as he prepares to face his old team in his old stadium for the first time ever. In Week Four, the jerseys on defense were green and gold, but the stadium wasn’t.
It’s easy to forget with all the Favre hype, but this game means a ton in terms of determining who stands on top of the NFC North in a few weeks. The Packers are one-and-a-half games behind the Vikes and face Tampa Bay the next week. A win against Minnesota would mean first place for the Packers.
Combine that with the temperature change that has hurt Favre over the last three seasons and you have a recipe that, at the very least, is much different than it was in Minnesota. It’s never easy to win on the road in the NFL and next week will be no exception for the Vikings.
2. Packers’ Offense
In Week Four, the box score would have told you that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers played an outstanding game on offense and had their way with the Vikings’ secondary. But the truth was that most of Rodgers’ stats came in garbage time while the Vikings played prevent defense.
While the offense was able to move the ball and scored 17 points on offense, the Packers allowed eight sacks and Rodgers was pressured on just about every play, leading to errant passes and a fumble on Rodgers’ part.
The offensive line remains the same for the next week’s game. Daryn Colledge will not see any time at left tackle like he did in Week Four. Also, rookie T.J. Lang has had extra reps at left tackle if Chad Clifton can not go due to an ankle injury. Expect Jared Allen to get his fair share of pressure, but the Packers have changed up their offense and have implemented many short passes that should help.
Rodgers has the second-best passer rating in the league and has averaged the most yards per attempt, all while being sacked more than any other quarterback. If the Packers can get those short passes to work, it will take pressure off Rodgers in a mental and physical sense.
In Week Four, the Packers were without Atari Bigby and it showed as Favre and the Vikings’ pass attack had their way with the Packers’ secondary. This time around, Bigby will suit up and hopefully change the outcome in the passing game. Vikings coach Brad Childress admitted that the Packers are a “different team” with Bigby and the difference between him and Derrick Martin will be night and day.
For the Vikings, standout cornerback Antoine Winfield is expected to miss the contest and Bernard Berrian has yet to practice this week. Both players were huge contributors in the Vikings' Week Four victory. Winfield compiled 10 tackles and an interception, while Berrian caught six passes for 75 yards and a third-quarter and eventual game-winning touchdown from Favre.
Jermichael Finley, who led the Packers in receiving against the Vikings with 128 yards and a touchdown, will miss Sunday’s game along with wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Brett Swain was also lost for the season with a torn ACL against Cleveland, so Rodgers’ targets will be limited to Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Donald Lee and the backs.
There are injuries for both teams, but clearly the Vikings’ injuries hurt more than the Packers right now. It was the opposite situation in Week Four.
Aside from the fact that the Packers are coming off a bye week and two wins while the Vikings are coming off a loss, the Packers seem to be hitting their stride while the Vikings are fighting for their lives. The Packers have had three easy weeks to prepare for their big division rivalry game in playing the Lions and Browns off a bye week.
On the other hand, the Vikings just barely held on to defeat the Ravens in a shootout and went wire-to-wire with the Steelers in a loss. At the very least, the Vikings are more tired than the Packers are at this point. Losing the game in the last six minutes had to be disheartening for the Vikings and while they will not be resting on that fact, it’s different than coming out of Heinz Field with a victory.
No one needs to tell either team to get up for this game, but you can bet the Packers do not want to see Favre leave Lambeau Field with a victory. The tension was not as high in Week Four as it will be at 3:15 p.m. in Green Bay and the Packers will thrive off that.
The Packers finally feel confident in their offensive schemes and their defense has limited teams to three points in the last two weeks combined. Rookies Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji are getting much more involved and Rodgers has settled in, throwing eight touchdowns in the last three weeks. All signs point to the momentum being in Green Bay’s favor when the initial whistle is blown.
5. Twelve is greater than four
You knew it was coming, people. I stayed away from it in Week Four because thinking about Favre playing against the Vikings in Minnesota didn’t hit me as weird. But seeing Favre walk out onto the Frozen Tundra will be heartbreaking and as much as I love the man, Aaron Rodgers is my team’s quarterback.
Say what you will about the success Favre has had this season, but in four years when Aaron Rodgers is in his prime and Favre is (God, hopefully) on a tractor somewhere in his Wrangler Jeans, you’ll understand why Ted Thompson made the right call. Rodgers has been a top-five quarterback this season and has four wins to prove it. Cheer Favre for everything he did for the Packers, but once 3:15 hits, look to the other side of the field and watch the future of Green Bay Packers football, No. 12.