After a restful bye week to lick their wounds and run out of saliva in the process, the Green Bay Packers head to Minneapolis on Sunday for their second meeting with the Minnesota Vikings in four weeks.
The last time the Packers played, they got their opposing head coach fired. Could they make it two in a row?
Vikings head coach Brad Childress is in hot water over the team's 3-6 start and his inability to connect with his players. After his men saved his job in a stirring come from behind win two weeks ago over the Cardinals, the Vikings promptly laid an egg against the Bears last week.
Yet Chilly remains the coach.
How sweet would it be for Mike McCarthy (who has no love lost when it comes to Childress) to be the man who finally pushes Zigy Wilf to pull the plug on his coach? Aaron Rodgers got revenge on his nemesis in Brett Favre so maybe it's McCarthy's turn this time.
Breaking down the Vikings
Not much has changed with the Vikings the past four weeks except that one of their drama queens (Randy Moss) was cut to the surprise of everyone in the Vikings organization except Childress.
Even though one drama queen is gone, another (Brett Favre) still remains under center despite taking such brutal beatings each week. As long as Favre is on the field, the Vikings cannot be underestimated. He showed against the Cardinals that there is still magic left in his right arm. That said, his knack for boneheaded throws remains as strong as ever.
The other weapons on offense to watch out for are Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. Peterson rushed for over 100 yards four weeks ago and Harvin burned the Packers coming out of the backfield and in the return game as well as his regular receiving duties.
On defense, I would like to welcome Jared Allen back to the party. After a slow start to 2010, Allen has gotten some penetration these past two weeks (albeit against poor offensive lines) and has been able to get to the quarterback much more consistently.
The secondary remains the achilles heel for the Vikings. Rodgers was able to spread the ball around fairly well an there is no reason that should change in this second matchup.
When the Packers have the ball....
Well, how about that? The Packers were able to find some balance on offense.
Yes, the Cowboys defense was atrocious but the fact that McCarthy made the effort to establish the run shows promise. Look for Brandon Jackson to get a fair amount of carries early on as the Packers try to crack the Vikings defensive line to open up the passing game. James Starks may see some action as well.
The Vikings will try to hit Rodgers as much as possible. If Allen gets on a roll early, that could be bad news for the Packers. How well rookie tackle Bryan Bulaga picks up the blitz and gets off the snap in a noisy dome will be crucial.
When the Vikings have the ball....
The game plan for Dom Capers and his defense to stop the Vikings is really simple.
Hit Favre. Stop Peterson. Contain Harvin.
Easier said than done, but with the way linebacker Clay Matthews has been playing, it's possible. Minnesota's weak line leaves Favre susceptible to hits so Matthews should be licking his chops.
Stopping Peterson is trickier. Getting him down after the first hit is key to shutting him down. Sound tackling by the defensive line, particulary the ends, should do the trick.
Harvin is yet another pain. When he lines up in the backfield, he is a threat to take it to the house. Bringing a safety or another linebacker in over the top could help, but that could open the middle of the field if Harvin is used as a decoy.
Three keys to the game
1. That &%$#@! dome!
The Packers' struggles at the Metrodome have been well documented. It's a horrible to place to play (and watch) a game. The noise factor is unbearable.
Still, with back-to-back dome games coming up, the Packers have to overcome this issue. McCarthy brought in speakers for practice this week, but it's no substitute for the real thing.
Especially that damned horn every time the Vikings get a first down. I hate that thing.
2. Bury Favre and the Vikings...for good.
This is likely (heh) the last time Favre will face his former team so another beatdown of their former field general would do the Packers a world of wonders with their confidence, in particular that of Aaron Rodgers.
Beating Favre in the dome would ice the cake for the Packers. So would killing the Vikings playoff hopes. A big win here and it will be hard to stop the Packers from reaching Super Bowl XLV.
Yes, I said that. If the Packers play with enough emotion, this could be a huge win.
3. Stop Percy Harvin
Despite his success four weeks ago, Peterson has generally struggled against the Packers. While stopping him on turf is another ballgame, the Packers usually stop him from breaking long runs.
Percy Harvin is another story.
If Harvin has a big game, the Packers lose. He is so explosive in so many ways that if the Packers stop that one player, they win the game. Period.
Aside from the aforementioned addition safety or linebacker, contact at the line of scrimmage is the best way to slow Harvin down. Once he has you beat, say goodnight Gracie. Better hope Favre put too much mustard on that pass.
Packers 20, Vikings 10
Bottom line is the Packers were playing so well before the bye and the Vikings were not. Momentum is everything in the NFL and it says here the rested Packers continue their roll into Atlanta next week.
Oh and one more prediction:
Leslie Frazier will be the Vikings coach at this time next week. You heard it here first.
Follow Kris Burke on Jersey Al's Packers Blog at www.jerseyal.com/GBP and on Twitter @burke_kris