The Green Bay Packers have dazzled opponents and fans thus far en route to an impressive 8-0 start. Aaron Rodgers has been astonishingly effective, the Packers defense has gotten the job done and Green Bay fans are crossing their fingers that this team could become the second team in NFL history to win every game it plays.
Sorry to break the news, but the Packers' glorious run will come to a screeching halt in front of a national prime-time audience Monday night when Green Bay faces the Minnesota Vikings. Examining the Vikings' season thus far, the high-pressure atmosphere the Packers are operating in and the general circumstances of the game will make this understandable.
Minnesota, despite having a regrettable 2-6 record, has been competitive in all but one of its contests. That statement, however, doesn't do the team justice; five of the Vikings' six losses could easily have gone the other way, the defeat to Green Bay at Mall of America Field included.
Also encouraging for Vikings fans is the play of quarterback Christian Ponder. The rookie opened many eyes with his solid play in his first career start against the Packers, no less. He parlayed that success into his first win the very next week against an overlooked Panthers team.
Having Adrian Peterson as a safety blanket will work wonders for Ponder and the offense; it will nurture his development and allow him to grow at a realistic and effective pace. Although he has only started two games thus far, Ponder seems to be developing rapidly and getting better at a surprisingly quick rate.
Who will win Monday night?
I'm not trying to discredit what they've accomplished thus far; rather I'm trying to demonstrate that the gap between the performances of these teams, while considerable, is not as gigantic as some might think.
Also, considering history and statistics, it is very unlikely that the Packers will go undefeated. Each win and the corresponding escalation of hype and comparison to the '72 Dolphins raises the pressure for the players, regardless of what they say. Each win makes the stakes higher, and the dream can't go on forever.
The Vikings are in prime position to end the Packers' run. There's a good chance that Green Bay, while not overlooking Minnesota entirely, is not considering its opponent as seriously as it should. The fact that Monday Night Football is covering the game is another advantage for the Vikings; the pressure facing the Packers will be palpable. Minnesota has nothing to lose, while Green Bay has everything to lose.
Look for a highly entertaining contest on Monday night between two of the most bitter rivals in the NFL. And don't be surprised if the team with the prettier record comes up short and causes the remaining members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins to breathe a sigh of relief once again.