Vikings and Packers Monday Night Preview
To call the off-seasons of the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings eventful would be about as much of an understatement as calling Bart Starr a decent quarterback. The NFC North Division rivals added a new chapter to their historic rivalry when the Vikings pursued a retired Brett Favre. As we now know, Favre is in New York Playing for the New York Brett’s or is it the Jet Favres? Either way he won’t be in Lambeau tonight for the Monday Night showdown.
Despite his absences, the mess left by #4 will be front and under center. Tonight’s match-up will focus on two young, unproven quarterbacks with loads of potential.
Aaron Rodgers will feel the most pressure, playing at home, on Monday Night, in front a large amount of fans who have not accepted the fact that A-Rodge was the Pack’s pick over a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. Nonetheless, Rodgers is now the man, and came off a respectable preseason, including an 18-22, 193 yard, TD performance against the Broncos in the preseason’s crucial third game.
Rodgers may have the weight of Wisconsin on his shoulders, but he does it will essentially the same roster Favre had in the NFC Championship game.
Ryan Grant returns a year more experienced, but hopes to avoid a sophomore slump that victimizes so many young players (Vince Young, Cadillac Williams, etc).
Rodgers will have the same receiving corps that torched secondaries last season. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones are all capable of a 1,000 yard season.
However, the key for the Green and Yellow may be the offensive line. Rodgers is not the most durable quarterback, (another knock the pro-Favre faithful holds against the Pack) so keeping him upright and protected is as important as any job this season. If Rodgers gets time early in the season, and can develop a rhythm with his talented wide receivers, the Packers have as good of chance as any to make a run for the division crown.
The problem with keep Rodgers off his back….
The six year, $74-million signing of Jared Allen. The Vikings key off-season acquisition comes to the Purple with a buzz that has led to Super Bowl talk for Minnesota. The Vikings traded for Allen with the hope that neither Rodgers, nor any other quarterback is able to find a comfort zone when they line up against arguably the best defensive line in the league. Minnesota will ride the front four highlighted by Allen, and Kevin and Pat Williams.
The secondary is a BIG question for Minnesota. Darren Sharper is a year older, Tyrell Johnson is likely to go through the usual rookie ups and downs, and the corners were part of a 2007 defensive that ranked last in the NFL in past defense. The signing of Allen should help put added pressure on quarterbacks and make the secondary’s job a bit easier. But if the Vikes plan to make a trip to Tampa in February, they are going to have to be much better when the ball is in the air.
In fact, that goes for the offense too. Minnesota ranked 28th in the NFL last year in passing yards a game (171.6), but believe that third-year quarterback Tavaris Jackson has made monumental strides this off-season and is ready to lead this team. Jackson will be given the same mantra Super Bowl winning quarterback Trent Dilfer had in Baltimore in 2001, “you don’t have to win the game, just don’t lose it.” Jackson does have a new down field threat in Bernard Barrian, who should open the field with his down field speed. If Barrian can attract some attention on the outside, that moves defenses back and gives the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Adrian Peterson, more room to work.
Peterson says he wants to run for 2,000 yards this year, and the only way he will do that is
1. stay healthy
2. not have to do everything.
The more effective Jackson is spreading the ball around, the easier it’ll be for Peterson to repeat his 2007 campaign (1,341 yds, 12 TD)
Fans in Minnesota and Wisconsin put a big circle around Monday’s game the day the NFL released the season schedule. Finally, after all the talk, all the speculation, and all the accusations, the game will kickoff tonight. Hear all the action on Cool Country 100.9 WCMP-FM or Classic Hits 105.7 WXCX. Kick off is set for 6 p.m.