Sunday, November 9, 2008

This Game Is Bigger Than We Want To Admit

Yep, after a long and toiling season, sure is nice to have a game against the Vikings, isn't it? I mean, no matter your ills, we can always count on Brad Childress to lay down for us and give us one in the win column, and that sure would be nice right now. Right?

This game is more than just another Vikings game, and most of us don't want to admit it. But, the Packers and the Vikings are both sitting at 4-4, and are a game out of first place. It is highly unlikely and statistically improbable that any team from the NFC North will earn a wild card ticket to the playoffs for mediocrity, so whether we like it or not, this game will go a long ways toward determining who is going to have a chance to challenge the Bears for the division.

Lose this one, and your odds just got mighty slim.

But they are the Vikings, you say. Mike McCarthy has run off five straight against them. He's never lost to them as head coach of the Packers!

But the game we had to open up the season was far from a blowout. A special-teams touchdown marked the difference in that game, as well as Childress inexplicably putting the game in the hands of Tarvaris Jackson instead of Adrian Peterson. Don't expect to see that again today.

The Packers are coming off a 13-3 season, with all the expectations in the world for this year. The Vikings are where the Packers were last season, coming off an 8-8 record with a late-season surge. They are starting to find their groove and gain some confidence.

The Packers are underachieving. The game last week against the Titans is still being ballyhooed by the Thompson defenders as a moral victory (see Rob Demovsky). I don't see it that way. I see a Titan team coming off an emotional divisional win and a short week against a well-rested team riding high from a Colts victory. The Titans were exhausted, and played that way. Neither team did much to take that game away from the other, and in fact the Titans literally offered it to the Packers on the silver platter several times.

The Packers didn't take it, whether it had been a dropped pass, an interception, a muffed interception, a failed defensive stop. A good team takes those opporurtunities.

And, if you haven't noticed, there are signs of cracks in the concrete of this team. Jarrett Bush decided to pop off to the media not knowing why he was taken out for the last field goal attempt. James Jones pondered publicly why he was inactive and not told why. Jermichael Finley went on a public rant, throwing his quarterback under the bus to explain why he missed a fourth down pass.

In every case, McCarthy was called out on the carpet and had to explain these situations publicly, too. If we have learned anything from FavreGate, it is that public airings of grievances through the media isn't the most healthy thing for team cohension.

Last week, we saw cracks. A loss this week may cause the wheels to come falling off, especially with a game against the Bears the following week. High expectations have a way of doing that to you, especially when you don't meet them.

Yet, the Thompson Defenders' biggest headlines this week is citing how the Packers made a genius decision in letting Favre go and keeping Aaron Rodgers. Mike Vandermause of the Press-Gazette went on a diatrabe explaining how Thompson was so smart not allowing the Vikings to get Favre, because then they'd be that much better.

The other side of the coin is that you need to focus on what makes your own team strong first. Perhaps spending two months embroiled in a media circus and soap opera should have been spent focusing on what was happening at 1265, not worrying about what was happening in the Twin Cities.

The stench is that we wouldn't have been good enough to beat a Viking team with Favre at the helm, hidden by cheap shots and good press for the guys who made the decision.

And now, it comes to a head. The Vikings have every reason to win this game, whether it be payback for the opening season loss, the accusations of tampering, the obvious efforts to keep their targeted quarterback away from them, or just plain wanting to beat a division rival at home.

The Packers need this game. Let's all hope that they understand that, too. And, that they've actually communicated this to each other in the locker room, not through the media.

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