Oh, I'm sure we're all ready to break down this game. Will Favre melt down? Will our offensive line hold up against Jared Allen? Will the Vikings be able to compensate for the absence of Antoine Winfield? Will AP get his yards?
I'm here to tell you that a Packer victory will all come down to one thing:
The Packers must force multiple turnovers that leads directly to points, preferably right inside the ten-yard line, and even more preferably, in the end zone. I'm here to tell you that if the Packers' defense doesn't contribute with a score (or a shoo-in play for the offense) or two, the Packers are going to have a tough time winning.
In FavreBowl I, everyone predicted that a revved-up Packer defense would feast on Favre miscues, and certainly, our secondary's ability to turn interceptions into points the last year and a half or so is well-documented and a legitimate threat. But, it didn't happen.
Oh, don't get me wrong. Clay Matthews made a great strip of Adrian Peterson and returned it for six. But, that in and of itself wasn't enough. The Packers need to force multiple turnovers and translate it either into points or field position. That strip was the only turnover the Packers had that game, and the Packers are still averaging 2.5 turnovers a game otherwise. That's almost three a game if you don't count the Vikings game.
It's the one intangible that we really have the most wiggle room with. I am going to assume the following about Sunday's game:
* Aaron Rodgers will have a very good game through the air (when he gets time), and will have no significant turnovers.
* Ryan Grant will struggle to find the success he had against the Browns, and will be less of an impact that many of us are hoping. Ahman Green will not be ready to be a boost-up over Grant at this point.
* Our offensive line is going to either be bookended by beat-up old veterans or young, raw greenhorns. Either way, the pass protection will be exposed and Rodgers will be under heat much of the game.
* Our defense is going to allow A.P his yards and a score, but he's not going to have a 150+ game. In other words, he's not going to dominate the Packers single-handedly.
* Favre will play well as long as he plays within his comfort zone...and plays with a lead, which the Vikings are going to make a point to try and get early.
* Special teams, in one way or another, will dictate some of the game, and unfortunately, Mason Crosby may be a minus, while Percy Harvin may be a plus.
If we assume most of these are true, the pressure is going to fall on the matchup we're all watching anyway: will Favre have a crash to end the game like he did last week against the Steelers? Or, could our secondary simply outmatch him in crunch time?
On paper, this game edged out slightly to the Vikings, as evidenced by their -1.5 line out of Vegas. Face it...the Vikings get the nod likely in both rushing offense and defense. They probably also get the nod on special teams.
Where do the Packers make up the difference? In the passing game.
Can Aaron Rodgers get enough time to have another brilliant day? Can he use his deep threats as well as his backfield targets to keep the defenders guessing?
Can he outplay Favre? I say yes, he can.
The question is, which pass defense will be doing the most damage? Without Winfield, the Vikings find themselves perhaps in the quandary the Packers in last time, when we were still guessing who to put in at safety.
But, you have to give the nod to Charles Woodson, Al Harris, and Nick Collins over anyone playing in the Vikings' defensive backfield. And, in my opinion, the Packers are going to need them. Our Pack hasn't exactly impressed with consistent long drives against quality defenses this season, and that's where those turnovers come into play.
You give the Packers a long field and a the Vikings a small lead, and its going to get tough. But, a couple of well-timed turnovers...you know, the ones we expected to have the first time around...will turn that field position battle around.
Naturally, how to you get that to happen? A little bit of luck, a dash of execution, and making sure that the Vikings running game isn't enough to beat us by itself.
My prediction: Packers tie up the game late on a Charles Woodson interception, setting up the Packers for a short drive, and sending the game into overtime. The Packers win the game, 30-24, on a Nick Collins pick for a touchdown.