PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: Step Two

Years ago Vikings executive Lester Bagley envisioned the opening of this new US Bank Stadium.  He wanted everything to start off with an Adrian Peterson touchdown after breaking a Clay Matthews tackle.  The Vikings will get their chance, as underdogs, to open their new digs in just that manner.

Prior to the season, this game at Minnesota looked like the only contest in which the Packers would not be favored this season.  Green Bay (according to last season’s records) has a very favorable slate.  The preseason loss of Teddy Bridgewater may have changed all that.  The Vikings have since mortgaged their future for journeyman quarterback Sam Bradford, and there’s a question whether or not Bradford will be ready to go.

This is a big game for Green Bay as well.  The Packers could very well start their season 2-0.  On the road.  With the exception of last season, the Packers have made a habit of dominating at home and scraping by on the road.  If Green Bay can survive Jacksonville and Minnesota early, They just have Detroit and Chicago (considered pre-season to be the weakest two teams in the division) and Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, and Tennessee on the road schedule.  Not a 2016 playoff team among them.

A 2-0 start would be an excellent beginning to this season, but maybe even beyond that having a “W” in the ledger in the Minneapolis half of the “border battle” would be a key step for the rest of the season.

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PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: What is the Meaning of Life?

I don’t know what to think of this whole season.  I don’t know what to think of Aaron Rodgers.  I don’t know what to think of the coaching staff or the General Manager.  I’ve been such a staunch supporter of Rodgers, Thompson and McCarthy over the years that watching their destruction at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals was very difficult.

Not only was the game not aesthetically pleasing, but it went deeper than that.  I began to doubt philosophies that I’ve adhered to for much of my adult football life.  Draft and develop.  Ted Thompson is smarter than me.  Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback I’ve ever seen.  Mike McCarthy is one of the best play callers in football.

I’ve often referred to this 12-MM-TT era as a “program”.  Like a college program.  They’re run very similar.  Small town, same coach, same GM, players are drafted, and if they cut the mustard they stay.  The team dominates their division, and it’s resulted in four (possibly five) consecutive division titles following a Super Bowl championship.

Is it injuries?  Jordy Nelson is gone.  The Packers are extremely beat up this season, especially on an offensive line that was supposed to be the strength of the team.  Is the defense actually any good, or have they been padding stats against inferior opponents?  What the hell is wrong with Aaron Rodgers?

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PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: Panic.

I did say last week that if the Packers found a way to lose to the Lions at home, I was going to panic.  They did, and I am.  The Lions aren’t a good team.  The Packers are supposed to beat every team at home, especially the bad ones.  That’s how the franchise is built.  That’s the program.  You sweep your home games and split the road games.  That’s 12-4.  You get to play home games in the playoffs when you are 12-4.  When you have the aforementioned home field advantage you win those games.  It’s a hell of a formula.

Not only that but somehow the Minnesota Vikings have won five consecutive games.  I didn’t think the Vikings were going to be bad this season.  I picked them to go 9-7.  Football Outsiders actually has them a little worse than that.  Minnesota is currently 19th in DVOA.  All things being equal that’s an 8-8 or 7-9 team.  All things are not equal and the Vikings have played the second easiest schedule in the league.  That doesn’t mean that they’re bad, they’re probably just not quite this good.

The problem is that this five game winning streak from Minnesota, and the three game losing streak from Green Bay has put the Vikings in first place in the NFC North.  Boy do Vikings fans not handle success well.  The way the schedule works this year the first Vikings/Packers game is in Minnesota.  It’s a big one.

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PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: Who’s the #1 contender?

The Green Bay Packers have either won the Super Bowl or the NFC North in each of the last 5 seasons.  It has been an incredible run.  In Game of Thrones parlance the Packers are the Kings in the North.  The Packers are prohibitive favorites to win the North again, requiring a $300 bet to win $100.  Admitting that the Packers are the clear favorite is easy, but identifying the #1 contender for the title is a little more difficult.

Each of the Packers’ NFC North mates have finished second during this half decade of dominance.  The Vikings scrapped their way to a 10-6 record in 2012 behind a monstrous season from Adrian Peterson, the Bears fell victim to “4th and great” in 2013 and Detroit came in second during the Packers’ 15 win season of 2011 and their 12 win season last year.

2015, from what I can tell, is going to be very interesting.  Last season’s #1 contender, the Detroit Lions, have lost what defined them as a team.  Ndamakong Suh and Nick Fairley are gone.  Everything that they did on defense was predicated by those two occupying between 3 and 3.5 blockers on every play and freeing up everyone else on the defense to make plays. The 3rd place finisher in Minnesota certainly appears to have the arrow pointing up.  The Bears Still Suck.

Contender #1: Minnesota Vikings

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PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: Establishing Dominance

The Packers did what they should have done last night.  They dominated a team at home that was less talented than they were, more beat up than they were and less prepared than they were.  While it is very satisfying to beat the Minnesota Vikings 42-10, the game was not perfect by any stretch. The defense was dominant.  Dominant in a way that I haven’t seen them in a long time.  When the Vikings were forced to throw the ball the Packers pass rush was absolutely relentless and the talented Packers secondary played very well.  Julius Peppers appears to be a revelation and a typical Ted Thompson signing.

All that considered, Tim Masthay punted 6 times.  The Vikings were able to slow down Green Bay’s passing attack with effectiveness that I did not anticipate.  All of the Packers offensive players that were interviewed intimated that they were not satisfied.  At full strength, these two teams are a little bit closer, but not much.  Vikings fans will complain about losing Peterson and Bridgewater, but the bottom line is that the last time they won in Lambeau Field without Brett Favre at quarterback was 2005.  The Vikings don’t actually win this game, like ever.

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PACKERS FOOTBALL TUESDAY (?)- Righting the Ship

I didn’t really realize how weird the schedule is this season until after the Bears game.  After Thursday, the Packers will get their second 9 day rest in between games.  They will also only have 3 division games left.  The only road division game left on the slate isn’t really a home game for the other team.  TCF Bank Stadium has treated the Vikings OK so far, beating the Falcons in a shootout and getting stomped by the Patriots, but it’s not the Metrodome and there’s a decent chance that the Vikings will already have lost 7 games by that time and know their season is over.

The Packers have opened as double digit favorites in this game and that is always concerning.  You could certainly make an argument that after beating the Bears by 21 points on the road there could be a letdown.  You could certainly make an argument that facing a Vikings team that has finished last in the division 3 of the last 4 seasons with a rookie QB and are without their best player could create a letdown.  You could certainly make an argument that the mini-bye week they could use to rest up and get healthy for the Miami game could create a letdown.

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PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: NFC North Draft Primer

In an effort to continue to give you something different than you find everywhere else on the Packersphere (I’m not sure this is a term, if it is don’t steal it) (Actually, go ahead and steal it, in fact, let’s get this bitch trending #Packersphere) I’m going to take a unique look at the 1st round of the draft as the NFC North is concerned.  This column was inspired by a conversation on this week’s From the Benches, which is being released Sunday Morning.  I’ll explain why the teams are picking at the spots that they are, then a projection of who I think they’re going to pick (and why) and finally who I really don’t want them to pick (and why).  As of right now, the plan is to give in to the needs of the masses and release my first (and last) 7 round Packers mock on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the draft.

8. Minnesota Vikings

Why they’re picking at 8:  In short, Rick Spielman has run this team into the ground, and to save his job he’s run two head coaches out of town.  The Vikings have finished in last place in the division in 3 of the last 4 seasons.  Spielman’s greatest failure has been his inability to select a passer and those who can defend the pass.  Christian Ponder at 12 overall was a disaster and outside of Harrison Smith Spielman hasn’t taken anyone who can cover anyone.  Spielman has hired Mike Zimmer as his head coach and is unlikely to survive any more failure.

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