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?
At the same time, why am I even asking this question? The Packers have already won 10 games. They won 10 games the last time they won the Super Bowl. They could still win the division. They’ve beaten the Chiefs and Seahawks this season, two teams that appear to be very good at football.
This all leads me to the discussion of the upcoming Vikings game. I hate the Vikings. I don’t like the little brother attitude their fans have. I’ve never seen a fan base so obsessed with another team. They live and breathe to cheer against the Packers, as much if not more than they cheer for their own championship-less team.
Common sense would tell you losing to the Vikings on Sunday is the best thing for the small chance the Packers have to win the Super Bowl this year. It puts them in Washington against an inferior Redskins team. The Packers would more than likely find themselves in the divisional round. If you can get into the divisional round, you just have to figure out how to win three in a row. It’s happened before.
What if this isn’t the Packers year? It doesn’t seem like the Packers year. In 2010, there was momentum. Flynn almost beat Brady, Rodgers smoked the Giants, beat the Bears at home and never looked back. Rodgers was the best player on the planet and no one could stop him from that Giants game until the loss to the very same Giants in the 2011 playoffs. What if this year they just don’t have it?
Would it be better than to say a fifth consecutive eff you to the Vikings, Bears and Lions? To remind them, that even when we’re not very good we’re still better than you. This is our gas station. Sweep the Vikings, win the division. Go into the playoffs and whatever happens happens.
What is the meaning of this season? What is the meaning of life?
When the Packers have the ball:
This all depends on the health of the Green Bay offensive line. The Packers have proved over the years, even in the Zimmer seasons, that they are a bad matchup for Minnesota. The double-A-gap pressure that Zimmer uses doesn’t bother Rodgers. Eddie Lacy is almost always a problem for the Vikes and that gets their secondary out of position. Even without Nelson, this limited version of Rodgers was still able to hang 30 points on Zimmer in Minnesota.
Without Bakhtiari and Bulaga, however, everything becomes a problem. It’s not that they can’t run the ball, Tretter and Barclay are probably just as good at run blocking. It’s the pass blocking and McCarthy’s inability to commit to running the ball that are the problem. In McCarthy’s offense you have to protect Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings have good enough pass rushers to consistently beat Don Barclay (so does everyone else).
Yes, the Vikings defense is overrated. They are 15th in DVOA and if you ask Vikings fans (and a lot of national talking heads) they are a top level unit. That isn’t going to matter if Green Bay can’t block.
When the Vikings have the ball:
Here’s the big problem for the Vikings. Dom Capers doesn’t seem to have a problem with this Vikings offense. Peterson or no Peterson. Capers has held the Vikings to 14 points or fewer six times since the 2010 season (after Favre). The Packers are 10-1-1 since the departure of the Ol’ Gunslinger. It doesn’t really matter who the coordinator is, Capers doesn’t usually lose to a team featuring a running back as their best player.
The way to beat Capers (and this has been well documented) is with an elite quarterback. That is something the Minnesota Vikings just do not have. Teddy Bridgwater is in the middle of the best stretch of football of his young career. As with most of Minnesota’s success under Zimmer, it’s been against weak opponents.
Green Bay should get Sam Shields back this week, and that’s a big deal. Shields erased star Vikings rookie receiver Stefon Diggs in the first meeting, and his ability to do that again will be key. This Packers defense is good enough to contain Peterson if that can remain their primary objective (13 carries, 45 yards in week 11 vs. GB).
As far as I can tell, from everything that’s been said about this game, the Packers are going to play to win. If they’re going to play to win they’re going to win the game. The next time Mike Zimmer and Teddy Bridgewater win a big game against a good opponent will be the first time it has ever happened.
Are the Packers even good? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’ll tell you this much they’re still better than Minnesota. Back to back to back to back to back.
Packers 27 Vikings 14