Come high noon on Sunday, the Packers kick off (or defer the coin flip and then kick off) their second contest at one of the latest heavily taxpayer funded stadiums in the NFL. Heading in with a 4-1 record, they are largely staying the track for the opportunity to book another visit in early February. The chances of playing the big game in such close proximity are few and far between for this team. Nothing would be better than to see the city of Minneapolis flooded with green and gold clad fans after the mandatory evacuation of homeless people and panhandlers that the city enforces for every major sporting championship.
Enough dreaming. The season is young yet, and drastic changes can occur any minute. That being said, let’s examine some storylines to follow for this annual border battle.
Offensive Line Health
It was more than refreshing to see Bryan Bulaga return against Dallas and finish the game. It would be refreshing times 10 to see Lane Taylor return to his primary position at left guard with David Bakhtiari (or Bakhtiara, if you’re Troy Aikman) plugged back in as the blind side protector for one Rodgers, Aaron. The Vikings defensive line is no junior varsity squad. Linval Joseph is a major disruptor when his leg isn’t hampered by gunshot wounds sustained at local nightclubs. Everson Griffen is a Pro Bowl talent. Brian Robison is a somewhat poor man’s Jared Allen. This defensive front is in all likelihood the stiffest test yet for Green Bay’s offensive line.
Aaron Jones’s Encore
The money says Aaron Jones does not repeat his performance against the Cowboys. In fact, the odds are overwhelming that he doesn’t repeat last week. Again, the Vikings defense is a varsity squad compared to the JV outfit that Dallas fielded. This is not taking anything away from what Jones has to offer. He was clearly the best rookie back in the preseason. Aaron Rodgers has sung his praises, notably when he said he had zero concerns about Jones being able to produce leading up to the Cowboys game. His performance in all facets of the running back position was very impressive last Sunday. But remember, the NFL is a league where those who don’t adapt quickly don’t survive. A top tier defense is planning for Aaron Jones. The test will be much tougher this week.
This author has lived most of his life in the Twin Cities media market. The atmosphere for this annual contest is always an interesting one. At their core, Minnesotans despise the Packers more than they love the Vikings. Go to Green Bay, and everyone will tell you the arch rival is the Bears, end of story. Minnesota’s disdain for the Packers is only amplified knowing the fact the Green Bay doesn’t even consider them their primary rival. On top of that, with Minneapolis so close to the Wisconsin border, Packers fans always flood the gates to support the visiting team. In any given year, at least a third of the fans at this game are Packers fans. In down years for Minnesota, it approaches 50% and beyond.
The culture of Minnesota has a deeply rooted need to assert its relevance, typically through classic passive/aggressive behavior. Nobody can quite explain why, but it’s true. Those who have lived in the area for long enough are more than familiar. Nothing embodies this more than the drivers of the Minneapolis/St.Paul metropolitan area. In particular, those who drive in the left lane of multi-lane highway . They think they can be bold and different by driving in the fast lane. The problem is, they go five miles BELOW the speed limit. And then, they get furious when you make multiple lane changes to get around them for driving like functional retards. You will not see worse drivers than in the MSP metro.
Commentary from the Fox Broadcast
Joe Buck will be absent due to baseball duties. In all actuality, I would argue that Joe Buck is just fine announcing a NFL game. He has endured so much flak over the years that he has pretty much embraced a “I don’t give a s***” attitude about the whole thing. After hearing him on multiple podcasts, such as Adam Carolla’s, he comes off as a rather humorous guy. Troy Aikman, on the other hand, is bound to make several glaring mistakes only to mildly rebound and continue with the broadcast. See last week’s commentary on David Bakhtiari.
________________John Piotrowski is a UW-Eau Claire alum, spending most of his life in western WI. He makes the trek east to Lambeau whenever possible. Follow him on twitter at @piosGBP.