For those that have followed my writing over the years, I anticipate that you'll understand this week's take. For those that haven't, I hope that you carry an open mind as you read.
It's strange to anticipate closure. It's almost an awkward emotion. Uniquely, this weekend has been anticipated for the last three years. It's even rarer to have emoted closure with such vengeance. Nonetheless, closure is upon us.
So, the day has come for the sun to set on the career of the greatest legend over the last 40 years of our storied franchise. For 16 years, we held onto his every step. Cherished 442 TD passes. Mourned 286 interceptions. We honored his greatness as he played through pain. Through immense personal hardship, he played with spectacular fever. We praised his 3 consecutive NFL MVP's. Endorsed his back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. And with grateful emotions, we celebrated the righteous Return of the Lombardi Trophy to the place where it all began. For 16 years, he was our White Knight. The Don Quixote - el hombre of Lambeau. At times, it seemed he was the Lone Ranger as he pulled out victories throwing crucial TD's to the likes of Bill Schroeder, Corey Bradford, Kitrick Taylor, Jeff Thomason and Terry Mickens. Truly, he was the Leader of the Pack. In time, once again, we will memorialize these moments. Not this Sunday. This Sunday marks the end of a legendary career. The crucifiction of the Football Jesus.
They say that life comes full circle. It's fitting that closure will occur at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. In the dome. For years, when these teams met, Favre struggled when the match-up took place in Minnesota. Once again, Favre will walk off the field & into the losing locker room. And, at that point, for all practical purposes, his career will be over as the Packers will have a 4 game lead with 6 to play. Throw in the fact that we'll have the tie-breaker & the Viqueens will be out of the race. Thoroughly demoralized.
Soon. Yes, soon. With great acceptance, we'll welcome #4 back to Football's Holy Land. Just as we did Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, Jim Taylor, and Reggie White. All who left Green Bay to play elsewhere. Some left with a bitter taste & were welcomed back. All are remembered as Packers legends. The same will happen with the present day Judas.
But, this Sunday is about Aaron Rodgers. He is the ONE. He is the ONLY.
For most Packer fans, the ultimate pain would be to witness Favre winning a Super Bowl in Purple. Until Favre is eliminated, I'm not counting him out. I've seen it before. Too many times to deny him. Most when I was rooting for him. A Minnesota win & our lead is only 2 games. The following two weeks Minnesota plays Washington & Buffalo. They'd be staring 6-6 in the face. They'd have life. For those doubters, all you need to do is look at the Packers in 2003 & 2004. Favre has pulled this magic before. And, call me foolish, but as long as #4 walks out of the tunnel, I fear that he has the capacity to do it again.
It's true that the Land of 10,000 Lakes has immense drama. It's true that they play in a dome that's embarrassingly named Mall of America Field. It's true that Brad Childress is the Coach of the Viqueens. It's true that it appears some players are quitting on their coach. It's true that Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice & Percy Harvin are all battling injuries. If all of these issues continue, it'll be unimaginable for #4 to muster up the impossible.
The Packers enter the Dome with immense confidence. Winners of three in a row. The 'queens arrive with confusion. Tremendous uncertainty. At 3-6.
While my tone makes it seem like a foregone conclusion - yes, that's intentional - this game is not a certain victory. I'm writing on the assumption that we're well rested. Better prepared. But, the reality is that we must jump out early. Eliminate any and all hope that the 'queens might have. Let's score first and strike negative thoughts.
This is a big game for Cullen Jenkins & CJ Wilson. We need production out of Jenkins & Wilson. I imagine that we'll see significant snaps out of both. They'll need to control the line of scrimmage & beware of Favre's cadence. Couple Pickett's availability with Favre's use of the audible & the use of our "Beefy Front" of Green, Raji & Pickett might be limited. While this defensive front would surely provide a push on assumed run plays, it'd also offer a light pass rush, which certainly would signal an audible.
If Rice & Berrian are unable to go, let's enhance our attention on Shiancoe & Harvin, which will force the 'queens to beat us with a combination of Greg Camarillo, Greg Lewis & Hank Baskett. In this scenario, the Packers might win by 20. But, I expect Rice & Berrian to play. If not for themselves, I believe they'll play for Brett. Sort of a "win one for the gipper" philosophy.
AP is the most dangerous back in the NFL. Occasionally, he'll get loose. But, keep Nintendo in Center Field & AP isn't busting one to the house. Further, keep Peprah inching towards the box & he'll attack the line. Peprah has been totally impressive thus far.
But, this game is for Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers comes of age this Sunday. It's his day. It'll be a legendary day in the career of our young, Pro Bowl QB. For only the second time in the last 19 years, Brett Favre will not be the best QB in the NFC North. The other time, Favre was with the Jets. This year - it's about Aaron Rodgers. He's the elite QB in the Division. Once again, he proves it on Sunday. In terrific form, Rodgers throws for more than 300 yards. He throws 3 TD's. He's nearly perfect.
With Rodgers as the leader, the offense walks in lockstep. Using a variety of screens, McCarthy slows down the rush. Clifton controls an animated Jared Allen. Bulaga handles Ray Edwards. Rodgers connects with Jennings on a big one.
Once again, Rodgers utilizes the TE's over the middle against the once-dangerous 'queens defense. AQ81 & D-Lee each find 1st down grabs.
Rodgers hits J-squared with a 25 yard fly route as Jones breaks off the jam against Chris Cook.
Don't be surprised if Sammy Swagga gets loose on a KO Return. I have a feeling.
Clay Matthews grabs another sack. T-Mon grabs another pick. So does Nintendo Nick.
Green Bay 30. Minnesota 23.
Dagger. Heart. Inserted. Twisted. Dinner Time. Let's close the curtain. And, Brett, when it happens - please return to your old domain. We're waiting. And when it occurs, maybe I'm too forgiving but Brett, I offer you peace. For when it's all said & done, we'll both have the understanding that Karma is the way of life. It's a must that we all learn to be certain that Karma remains on our side.
When it's all said and done, Favre, I ask that you picture Jerry Garcia singing to you "Lay Down My Dear Brother. Lay Down And Take Your Rest. And I Bid You Good Night. Good Night. Good Night." And Brett, if you let the G-Force know that you've learned from your mistakes and you admit that you put both the organization & its fans in a tough spot - at that point - consider Garcia's voice a melodious mix of angst giving birth to forgiveness and reverence. Brett, "Thank You For A Real Good Time."
Go Pack Go!
Finally, my heart goes out to AK-74 after a 2nd consecutive season ending torn ACL. Wishing you the best on your comeback, AK-74! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off with my Dad to the Bears at Dolphins game this Thursday night. We're dressing in Green & Gold. We'll be sure to remind Ras Al that he's still loved by the G-Force. We'll also ensure that it's difficult for Ray Nutler to succeed. Fins up! Cheers!