Sooner or later, it all gets real. For the Green Bay Packers, that time is Monday. We spent the offseason bickering with arguably the greatest player in the History of our Franchise. We replaced a Man who has 253 consecutive starts with 3 who have zero combined starts. We were virtually sterile in Free Agency. Injuries to key players mounted throughout the preseason. We have had bouts with the law. Our preseason record was 1-3. Our star RB has yet to carry the ball. Our best pass rusher & our best run stopper have not played a down. On Monday, none of this matters - we all start from scratch. There are no excuses.
The hated Viqueens of Minnesota come into Lambeau Field as ESPN kicks off Monday Night Football. Since the schedule came out 5 months ago, we have awaited this day. Last year, we talked about the 5 P's - Proper Preparation Prevent Poor Performance. This year, once again, we must live this philosophy.
I don't foresee the Packers as a Super Bowl contender. While we were a drive away last year, things feel different this year. This years prospects seem far more challenging. Out of conference we face Indy and Dallas at home. On the road, we have notable games at Seattle, Tampa, New Orleans, Tennessee, and J'ville. However, I feel the Packers have what it takes to win the NFC North. And to win the North, we must win Monday. We have to protect our home turf. We have to win within the Division.
In '08, we convincingly swept the 'Queens. We contained A.P. And we jammed the ball down the throats of the intimidating Minnesota defense. But, while the Packers sat on there hands in Free Agency, the 'Queens acquired legitimate starters in Jared Allen & Bernard Berrian. Allen is quickly becoming one of my least favorite players in the league. His paraphrased quote, "I'd like to welcome Aaron Rodgers to the NFL. I'd like to come around the corner and put my helmet right into his spine and see the ball come loose." As a Chief, Allen terrorized the Packers O-Line last year. Allen, Pat Williams, and Kevin Williams make up one of the most feared Defensive Lines in football.
Chad Greenway, EJ Henderson, and Ben Leber make up an immensely underrated LB core. They are hard workers who are active, sure tacklers. Each of them finds the football and pursues.
The ViQueens Defensive Backfield is vulnerable. Sharper and Winfield are seasoned vets that know and understand the way that the Packers attack. While both are capable of making game changing plays. Both will bite on short routes in hopes of making the big play only to be burned for a big time play. Cedric Griffin, Marcus McCauley, and Charles Gordon were all victimized by the Packers last year and I expect them to be the subject of our offensive attack again this year. This offseason, the 'Queens added depth to their safety spot with the addition of Tyrell Johnson in the draft and Michael Boulware in free agency. Boulware will be playing behind Johnson, Minnesota's 2nd round pick.
Last year at Lambeau, the Packers ran the ball right at the mouth of the Minnesota defense. This year, we do the exact opposite. In an attempt to play to the mismatches, we run a lot of 4 & 5 WR sets. This forces the Williams boys to play on the move. Consistently, we cut both of them. Ryan Grant chips away at Allen. The 'queens LB's are watching from the sidelines. And we attack Griffin, McCauley, Gordon, Boulware and Johnson.
The loss of James Jones is going to hurt. It's going to test our depth. Jordy and Ruvell must perform on MNF.
Expect to see Rodgers on the move. On roll-outs away from Allen. Not only does this limit Allen's effectiveness but it also tests the stamina of the big Williams boys.
Expect to see a lot of play action. We need to keep that DL on their heels. Unsure of what's next and 2nd guessing instincts.
Offensively, Minnesota has one of the most unique players in football. A.P. has a terrific mix of speed and power. At times, he appears unstoppable. Throw in Chester Taylor and you've got a terrific RB tandem.
Their O-Line has a feared left side in McKinnie, Hutchinson and Birk. The suspension of McKinnie cannot be overlooked.
Sidney Rice has the potential to be a star in this league. Bernard Berrian is a proven deep threat. Bobby Wade & Bobby Ferguson are legitimate 3rd & 4th WR's and Aundrae Allison is a promising young WR.
Minnesota's problem is that they do not have anyone to get them the ball. I believe that Gus Frerotte would be a better starter for the 'queens that Tavaris Jackson. Jackson has shown me nothing in his young career and I welcome the opportunity to host him in the season's opener.
The Packers come out gunning. Rodgers with 3 WR's, a TE, and Grant is out of shotgun. Rolling right. Finding Jennings on a 12 yard curl. 1st down Packers.
It's the same set except Rodgers is under center. Play-action. Rodgers to Driver over the middle.
Rodgers to Lee on a curl.
The offense is in rhythm.
Greg Jennings scores the 1st TD of the season. The Packers strike first!
If healthy, our defense matches up really well against the Minnesota offense. Bigby & Collins are both run stopping safeties. AK-74 has feasted on Ryan Cook. Pickett and Jolly are run stopping fighters. KGB has had success against the 'queens. Woodson, Harris, and T-Mon all match up against the build & structure of the Minnesota WR's.
Regardless, A.P. will get his. Taylor will prove dangerous on the screen. Berrian and Rice will test us deep.
Rodgers throws for 150 in the first half. We control the point of attack as the Vikes DL is on its heels and then we hit them with Grant. B-Jack & Lumpkin each get carries. For the first time in '08, we see the physical side of the Packers. Controlling the clock. Keeping A.P. off the field.
Willie B. strikes! Expect a big play on special teams for the Packers. We are built to win this dimension of the game.
The Packers have a two-score lead in the 2nd half, but Minnesota will not die. Clawing their way back with a turnover and combination of A.P./Taylor.
In the end, it's Mason Crosby providing the insurance.
Green Bay 30. Minnesota 20.
For a brief moment, the critics are silenced. The Faithful, the Packers, Lambeau, and the Front Office remain integrated. The Packers are back where they left off - perched at the top of the NFC North.
May the Aaron Rodgers era commence,
***On Sunday, I wave goodbye to Brett Favre. Along with A*, Vargas, and his girlfriend Lisette, we will be headed to the Jets-Dolphins game in Miami. It'll be good to see #4 on the pitch once again...and possibly for the last time.
Jets 27. Dolphins 16.
And the Packers move one step closer to a 2nd round pick.