The spirits will appear in various forms this weekend in Green Bay. They will arrive in their incipience on Saturday for Halloween before shifting shape to the liquid form of elixirs for the long and spooky tailgate that will extend from Sunday morn into the 3 o'clock hour. And come afternoon, Brett Favre will reappear, returning in costumed Purple after twice rising from the NFL afterlife and once from the sister conference.
Earlier in the week, we visited how Brett will be received at Lambeau Field, so let us get to the bones of the matchup.
For all the deserved hype that Favre's return to Green Bay has received (note that every NFL market sans North Carolina and Arizona will be carrying the game), the Vikings and Packers showdown has huge mid-season gravity in the NFC North. The Vikings, at 6-1, hold a 1.5 game edge over Green Bay (4-2) in the division, having felled the Pack 30-23 back on Monday, October 5th, in what was the highest-rated cable broadcast of all time. To take another from the Pack won't be easy.
The Vikings haven't swept Green Bay in a season since the Tice-era, and have only done so twice in the last 15 seasons. In that first meeting on the 5th, the Purple tallied a crazy eight sacks (4.5. by Jared Allen) on Packer QB Aaron Rodgers and turned him over twice. Said sack total has largely buoyed the Vikings' NFL-best of 25, and Allen's NFC-leading 7.5. Note that in the three games since however, Allen has roped in just a single takedown. Eight more on Sunday? That pony don't ride. And perhaps neither will the turnovers: Green Bay owns a league-low (tied) five turnovers on the year.
Green Bay's defensive ranking has impressively ascended the league's D-ladder in recent weeks, having allowed just a field goal in the last two contests. Closer examination of those showdowns, however, reveals respective Pack wins over lowly Detroit (1-5) and woeful Cleveland (1-6). In truth, the Packers -- like the Vikings -- have faced just two teams with winning records thus far in '09, with Green Bay having lost both contests (the former to Cincy, the latter to us).
Nonetheless, the Pack's defensive rankings against the run, versus the pass and in points allowed all rank in the league's top dozen, and will prove worthy of respect in their home confines. Back in the game on the 5th, they held Adrian Peterson to his lowest ground output of the season (55 yards), although Green Bay has inversely proven porous to two of the NFL's other top-three yardage backs, having surrendered 141 yards to Cedric Benson in Week 2 and 117 to Steven Jackson in Week 3. To hold Peterson down again seems largely improbable.
Last week, Favre rifled a crazy 50 pass attempts against Pittsburgh. He hadn't done that, ironically, since back in December of '06 when the Pack hosted (and beat). . .the Vikings, 9-7. Expect far more scoring this Sunday, as the Vikings go to Lambeau with the league's third highest-scoring offense (29.4 per), while the Pack sports a solid 26.8. There would seem just far too much fire-power in this game to keep the clubs below a collective 40.
Despite his afore-noted turnovers and takedowns on the 5th, Rodgers still chucked up nearly 400 aerial yards against the Vikings pass D, who again appear to be sans the great Antoine Winfield via injury. Still: Hope for the Purple's 20th ranked passing defense came last week in holding then-league-leading passer Ben Roethlisberger to just 175 yards. Keeping Rodgers below 200 likely won't happen -- but nor will the Pack's 4th ranked pass D be able to wholly handcuff both Favre and Sid Rice, while concurrently keeping A.P. in check.
After last week's loss to the tough Steelers, look for the Purple to find victory in what is the season's most vital game to date. The Vikings offer too much talent on offense to get outgunned in consecutive weeks, and the team is unquestionably driven to not enter the Bye week with back-to-back losses.
The Green Bay website notes that Favre is 43-6 in home games where the temperature is 34 degrees or below. This isn't a home game for Brett and the temps look to be in the high-40's. Nonetheless, for Yours Truly, the forecast portends a Viking victory and a spooky homecoming for Lambeau.
Green Bay 27
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