Will Vikings pack in season versus Green Bay?
To look over the NFL standings entering Week 11 is to view a perverse yarn the likes of which could be best illustrated by the brush of Ralph Steadman and penned by the late Hunter Thompson. This season has gone all-in Gonzo.
To wit: every team sans 1-8 Buffalo (coming off a victory) has at least two wins or two losses; no team has better than a three-game win streak; no team -- aside from Cincy which has dropped six straight -- has a losing streak worse than four.
So as division-leading Green Bay (6-3) visits the Metrodome on Sunday to face a desperate 3-6 Vikings' unit, the question is begged: What would be more bizarre -- a Vikings win or loss?
Sunday marks the second border showdown in a month's time; the Pack's 28-24 win over the Purple at Lambeau on 10/24 founded their active, three-game win streak while the defeat on the cultured side of state lines serves as defeat No. 7 in the Viking's current nine-game road losing stretch. Not good.
But was has proven sanguine for those still holding belief that the Vikings can mount a mid-to-late season charge to salvage this 2010 campaign, is the maligned Purple's home swagger. The Vikings have won three straight in Minneapolis and, dating to last season, have taken 12-of-13 from visitors. Sunday begins a seemingly fortuitous stretch for the Vikings, in which they get four of their next five contests at home; the lone away game in that span is at 4-5 Washington next weekend.
A loss on Sunday and the Vikings already-derisive season may as well take a trip to the medicine cabinet for the next six weeks as the chants for Chilly's bald melon will rise to a din, Brett Favre may conclude his luminary career by throwing with his teeth, and both the Timberwolves and Wild become suddenly more interesting.
But to borrow some ink from the NFL's readily inconsistent script this season: I actually see the Vikings beating the Packers.
To do so will require a quick start. After allowing their first six seasonal opponents to draw first blood, the Purple have scored first in their past three games. True, they've dropped two of those three (New England and Chicago; both away), but I see this as a necessity for them to enter Sunday eve at 4-6. The Pack claim an NFL-best (tied) 28 sacks on the year; 10.5 of which come via league-leader Clay Matthews. The greasy-haired linebacker may only have gathered 4.5 of those since Week 2, but if the Vikings get behind early and are forced to throw often I don't like grandpa Favre's chances outrunning Matthews throughout the second half.
Favre leads the league with 16 interceptions and has also fumbled the ball away five times. At his current pick pace (and no, those weren't his entire "fault"), the 41-year-old would conclude the season with 28 INT's, the second most of his career. Such a gaudy total would surely lead the league at year's end, marking the third time since 2005 that Favre (the all-time pick leader with 333) would claim the inauspicious title. On Thursday, ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert noted (unofficially) that Favre is pacing for 36 total turnovers on the year, a bulk that would be fourth all-time in a single season.
Green Bay comes to town off their bye week and a solid start by the Purple offense may keep them on vacation. The task for putting up points won't prove easy, as evidenced by the Pack's mere 15.9 points per game allowed this season (tops in the league) -- a diminutive clip well-earned with a mere seven points allowed in their past two contests.
Early points and possesion will prove key, with Favre and the Purple protecting the ball and not further feeding into their league-worst minus-11 in plus-minus turnover ratio (their 23 giveaways are fourth-most in the NFL). Both Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian have practiced this week and Sidney Rice's availability (for the season) will be known by Saturday, which is all to say that Favre looks to have a number (or all) of receiving options back in play.
Positive passing results early would enable to Purple to lean heavy on NFC-leading runner
Adrian Peterson, who hit the Pack for 131 rush yards (along with 41 receiving) in last month's loss; the ground total serves as his second-best effort against the Pack in seven career games. A.P. trails Houston's Arian Foster by a mere dozen yards in his bid to claim an NFL rushing title for the second time in four pro season and that 131 versus Green Bay marks the most yards the Packers have allowed to a back all season. In addition, the team total 196 the Purple racked up on the ground are the most Green Bay has yielded since the Vikings burned them for 220 (192 via Peterson) in early November of '08.
The Vikings haven't won seven straight as a franchise since the 2000 version began the season 7-0. Such a run may be necessary to make the playoffs at this sorry stage, but in an NFL season where the only thing one can count on is Nothing -- this circus is still selling tickets. At least for this weekend.
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