23

October

Packers vs. Vikings: 5 Things to Watch

The Minnesota Vikings (1-5) will start rookie quarterback Christian Ponder Sunday when they take on the undefeated Green Bay Packers (6-0) at the Metrodome.

The basics 

When: 3:15 CDT; Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011.

Where: Mall of America Field at the Metrodome; Minneapolis, MN.

TV: FOX; Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman with the call, Pam Oliver on the sidelines.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee), Packers Radio Network, Westwood One, NFL Sunday Drive (Sirius Radio).

Series: Packers lead, 51-48-1 (Packers won the last regular season game, 31-3, in Minnesota on Nov. 21, 2010).

Five things to watch

1. A new era in Minnesota

The Vikings will be ushering in a new era at quarterback Sunday, as rookie Christian Ponder makes his first NFL start in place of veteran Donovan McNabb. Say what you want about Tarvaris Jackson, but Ponder represents the Vikings first attempt at developing a young quarterback since Daunte Culpepper in 2002. It’s been nothing but stop-gap options for Minnesota since Culpepper was traded to the Miami Dolphins before the 2006 season. At 6-2, 230 pounds, Ponder is a smart, athletic quarterback whom the Vikings liked enough to draft with the 12th overall pick last April. The majority of draft pundits said that the pick was a reach for Minnesota. But the Vikings absolutely needed to address the quarterback position and most of those same draft pundits called Ponder the most ready quarterback in the draft to play right away. While starting Ponder for the first time against the defending Super Bowl champions probably wasn’t how the Vikings envisioned their quarterback situation shaking out in 2011, McNabb simply didn’t play well enough to continue keeping Ponder on the bench. Starting Ponder is what the fans wanted. They got it. The Ponder era begins Sunday.

2. His toughest test

Packers second-year tackle Marshall Newhouse has taken on each and every challenge put in front of him this season, but he faces his toughest test of 2011 Sunday in Minnesota. Will he be up to the task?

21

October

Know Your Packers Enemy: Previewing Packers – Vikings with Max Ginsberg

In this week’s installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” I talked with Max Ginsberg of Purple Pants, Green Jersey, a blog dedicated to news and information about both the Vikings and Packers. Max also writes on occasion for Cheesehead TV. He’s a great follow on Twitter (@MaxGinsberg) for news and opinions on both franchises.

Enough with the intros, let’s get to some Packers-Vikings talk.

ZACH KRUSE: The big news this week is the transition from Donovan McNabb to Christian Ponder at quarterback. McNabb has historically done well against the Packers, but I think we could all see that this move needed to happen sooner rather than later. What are some of the pros and cons of the Vikings’ decision to start the rookie this week?

MAX GINSBERG: I don’t see much of a negative side to this one. The worst-case scenario entails Ponder falling flat on his face and the Vikings completely tanking; in which case, the Vikings would secure a top pick in next year’s quarterback-heavy draft. On the other hand, the move to Ponder has a lot of benefits. It satisfies a fan base that (aside from one golden year with Favre) has suffered through mediocrity at the quarterback position for a long time, and it could also reenergize a team that could use a lift. The Metrodome is a crazy place where anything can happen; why not turn to a rookie quarterback and give the Vikings coaching staff a chance to see what he can do? And while one player is not going to make-or-break the team’s chances on a new stadium, the move to Ponder shows the state of Minnesota that the Vikings are looking to the future. In return, the Vikings are hoping the state ensures that future is in Minnesota by building the team a new stadium.

ZK: C John Sullivan was a no show at practice on both Wednesday and Thursday, and T Phil Loadholt missed Wednesday and was limited Thursday. Their injury statuses could be something to watch with a rookie quarterback preparing to make his first start. How big of losses would those two be if they can’t go?

17

October

McCarthy: Packers Won’t Overlook Struggling Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are just two years removed from playing a pair of games that essentially decided the NFC North in 2009, but the franchises couldn’t have veered in more different directions since then.

The Packers rebounded from two crippling losses to Brett Favre in ’09 to win the Super Bowl last season, and they’ve started 2011 with six straight victories. Green Bay is the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL and the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season.

The Vikings, on the other hand, went through a circus year in 2010 which saw them stumble to a disappointing 6-10 record. Things haven’t gotten better this season under coach Leslie Frazier, as the Vikings are fresh off a 39-10 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago Bears which dropped them to 1-5.

But despite everything suggesting an easy path for Green Bay to get to 7-0 this week in Minnesota, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is standing firm that Sunday isn’t a game that his team will overlook on the schedule.

“We’re not overlooking the Minnesota Vikings, I can promise you that,” McCarthy said during his Monday press conference. “The Vikings are a different team in the Metrodome than they are on natural grass. Hard lesson this team has learned in years past.”

The Packers have won three of the past five games at the Metrodome, including a 31-3 win there last season. The two losses during that stretch came in ’09 when the Vikings beat the Packers, 30-23, on Monday Night Football, and in ’08, when Adrian Peterson’s late touchdown run gave the Vikings a 28-27 win.

The Vikings quarterback situation is as foggy this week as it was at times during the 2010 season, when Favre was hurt for most of the year. Minnesota has started 34-year-old Donovan McNabb, whom they traded for this past offseason, in each of the Vikings first six games. But he’s struggled mightily at times, and McNabb has just a 82.9 passer rating with four touchdowns so far in 2011. In the second half Sunday night, Frazier pulled McNabb in favor of rookie Christian Ponder, and the first rounder showed some poise behind the Vikings leaky offensive line. Ponder saw both his drives end with completions short of the sticks on fourth down, but he finished the night 9-of-17 for 99 yards and wasn’t sacked.

17

September

AllGreenBayPackers.com Poll: Was Week 1 the Death of NFL Defenses?

Clay Matthews is one of the players that can bring some defense back to the NFL.

The first week of the NFL season is usually ruled by defense. Not this year.

Quarterbacks and passing dominated opening weekend in 2011 and it’s going to be interesting to see if the trend continues throughout the season. Some stats:

  • Offenses racked up 7,842 passing yards in Week 1, the most in NFL history.
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there were five games where both teams QB’s threw for over 300 yards, also a record.
  • The Patriots-Dolphins game on Monday night was the first to have one QB throw for over 500 yards (Tom Brady) and the other throw for over 400 (Chad Henne).
  • All of these records were set despite the fact that Minnesota’s Donovan McNabb had just 39 yards through the air.

Thanks to rule changes that favor quarterbacks and wide receivers, tight ends that are getting bigger, stronger and faster, and offensive game plans designed to exploit mismatches, defenses have been on the ropes for a while now.

 

Did defense finally die in week one?

It was only one week so it’s far too early to make any judgement, but it worries me a little. I don’t want the NFL to turn into the Arena Football League where teams move the ball up and down the field at will.

I love defense. I’ll take a 20-17 game over a 45-38 game every time. When a quarterback throws for over 300 yards, I want it to mean something. I don’t want teams with mediocre quarterbacks throwing the ball 45 times per game because the rules make it more beneficial to do so.

Unfortunately, I think I’m in the minority. Along with those record passing numbers this weekend came a record number of television viewers. People want offense, and the NFL is giving it to them.

But do they really want this much offense? The Patriots-Dolphins game was almost unwatchable to me. Standout defensive plays in the Packers-Saints and Cowboys-Jets games seemed to come after strange play calls or stupid blunders from the quarterback, not necessarily from dominant defensive play. And did anyone see Vikings defenders try and fail to tackle Mike Tolbert all game? It was embarrassing.

14

September

Around the NFC North, Week 1: Packers’ Division Foes Impress Early On

Here’s how the NFC North fared in Week 1 of the NFL season:

Bears (1-0), beat Atlanta Falcons, 30-12

All summer we heard how the Bears were destined for collapse in the 2011. Publications and respected sports writers from across the country picked Chicago to hover somewhere around or below .500 and willingly hand over their division crown to the Packers.

There were boat load of reasons, both legitimate and phony.

The offensive line can’t protect the quarterback. Jay Cutler lost the locker room’s respect after the NFC Championship game loss. The defensive stars are aging. Their luck will run out.

Then actual football was played, and the Bears put the majority of those worries to bed. Remember, this is the team that won the NFC North last season and hosted the conference’s title game. It was only one week, but they made idiots out of a lot of people who buried them this season before a single down of meaningful football was played.

The Bears beat up on the Atlanta Falcons, who went 13-3 last season and was the NFC’s No. 1 seed going into the playoffs, to the tune of 30-13. The “aging” defense smothered quarterback Matt Ryan, sacking him five times and forcing two Ryan turnovers—one on an interception from Brian Urlacher and the other a fumble as Ryan was under duress. Urlacher returned that fumble for a touchdown that put the Bears up 30-6 in the second half.

The Bears defense playing well wasn’t a surprise, even if the Falcons have a potentially explosive offense. Chicago’s defensive unit was the backbone of their 2010 team. It was the offense that caught most off guard.

Cutler threw for over 300 yards and had two scores. Matt Forte had 158 total yards, including 90 receiving. Roy Williams, Johnny Knox, and Devin Hester all had moments where they made explosive plays.

It was a complete team effort from the Bears, and they’ll be a tough bunch to beat no matter who they play if they can put together performances like they did in Week 1. Only the Ravens beat down of the Steelers looks like a more impressive win over a team that has playoff aspirations. If you’re still in hibernation about the 2011 Chicago Bears, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

8

October

Packers – Redskins Preview: 2010 NFL Week 5: Does Capitol Collision spell Trouble for Green Bay?

It’s hard to believe the Packers are a 3-1 team.

It’s especially hard to believe with all the gloom and doom talk amongst fans after was has been a pretty bad week for the team in the injury and public relations fronts.

First, the Packers missed out on getting Marshawn Lynch as the Bills traded the running back to the Seahawks for a fourth round pick next year and a conditional pick in 2012, an offer Packers General Manager Ted Thompson could easily have matched or beaten.

Then Brett Favre finally got his wish and got Randy Moss to throw to in Minnesota. This blockbuster move triggered all sorts of “the sky is falling” talk amongst Packer fans. Moss torched the Packers often during his first stint with the Vikings and now with the Packers being weak at safety, the same fears have appeared again.

Finally, linebacker Nick Barnett will reportedly miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury and coach Mike McCarthy said Brandon Chillar and Mark Tauscher will also likely will miss Sunday’s game in Washington, DC.

Happy days in Dairyland, eh?

After barely getting by the Detroit Lions at home 28-26, the Packers limp (again, not a word you’d usually associate with a 3-1 team) into Washington DC to face the Washington Redskins who are coming off a 17-12 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Breaking down the Redskins

Once again the Packers go up against Mike Shanahan, who had the team’s number in Super Bowl XXXII, a loss that former GM Ron Wolf called the most bitter loss to swallow of his entire Packers career.

That said, this is obviously not the same team nor is Shanahan the same coach. Shanahan has been humbled after surprisingly being fired from Denver almost two years ago and instead of sticking with the 4-3 defense he had in Denver, Shanahan has moved to a 3-4 in Washington with the unit being led by former Saints head coach Jim Haslett.

On offense, the big star is obviously starting quarterback Donovan McNabb. Disregarding his age, McNabb is still an elusive quarterback and can still make all the throws whether they be on the run or from inside the pocket. Despite a lackluster game in Philadelphia, McNabb has brought an immediate spark to the Washington offense that was lacking under former coach Jim Zorn.