So yeah, has anyone heard about the game coming up on Monday? To borrow from Ron Burgundy: I don't know how to put this, but, it's kind of a big deal. This has to be the most-hyped Week 4 game of all time. Depending on who you talk to, the importance of this game ranks somewhere between the invention of fire and sliced bread. I would be absolutely shocked if it doesn't break all sorts of ESPN ratings records. (Unless of course ESPN makes 98% of the country throw their TV sets out the window with their ridiculous Sports Nation stunt on Monday afternoon.)
Of course there is that one little detail that makes this Vikings/Packers matchup just slightly different than the previous 95. Judas or Savior (depending on which side of the fence you're on) Favre is going to suit up for...well, let's face it, the wrong team this time around. After sixteen years of despising Ye Olde Gunslinger, Vikings fans will be cheering for him. And after sixteen years of borderline-uncomfortable idol worship of #4, Packer fans will undoubtedly infiltrate the Dome with the odd perspective of venomously despising their former deity.
I've stated this before, and although I've had more time to get familiar with it, Favre playing against the Packers is still really, really weird to me. I have started to mentally reprogram all those years of loathing Brett, but I'm not there yet. I'll admit that last week's heroics didn't hurt the process of learning to love, but my guard is still up. Favre has the most unbreakable record in sports (the career interception mark) for a reason. I just hope he doesn't have one of "those games" I used to enjoy so much in his first game against the Packers.
Although you won't hear about it at all from the media, other players will actually take the field on Monday night. I believe the biggest key to the game won't be how Favre or his counterpart Aaron Rodgers play, but which offensive line does the better job keeping their quarterback upright. The Packers have given up a league-high 12 sacks through three games, and their tackle play has been sub-par to be generous. Jared Allen and the Williams Wall are probably drooling after looking at Packers game film.
On the other side, the pass protection for the Vikings hasn't exactly been stellar either. First year starting center John Sullivan has been decent after struggling in Week 1 against the Browns, but he isn't Matt Birk. Favre has spent too much time on the ground this year, and the Vikings can't keep letting that happen. Because, you know, just look at him. He's old. You can just let him get hit like that, he's...too old.
More analysis and my Week 4 NFL picks after the jump.
On the defensive side, we pretty much know what to expect from the Vikings. The rushing defense hasn't been as stout as the back-to-back-to-back top-ranked unit it has been, but we're starting to see some improvement. The pass rush hasn't been outstanding, but after seeing Green Bay's O-line, that may change this week. If we can keep Rodgers running for his life, it will go a long way towards a Vikings win.
Green Bay's transition to the 3-4 defense has gone much more smoothly than I had anticipated. Although Dom Capers made Brad Childress look like Chuck Noll as a head coach, the man knows his defense. He has the Packers D playing well in the new scheme and causing a lot of turnovers. The Vikings have already faced a 3-4 this season including last week against the 49ers, so hopefully they'll be prepared for what Capers throws at them.
I haven't heard anyone say that this game will be a blowout either way, and I'm no different. These two teams know each other way too well, especially when you throw Brett into the mix. I think it will be back-and-forth all night, but in the end, I just like Minnesota's array of weapons more than Green Bay's. Percy Harvin is downright scary every time he touches the ball, and I think he makes another big play on the big stage. Unless Chad Clifton is 100% (which sounds doubtful), we should see plenty of this on Monday.
Before I move on to my picks, I have an easy drinking game for you to play during the game to make sure you aren't hung over for work on Tuesday. Every time a full minute goes by during ESPN's broadcast and somebody doesn't mention Brett Favre, take a drink. I'm guessing you'll take three drinks the entire night, tops. Five if you include commercials while you count. (Remember, Sears and Wrangler will probably be heavily involved.)
Prediciton: Vikings 34, Packers 31
As for the rest of the NFL in Week 4 that doesn't matter nearly as much as The Biggest Most Important Game Ever of All Time Ever (home team in CAPS):
BEARS over Lions: Congratulations Detroit, you won for the first time in 20 games! Just don't get greedy. I wouldn't expect two wins in a row for another decade or so.
Bengals over BROWNS: This game falls under one of my sacred picking rules: whenever a team puts their backup quarterback in after halftime, said backup throws three interceptions, and the same backup STILL GETS THE START THE FOLLOWING WEEK, don't pick that team.
TEXANS over Raiders: I have no idea what to make of this Houston team. Except that they're easily better than the Raiders no matter how they play. I'm picking the Texans as my Eliminator pick because JaMarcus Russell has a QB rating of 39.7 this year. If I played quarterback for the Raiders, took every snap and immediately spiked it into the ground, my QB rating would be 39.6. So Al Davis, if you're reading this, I can guarantee you a QB rating only 0.1 less than your current starter, and I'll only ask for 10% of his salary.
Titans over JAGUARS: Tennessee can't be 0-4, can they? If the Jags keep feeding Maurice Jones-Drew like they finally did last week, perhaps. But I think Jeff Fisher's mustache still has some of its mystical power left.
Giants over CHIEFS: Wow, the G-Men get Tampa followed by KC? Now I don't feel so guilty about starting our season with the Browns and Lions.
Ravens over PATRIOTS: The game of the week in the AFC. I think Baltimore's surprising offense will be too much for the Pats D to handle, although the Ravens defense hasn't looked great so far either. I also think that if you told me two years ago that I would have typed that previous sentence, I would have laughed you out of the room.
REDSKINS over Buccaneers: I'd rather thrust a rusty corkscrew in my eye than watch this I-bet-the-final-will-be-something-like-9-to-6 snooze fest. Yuck.
DOLPHINS over Bills: My quasi-upset pick of the week. I don't think it matters which mediocre Chad the Dolphins start at QB. I just think they have a better team overall than Buffalo. And yes, I'm cheering for another zero-catch game for T.O. He can't keep it bottled up forever.
SAINTS over Jets: If it wasn't for Favregeddon, this would probably be the game of the week. I dare Rex Ryan to blitz Drew Brees as much as the Jets have blitzed the first three weeks. Brees will pick that apart all day with his quick release. I'm calling a Darren Shaper pick off of Mark Sanchez this week too.
Cowboys over BRONCOS: Denver, welcome to the part of your 2009 season where you come crashing down to Earth. I know Felix Jones is out and Marion Barber is still a little banged up, but Tashard Choice is still a great option. Dallas just has more talent. The next four games for Denver after this: New England, Baltimore, San Diego, Pittsburgh. Don't be surprised if the Broncos are 3-5 halfway into the season.
49ERS over Rams: Even if San Fran is dwelling on their heartbreaking loss to the Vikings last week, they'll still stomp the hapless Rams. Speaking of the Rams, is there a secret competition for Most Dreadful Team in 2009 that I don't know about? Between the Rams, Browns, Raiders, and Chiefs, I'm wondering if the NFL should instate some English Premier League-style relegation rules so we don't have to see the awful brand of football these teams are playing.
Last week: 12-4
Season so far: 36-12