Sunday night marks the 98th time that the Vikings and Packers will square off against one another. I've been alive for over half of those games. I can unequivocally say that I have never been more indecisive about how a game between Minnesota and Green Bay will play out as the one we have on our hands this Sunday night.
Think about it. Does any fan of either team really know who their squad is at this point of the season? The Vikings and Packers have two of the most talented teams in the NFL, yet they have a combined record of 5-6. Everyone and their mom had these two teams finishing 1-2 in the NFC North, yet both trail the Chicago Bears. (Did you just make the "who farted?" face after reading that sentence? Because I did after typing it.) For every valid point I can come up with to make the case for one of the teams winning, I can come up with an equally valid "yeah, but..." to cancel it out.
Don't believe me? Well then you obviously didn't see the theme of this week's post coming in the title, did you?! Here we go:
Valid point #1: The Packers are simply way too beat up to win this game. Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant, Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga, Charles Woodson...I'm not sure they'll be able to even field 22 players.
Yeah, but...the Packers are thisclose to being 5-1 instead of 3-3. They lost two OT heart breakers to solid teams in consecutive weeks with an injury list that's longer than Kirstie Alley's grocery list. If Mason Crosby's kick doesn't doink off the upright against Washington and the offense converts a couple late third downs against Miami, Green Bay could be atop the division right now.
Valid point #2: Randy Moss always thrives against the Packers and in prime time. He plays his best when everyone's watching. He's headed for 200 yards and three scores easy.
Yeah, but...just look at how the Vikings have done as a team in recent prime time games, especially on the road. The Jets and the Saints this year? Two losses. Now look back to 2009. The Bears on Monday night--loss. The Carolina and Arizona Sunday nighters--stinkers. The Vikings have played some of their worst football on some of the biggest stages lately, which doesn't bode well for the upcoming trip to Lambeau.
Valid point #3: Jared Allen and the rest of the Vikings had damn near a season's worth of sacks against Green Bay last year. The Packers have no run game to speak of and their offensive line is mediocre at best. Aaron Rodgers will have a tough time completing any passes from his back.
Yeah, but...while the Green Bay O-line won't be confused with those of the 1990's Cowboys any time soon, they're not as bad as they were last year. Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher didn't play either game against Minnesota in 2009. First-round pick Bryan Bulaga has performed well at times. Since Rodgers is one of the best scramblers in the game, the Pack have given up only one more sack and two less QB hits than our Beloved Purple this season while playing one more game than us. And don't forget, it's not like the Minnesota front seven has lit anyone up yet this year. We have six sacks--that ties us with the Buffalo Bills. Any time you're tied in a statistical category with the Bills, it can't be good.
Valid point #4: These games against the Packers are the main reason why Brett Favre came back for another go-round with the Vikings. He wants nothing more than to stick it to Ted Thompson twice more this year. He knows all of Green Bay's tendencies and he's going to light them up just like he did both times in 2009.
Yeah, but...Favre has kinda sucked this year. Don't think I need to expand on that one.
Valid point #5: These teams are heading in opposite directions. The Packers have lost three out of four and the Vikings are finally putting it together after a rocky start.
Yeah, but...like I mentioned before, the Packers could have won any of those games. All three of their losses have been by a single field goal. And yes, the Vikings came up with a big win against Dallas last week. But they did so thanks to 6,000 penalties committed by the Cowboys while managing to get only 188 yards of total offense. We're improving, but we still have a l-o-o-o-ng way to go before we can consider ourselves a title contender.
Valid point #6: Rodgers is completely outplaying Favre so far this season. This is a quarterback-driven league, and when teams are this even, the best quarterback almost always wins. On the defensive side of the ball, Clay Matthews is sacking everything in sight. Who's going to stop him from getting to Favre on a regular basis?
Yeah, but...Rodgers still has ZERO fourth quarter comebacks in his career. How the hell is that even possible?! Until he comes up big in the clutch, he's no better than Jay Cutler--a QB that puts up stats but can't come through when it means the most. And Matthews has been a beast, but it sounds like that hamstring of his is nowhere near 100% yet.
Valid point #7: The winner of this game is in the driver's seat to win the NFC North, because the one thing that both Packers and Vikings fans can agree on is that the Bears suck. Meanwhile, the loser of this game is in YUUUGE trouble.
Yeah, but...it's not like anyone in our division or the NFC as a whole is going to run and hide at the rate we're going. It looks like 9-7 is going to give you a great shot to make the 2010 playoffs. While 2-4 or 3-4 looks pretty awful, it definitely isn't insurmountable with the players each team has coming back later this year. When Minnesota and Green Bay play again in four weeks I think we're going to see two completely different teams. (Hello, Sidney Rice!)
Valid point #8: It looks like I'm shooting down every single way the Vikings could win this game. I might just pick against the Vikings for the second time in three weeks!
Yeah, but...I still hate the Packers with every fiber of my being, and I honestly believe they're just way too beat up to hang with us for four quarters. VIKINGS ALL THE WAY BABY!!
Prediction: Vikings 23, Packers 20
And here are the rest of my Week 7 NFL Picks that I didn't agonize over nearly as much (home team in CAPS):
FALCONS over Bengals: Matt Ryan is 15-1 at home in his career. Carson Palmer is the football equivalent of Brigitte Nielsen--when you look at either of them now, you just can't believe they ever actually looked good.
Redskins over BEARS: Yep, I still think Chicago is a fraud. The Redskins aren't great, but they're feisty. I like the word feisty. Fun to say. It's a sincere compliment when you're talking about an untalented football team, but it's a backhanded compliment when you're talking about women. Calling a girl "feisty" means "yeah she's not that good looking, but she likes to party and I bet she'd put out." Wait, what was I talking about?
Eagles over TITANS: I had Tennessee picked here most of the week since they absolutely own NFC teams, but they're playing on a short week with a banged up quarterback. I'm starting Kevin Kolb on one of my fantasy teams this week. It will be fun to watch him get hurt in the second quarter and watch Michael Vick play through pain and guide the Eagles to a victory on the road while Andy Reid miraculously avoids actually having to make an actual decision of who his starting quarterback is for the fifth straight week.
CHIEFS over Jaguars: Everyone made a big stink when the absolute woofer Monday Night Football game between Jacksonville and Tennessee beat out the Yankees vs. Cliff Lee in the TV ratings. I'm sure the baseball game was exciting, but not as exciting as watching 5 million fantasy games be decided by Chris Johnson's garbage time touchdown!
Steelers over DOLPHINS: Miami is 3-0 on the road and 0-2 at home. That'll happen when your entire city is too busy Tweeting about LeBron to watch any football games.
SAINTS over Browns: First the Steelers, now the defending Super Bowl champs, both on the road. What did Colt McCoy do to deserve this? Oh yeah, that's right--he was drafted by Cleveland. God hates Cleveland.
BUCCANEERS over Rams: The biggest compliment I can pay these two teams for their surprising starts is that I'm shocked I don't have to make my obligatory "I'd rather set the world record for self-inflicted paper cuts than watch this game" joke. Well done Bucs and Rams! You're not awful!
49ers over PANTHERS: THIS is the game I would make the obligatory paper cuts joke about. No thank you.
RAVENS over Bills: My suicide pick of the week. I'm still alive, and if you haven't guessed my strategy yet, it's "PICK WHOEVER IS PLAYING THE BILLS."
CHARGERS over Patriots: The Chargers are 2-0 at home, they're desperate as hell, they actually have the #1 offense AND defense in the league, and the Patriots are coming off a draining OT victory over Baltimore. Now only if someone could kidnap Norv Turner before kickoff, I'd feel a lot better about this pick.
Giants over COWBOYS: Maybe the 'Boys have one last gasp in them, but I don't see how they're going to beat the rejuvenated Giants D. Plus I'm pretty sure Dallas still thinks those guys in the striped shirts throwing yellow flags at their feet is just like when opera singers get flowers thrown on stage by the crowd.
Last week: 10-4
Season so far: 56-34