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Headaches and Packers


This morning I woke up with a headache. I don't know about you, but I don't consider that a good omen. Even after I gently basted my brain cells in caffeine by drinking a hefty, medicinal dose of coffee, the headache persisted. Eventually, I read the paper and knew that this headache was not simply the result of me having stayed up late to catch up on the show Fringe, it was a portent of doom.

Not only was Brett Favre going to meet with the NFL today to discuss the allegations that he sent lewd texts and pictures to Jenn Sterger while they both worked for the New York Jets in 2008, but the Green Bay Packers were also getting help in the form of injured players returning to practice. Some days it just doesn't pay to read past the comics.

Maybe some of the more rabid members of the Vikings fan base will accuse me of bailing on the team just because the Packers might be healthier than we thought. That is not the case. My affection, however, doesn't blind me to the fact that the Vikings could use a blatantly advantageous match-up to continue to bolster the confidence of an offense that is still redefining itself and trying to find a rhythm. Considering Sunday's game is against a divisional rival who always plays the Vikings as if the lives of first-born children are at stake and is a night game before a national audience, well, what's wrong with hoping the Packers' leading pass rusher isn't playing?

Last Sunday the Packers were without eight (yes folks, eight) of their starting players and still managed to stay scrappy enough to take the game into overtime. Granted, they lost when the Miami Dolphins kicked a field goal, but, when you consider that the Packers are getting so strapped for players that they might have to give the team's ball-boys a field promotion if things get anymore thin, it's not too shabby.

So you can see why the possibility that Al Harris and Atari Bigby and Clay Matthews being closer to returning would concern me. And it did nothing to improve my headache.

Al Harris and Atari Bigby started the season on the PUP list and are now eligible to return. Last season Bigby had four interceptions, Harris had two, and they had 66 tackles between the two of them. For those who are counting, Brett Favre has turned the ball over 11 times this year and seven of those turnovers are interceptions. While Favre is capable of throwing an interception to anyone, I'd prefer if experienced ball-hawks like Bigby and Harris were nowhere near the field on Sunday night.

And, with the Vikings' offensive line not only in flux, but displaying a real difficulty in protecting Favre when he goes back to pass, I would prefer if Clay Matthews was also not on the field on Sunday. Young Master Matthews, the Packers' second-year outside linebacker, has already had 8.5 sacks this season and he wasn't even active for Sunday's game against Miami.

Clearly, the Vikings are not without some pretty strong answers of their own to the Packers' threat, but, with the potential return of Harris, Bigby, and Matthews, the Packers are getting stronger in areas that will directly match-up with areas where the Vikings continue to struggle. Now here is where it gets really scary-should the NFL choose to suspend Brett Favre and make that suspension effective immediately, it will be Tarvaris Jackson taking the snap from, probably, Jon Cooper, behind an offensive line that struggles with pass blocking, throwing the ball to a receiving corps that has been juggled around like clubs at the circus. There is every possible reason for me to stock up on headache medications and hope that Harris, Bigby, and Matthews are still another week out on their return.