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Pack, Vikes Both 1-0

Pack, Vikes Both 1-0

gregc

 

The Packers and Vikings both won their season openers. That’s about the only thing they have in common.

 

 

 

 

 

The Packers-Vikings rivalry promises to reach new heights this season, so it was with great interest that I watched the Vikings play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon. With the Packers playing a night game, it was the perfect opportunity to check the pulse of both teams as the 2009 season kicked off.

 

While I learned a lot, there was a lot that I didn’t learn. In many ways, these two games were about as different as two NFL games could be. The Vikings played a bad team from another conference, on the road, while the Packers played a respectable division rival at home. The Vikings are still working on their offensive chemistry, thanks to the extended summer vacation of their QB and the addition of a big-time rookie playmaker, while their defense, one of the best in the NFL, remains virtually intact from last season. The Packers, on the other hand, have an offense that is similar to last year’s productive unit, while the defense has undergone a major overhaul in terms of scheme.

 

It was striking how different the atmosphere was for these two games. The Vikings-Browns game almost had the feel of a preseason contest, while the Bears-Packers game was as intense as any game you will see in the regular season. Both teams handled the challenges in front of them and came away with victories, for which they deserve full credit. And there is a decent chance that they could both be 3-0 when they meet in Minnesota on October 5th.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at how these two teams stack up against each other, based on their week one performances.

 

The two quarterbacks, who were similar in many ways as recently as two years ago, are now very different--and the difference favors the Packers. In Cleveland, Brett Favre looked every bit the “caretaker” quarterback, which is his main role in the Vikings offense, while Aaron Rodgers is much more dynamic. Rodgers is mobile and can throw the ball downfield with accuracy. Although Rodgers had a poor game by his standards, and Favre had a good game by his standards, it was obvious that Rodgers is now the far better QB. Favre has a long way to go to catch up. He should improve as the season goes on, but due to age and lack of practice and conditioning, his game has eroded to the point where he is unlikely to be a top QB in the league again.

 

Running back is a very different matter. Ryan Grant is decent, while Adrian Peterson is phenomenal. Peterson was held in check for most of the game in Cleveland, but he lived up to his nickname, “All Day,” and was dominant in the fourth quarter. He is a tremendous weapon late in games in which the Vikings are leading, and he is also capable of breaking a game open early.

 

What will be really interesting is to see how the Vikings conduct a two-minute drill in close games, when Peterson is less of a factor. They had two chances to do this against the Browns, in a close game just before halftime, and both attempts were complete duds. Favre is a sitting duck in passing situations, when the Vikings need to get the ball downfield quickly. At this point in his career, he is almost entirely reliant on his quick release to evade the pass rush, and his lack of familiarity with his receivers has impeded his formerly quick decision-making, at least for now.

 

The X factor for the Vikings is Percy Harvin. His stat line was not big in his NFL debut, but he already looks like one of those special players who will make an impact on the NFL immediately. His status as a new arrival to the Vikings seems to have helped create a bond with Favre. Like Favre, Harvin is an instinctive player with a lot of schoolyard in him, and the two of them will be appearing together on highlight reels throughout the season, provided that Favre stays healthy.

 

The Vikings and Packers both have defenses that are fun to watch. The Vikings play a 4-3 scheme, and they play it well, as they have for several years now, while the Packers have a freewheeling blitz-heavy 3-4 scheme. The Vikings were undermatched against a Browns offense that was almost comically inept, with a starting QB who is about as good as Matt Flynn and a star receiver whose propensity to drop passes is becoming legendary. The Packers faced a Bears offense with a top-flight QB who seemed to be in a state of denial of the fact that he does not have top-flight receiving talent. With the Packers shutting down his two biggest weapons, Matt Forte and Greg Olson, Jay Cutler seemed content to just throw the ball downfield and hope for the best.

 

As the season continues, the Packers and Vikings will both face bigger challenges on defense--but probably not until they play each other. Before then, the Vikings will go up against the Lions and 49ers, while the Packers will face the Bengals and Rams. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but the collision of multiple storylines on October 5th could result in the most highly anticipated regular season game in a long, long time—not only for the Packers and Vikings, but for the entire NFL. 

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Comments (13)

FJ Dan's picture

The battle of the 3-0 squads is on the way and although it will still be early in the season, it will give a divisional upper-hand to the winner. Nice breakdown and I agree with your analysis. Especially the Percy Harvin bit... he scares me a little.

Asshalo's picture

Our O-line needs to buck-up big time against them. If the bears are getting that kind of pressure, what is Minnesota gona bring. I don't like Kevin Williams on Sitton or Edwards on Barbre-- not to mention the fact that Jarred Allen owned Chad Clifton last year.

jeremiah's picture

allen didn't do ANYTHING in the first game, but finally got the best of cliffy in game 2.

ray edwards is no ogle-ey, that is for sure.

we will be fine if we take adavantage of our big play chances. the bears game would have been a complete route if rodgers had hit driver and jennnings deep early on.

Asshalo's picture

Point is Minnesota has a better D-line and pass attack, meaning we need to make serious adjustments before that first game in the dome. I was referring to game at the Dome last year in regards to clifton. "Got the best of" may be an understatement.
There's plenty of time to improve with Cincy and STL coming up though. In the same regard, Barbre and the line's problems could lie dormant against two bad teams and then be exposed again in MN. I hope that was the worst performance we will see from Barbre. He did improve in the second half. We may later right this off as first game jitters.

Greg C.'s picture

Agreed. At the Metrodome last year, Jared Allen did the exact same thing to Chad Clifton that Ogunleye did to Barbe on Sunday. That artificial surface is perfect for Allen.

The O-line needs to improve so the Packers don't have to scrap and fight for every win. I was encouraged that, even though the Packers got drawn into exactly the kind of game the Bears like to play, they still came away with the victory. But they will be worn out if they have to do that all season. The next two weeks should provide opportunities to get into a groove on offense and build confidence, although of course, you can't count on anything being easy in the NFL.

wgbeethree's picture

I don't think 3-0 is ''guarenteed'' for either team especially the Vikings. They gave up about 4.5 ypc on defense and 4 sacks on offense to the Browns. I think the 49ers could be a darkhorse team this year and the two areas the Vikings struggled against are their strentghs. That should be a close hard fought battle.

On a bit of a side note....is there any division with a position as weak as the nfc north is at right tackle? Barbe, Loadholt, Williams, and Cherilus (someone, most likely Ogunleye or Jolly, is going to get rich padding their stats against those human turnstyles). I can't imagine there is. All four of them are TERRIBLE at this time in their careers. Grant it they are all young and inexperience and should improve with time but as of right now my god are they bad.

PackersRS's picture

If the game was in San Francisco, I would bet on a 49ers W. But it's the first game at home form the queens. SF won't win. It'll be though when we face them. Both teams probably will come to that game with a lot of confidence. Of course, that could mean the Ole Mississippian Gunslinger could come out, and, Cutler-style, give us some balls.

Lace's picture

Actually, Sitton was one of the best O-linemen in the Bears game. I'm not worried about him against the Vikings. I know it doesn't seem like it's saying much but he played overall very good for his first start. I think you guys underestimate the Bears pass rush. If it wasn't for Urlacher and their OLB going down, I think we'd have seen impressive pass rushing all year from the Bears.

Clifton was able to shut down Allen last year in the season opener. Why? He was healthy. By the time he faced Allen later in the season, he was so beat up that he had to hook the guy half the time. We'll see how Clifton's body holds up this year, hopefully those surgeries did him some good and will give him a little better shelf life into the end of the season.

Minnesota actually looked terrible against the Browns. They didn't do anything until the second half, and almost a third of their offensive yards were established on one play by Adrian Peterson. They barely put up 300 yards. Against the CLEVELAND BROWNS.

That all said, the Packers have plenty to work on too. It will be a fun matchup in week 4.

Franklin Hillside's picture

I hate the Vikings.

PackersRS's picture

I pitty the vikings. When they win a SB, then I'll hate them. I probably won't have to hate them for a long time, at least not until they go to LA.

Favre Haiku's picture

Viking quarterbacks
Have zero Super Bowl rings
Brett Favre won't change that
http://www.FavreHaiku.com

Greg C.'s picture

From Lambeau to dome
From green and gold to purple
Goodbye, legacy!

Stan's picture

Here's why we're going to beat the Minnesota Viqueers...

BRAD CHILDRESS.

I know as long as that douche is at the helm we're sure to get the win.

GO, PACK, GO!!!!

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