The End Zone
October 1, 2010
By Michael Timm
Let’s talk Packers vs. Favre. As everyone knows by now but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate, Oct. 24 is the day of reckoning. Mark your calendar and block out 7:20-11pm. This is a Sunday night game that will be aired on your local NBC affiliate and, at least in the Cheddar Nation, it’s likely to top the ratings charts and attract Superbowl-caliber advertising—or at least Superbowl-caliber ad rates.
Even if you don’t like sports or don’t follow football, you may enjoy the spectacle: Will the ‘ol horned greybeard pull off more magic in Lambeau Field or will the semi-bearded pupil finally surpass the former mentor who’s gone to the dark side? There’s sure to be plenty of drama on and off the field.
My prediction: the Packers will defeat the visiting Vikings. I also predict the Green and Gold will best the Vikings in all three phases of the game. Look for a standout special teams play (Jordy Nelson, anyone?) to ignite the Packers when their command seems to be slipping after an onslaught of Adrian Peterson, and look for Rogers to start rough but persevere and get lots of help from Jermichael Finley. And how ‘bout that stoic Mason Crosby? He lost my allegiance last year, but over the first two games of 2010 he’s been earning it back.
Although the Packers visit the Building Formerly Known as the Metrodome on Nov. 21, if the Pack wins at home on Oct. 24, it will mark the true ending of the Favre era. With a loss to his former team, Favre will lose the hearts and minds of the commentators; then look for the humiliating implosion to start an ugly cascade in the Minnesota locker room. If only the Gunslinger hadn’t tossed that season-ending interception, or that other season-ending interception, or…(Ever feel that we’re the ones living in an alternate universe?)
Last year, the Packers defensive secondary proved superb against almost everybody—except teams with veteran quarterbacks (or rookie Josh Freeman) who made Dom Capers look impotent to my critical eyes, especially on third and long. It’s early in the season yet, so I’m eager to see how this year’s defense matches up against smart quarterbacks.
As of this writing, rookie Sam Shields hasn’t looked all that sharp to me yet. If I’m Favre, I keep throwing hot slants Shields’ way whenever he plays soft coverage. If I’m Dom Capers, I get aggressive on every third down of seven or more yards. I like the way they played third down against the Bills, mixing up calls at the line and blitzing a blizzard of linebackers. I don’t like the way Capers has tended to call third and long, playing prevent that gives the quarterback too much time to find an open receiver.
Pressure in general was missing last year, and if Clay Matthews can stay hot, I think the defense will be effective throughout the season. Right now they’re a little thin, no oxymoron intended, at the defensive line (Who would have thought number-one draft pick Justin Harrell would go out with another injury, hey Ted?), so I don’t think they’ll be number one against the run in 2010.
If I’m right and the Packers win against Favre, a game McCarthy and company have been preparing for like none other, the hometown victory effect may be good for Wisconsin political incumbents. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences linked home team victories and votes for political incumbents. Of course, on Halloween, the Pack has to play Sanchez and the Jets, just two days before the general election.