Division Uncertainty Gives Packers Hope
The Packers have not been the explosive, exciting, dominant team we saw in the preseason. In fact, they’ve looked downright mediocre. They haven’t won a second half since the Bills game, and are 3-3 entering the most difficult stretch of the season. Those who had predicted Super Bowl are quickly backtracking, citing injuries and bad luck as the reasons for the disappointing start. Most people had written off games against Washington and Miami as sure wins, but that hasn’t been the case.
If there was ever a good season for the NFC North to be in a downswing, it’s this season. The Packers have been hit by the injury bug hard, and at this point there’s no escaping or compensating for it. But who is the front runner in this division? Chicago’s got the best record but they have a shaky QB in Cutler, and just lost to a bad Seahawks team. Detroit’s a terrible (but improving) team, and who knows what’s going to happen with the Vikings. The division is open for the taking, and with a win this week against the Vikings, the Packers can do just that.
Stopping Adrian Peterson without the help of Clay Matthews would be a near impossible task, but Matthews returns from his hamstring injury this week. The loss of nearly the entire defensive line has crippled this team, and is the main reason for the lack of pass rush that is allowing no name quarterbacks like Chad Henne and Shaun Hill to throw all over the field. Getting Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal back is crucial to the success of this defense. Favre can wing it all over the field, but Peterson is the key to the Vikings offense, keep him in check and suddenly the Vikings look very beatable. Getting Al Harris back this week is a godsend as the Vikings have Moss, Harvin and Bernard Berrian. Tramon Williams has been fantastic this year and an improvement over Harris’ play from last year; but Al Harris is a considerable improvement over Pat Lee, Jarret Bush, or whoever else the Packers throw out there.
If the Packers can keep Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin in check, and defeat the Vikings at Lambeau on Sunday Night Football, then the sense of impending doom should dissipate. With a win, the Packers move to 4-3 and perhaps a share of the lead (if the Bears lose in Washington). With games against the Jets and Dallas before the bye, these three weeks become the key to getting to the post-season. If the Packers go 1-2 or, God forbid 0-3, feel free to write this team off entirely, but 2-1 or 3-0 would give the Packers a much needed shot of confidence entering the bye week. A Packers team at 6-3 is no guarantee for the Super Bowl, but at least it re-enters the conversation.