We here at Lombardiave.com caught up with Dan Zinski of The Viking Age for a Vikings vs. Packers Q&A focusing on Monday night’s showdown between the unbeaten Green Bay Packers and 2-6 Minnesota Vikings.
As always, Dan’s deep insight into the Vikings provides for an interesting perspective.
Here’s how Dan sees things:
Q. The Vikings are coming off their two best games of the season against the Packers and Panthers, as well as the bye … Do you feel the team will continue to show improvement or will they go back to their old ways?
A. Hard to say. With Christian Ponder now at QB instead of McNabb you sort of feel like there should be a steady upward progression – as he improves the team should improve – but at the same time, they’ve been so inconsistent, plus they still have terrible problems in the offensive line and secondary.
Given their personnel issues I still think it’s going to be a struggle for them more often than not. Right now a 5-11 finish seems realistic. That’s only 3 more wins the rest of the way. Then again, there’s the feeling that had they started Ponder sooner, they might’ve pulled out a couple of those games they blew in the second half. I don’t know if that’s valid or not but you can’t help thinking of what might have been.
Maybe with Ponder in there they can overcome some of their other shortcomings, upset a couple teams and finish closer to .500.
Q. Will Donovan McNabb’s attitude and statements that he feels he should still be a starter be a distraction the rest of the season for Christian Ponder?
A. I think the media care a lot more about McNabb’s words than Ponder does. Ponder strikes me as the kind of level-headed, mature guy who isn’t going to let that kind of thing bother him. He’s playing well and his teammates really seem to be behind him, and I know the coaches are behind him.
He knows he’s here for the long haul and McNabb isn’t, so there’s really no reason for him to even care what McNabb says in interviews. Plus I don’t think McNabb really said anything that serious. He just said he thinks he should still be starting. That’s what any veteran player would say.
Q. Jared Allen played well in the first half against the Packers, but leveled off in the second half. Did the Packers get figure him out and will they contain him this time around?
A. Well I’d have to watch the tape to see if they did anything different with him the second half of that game, but it seems to me with Jared, even when he’s not getting his sacks he’s still getting close a lot of times, so it might just have been a matter of him being a step late.
It seems to me they were still getting heat on Rodgers in the second half even without Jared being the main guy. Obviously the Packers jumped way out in the third quarter with the big play to Jennings and then the score after the first Ponder interception, but after that I thought the Packer offense slowed way down and let the Vikings stay in it. I don’t know if that was the defense or just the Packers taking their foot off the gas or what.
At any rate I’m not concerned about Jared. He’s going to make his plays and get his hits on Rodgers. I’m more concerned about the secondary which has been prone to big breakdowns. Jennings’ long TD was caused by a safety biting on a pump fake. You can’t have that stuff.
Q. The Vikings couldn’t stop Aaron Rodgers the first time around. What do they need to do this time to at least try to slow him down?
A. The game plan on Rodgers will always be the same: hit him, hit him, hit him. The problem is, even when you get heat on him, he doesn’t make big mistakes. He never presses. He just takes the check down or if necessary takes the sack. His discipline is really off the charts.
I’m sure the Vikings will try to change up their coverages and all that stuff, hoping to confuse him, but I doubt any of that will matter. With any luck the secondary will be able to keep their wits about them and not give up any long touchdowns.
At the very least you have to limit the damage and maybe you can get a strip or maybe a tipped ball pick or something that lets you flip the momentum. Obviously the Packer defense has been weak, so the hope is you can score some points and keep it close and maybe get a break late. Obviously, if the Packers play a tight game on offense with limited mistakes, they are going to win and win big.
That’s just the reality of it. The team that finally beats the Packers – and I don’t think they’ll go 16-0 – will either get lucky or benefit from the Packers being off their game one week.
Q. It’s November; it’s Packers vs. Vikings outdoors at Lambeau Field on Monday Night; is there anyone who will pick the Vikings to win this game? What is your prediction for the game?
A. I’m sure there’s one drunk guy somewhere who’s ready to pick the Vikings. But otherwise no, no one is picking the Vikings. And that’s as it should be. They’re 2-6 for a reason: it’s because they’re not very good. I’m hoping for the game to go somewhat like it did the last time, with the Vikings hanging around long enough to make us feel like there’s reason for optimism.
It’s strange but it was almost like we didn’t lose that last game, that’s how geeked people were over Ponder’s performance. But despite that, it actually was still a loss. I’m taking the Packers in this one 31-21. The Vikings can run the ball well enough to shorten the game and keep the Packers from laying 40+ on them.
And Ponder will certainly make a few plays against what is not a very good Packers defense. But in the end Rodgers and those receivers will be too much and Starks will probably grind us down late in the second half again.