Game-by-Game Season Preview: Week 1


Now that preseason is nearing its end and writing about how so-and-so dropped a pass in practice is a little boring, I’ve decided to go through all 16 games on the schedule and look at how the Packers should do. Key word: should. Of course, once the season actually starts, I’ll follow up with an actual in-depth preview before game day. But let’s kill some time, shall we?

Week 1
Monday, September 8, 2008
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

This game is what I would call “interesting.” Longtime Packers quarterback Brett Favre was supposed to get his number retired before the game, but whoopsie, someone unretired and is playing for the New York Jets. My biggest curiosity surrounding this game is whether or not ESPN is still going to relocate their entire studio from Bristol, CT to Green Bay. I say no because they will most likely be too busy fawning over Favre’s New York debut to realize that there is a Monday Night Football game on their network. But then again, they do have to be there to criticize every Aaron Rodgers misstep, Mike McCarthy bad call, every Ted Thompson nose pick, and every thing else they can find wrong that’s going on and continue criticizing the Packers after they win. Oops. Did I give it away?

I can see John Clayton or Merrill Hoge talking on NFL Live after the Packers have beaten the Vikings.

“The biggest problem with the Packers now is their lack of experience. They only have one start between their three quarterbacks. I mean that’s ridiculous.”

And remember, they’re going to say that after every Packers game this year. I can see it after Week 17:

“The biggest problem with the Packers is still their lack of experience. There are only 16 career starts between all three of their quarterbacks.”

And then once the Packers make the playoffs:

“The biggest problem with the Packers now is that none of the three quarterbacks on the roster have started a playoff game. How ridiculous is that?”

Hey, guys, you know there was this dude named something like Fav-ray or something and, like, he started for 16 years in Green Bay and, like, never missed a single game, in, like 253 career starts, 270-somethinf if you include playoffs, right?

“I have no recollection of the quarterback you are talking about.”

Anyway, I digress. Less about ESPN and more about the game.

This game signals the big-time debut of an NFC North quarterback rivalry that seems to be in place for years to come: Tarvaris Jackson vs. Rodgers. Both of these players are surrounded by talented casts of offensive weapons. The Vikings have Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor and future-free agent bust Bernard Berrian surrounding Jackson. The Packers have Ryan Grant, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and James Jones around Rodgers. Both of these defenses are top-notch as well. The Vikings acquired sack machine Jared Allen from the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason. The Packers have Aaron Kampman. Pretty even.

This game will come down to which quarterback makes the least amount of mistakes. Jackson has a full year of starting under his belt, while Rodgers has two preseason games. Both quarterbacks will be under the microscope for the whole season and will be scrutinized even more in front of a national audience. Rodgers will have a Lambeau Field boost, which should help ease the transition better than a hostile game in the Metrodome.

Matchups To Watch

Rodgers vs. the Vikings secondary: The Vikings secondary is full of ballhawks. Former Packer Darren Sharper mans the free safety spot and will be eying Rodgers the whole game, hoping to capitalize on a bad decision. And he will capitalize. The Vikings also brought in safety Madieu Williams in free agency from Cincinnati. Williams was probably one of the best players on Cincinnati’s defense. Which isn’t saying much. Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin will have all they can handle in Driver and Jennings.

Packers O-line vs. Vikings D-line: The O-line always used to be a strong point for the Packers. This preseason, not so much. Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton can handle or at least contain Allen and the Vikings defensive ends. The pressure falls on the interior lineman such as Scott Wells, Jason Spitz, Josh Sitton, and whoever else is in contention for a spot to contain Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. That will be a key to a Packers victory.

Vikings O-line vs. Packers D-line: The Vikings O-line is top notch. Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson make up a fantastic left side of the line. The Packers D-line lost Corey Williams to the Cleveland Browns and have had injury problems with Justin Harrell and Colin Cole at defensive tackle. There should be a sufficient pass rush on Jackson with Kampman and Cullen Jenkins. The trenches will most likely decide who wins this.

The Verdict: This is a tough decision. I’m going to take the Packers over the Vikings, 24-21. Yes, this is homerism shining through. But I do not see the Packers losing a Monday Night Football game at Lambeau to the hated Vikings. It’ll be close, but Rodgers will perform well enough to pull it out. Hell, maybe there will be a new “Monday Night Miracle.”

Packers record after Week 1: 1-0.