Behind Enemy Lines: Vikings-Packers, Part I

The Packers have all the momentum, despite having six starters on injured reserve. How are they getting it done and how are their fans enjoying the Vikings' tailspin? Bill Huber of Packer Report and Tim Yotter of Viking Update chronicle things from the Packers' perspective.

Tim Yotter: Packers fans must have been tortured following the Vikings and Bears on Sunday during Green Bay's bye. Which was the better team to have lose from the Packers' standpoint?

Bill Huber: We had quite a debate going on in the forums about that. From one perspective, had the Vikings won, the Packers would have had the outright lead in the NFC North, which obviously would have been a good thing.

From my perspective though, I still look at the Vikings' roster and their history of success and figure any time a team with that much potential falls by the wayside, that's one less team to worry about as far as getting in the playoffs. Not that going to Minnesota will be a picnic this week, but I think the Vikings would have been one fired-up bunch had they been on a two-game winning streak and had a chance to pull within one game of the Packers and Bears in the standings. Not to say that I expect the Vikings to roll out the red carpet on Sunday, but at three games behind both teams, they really aren't much of a factor in the long run.

Tim: The last time the Vikings and Packers played, Randy Moss was part of the equation. At that time, the Packers were receiving some criticism for not being more aggressive in obtaining outside talent. What was the reaction in Wisconsin when Moss blew up in the Vikings' face?

Bill: Glee. This has nothing to do with Brett Favre, because this rivalry runs so much deeper than one player, but any time something bad happens to the Vikings, it puts a smile on the faces of Packers fans. Just like I'm sure Vikings fans reveled in the Packers' 6-10, post-Favre plunge in 2008.

I think there's a lesson here, though I wonder how many fans will learn from it. Every year, Joe Fan wants the Packers (or any team, for that matter) to sign this free agent and that free agent, as if the fantasy football world equates to building a team. There's so much more that goes into building a team than finding talent. Sure, a team full of talented malcontents will blow out a team full of Boy Scouts every week, but personnel departments need to find that balance between sheer talent and finding high-effort players who won't upset the apple cart in the locker room. Yeah, Moss is a great talent. But great talent doesn't mean anything when a guy like Moss, upon being interfered with against New England, stops going after the ball and it lands just a few yards from his feet for what would have been an easy touchdown.

And it's not just character, either. When the Vikings got Moss, the Packers took a pass on running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch hasn't done a thing for Seattle (74 carries, 217 yards, 2.9 average in five games). Sometimes, it's easy to get seduced by the name. The Packers' running game is somewhere between abysmal and a nonfactor, but it looks like Ted Thompson was right in not giving up a third-rounder for Lynch.

Tim: Clay Matthews Jr. sure looks like he has a chance to be the defensive MVP of the league, despite the presence of Charles Woodson on the same team. Make a case for why Matthews should win that honor, and who is his greatest competition and why.

Clay Matthews burst onto the scene with his strip of Adrian Peterson and touchdown.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Bill: I just wrote on Tuesday that Matthews could be a legit candidate for overall MVP, as long as he keeps producing and the Packers get to 12 or 13 wins. A long shot, sure, considering only two defensive players have ever won the award. But just look at his impact: a league-high 10.5 sacks, fourth on the team in tackles and an interception. He's not just a one-trick pass-rushing pony. Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene — a Hall of Fame candidate, mind you — has said Matthews has the all-around skills to be the best outside linebacker in the history of football.

Who else could win defensive player of the year? Of the leading sackers, the Giants' Osi Umenyiora (9.0) and Falcons' John Abraham (8.0) should garner attention. None of the leading interceptors are real lock-down guys. So, Matthews is the clear front-runner but, as he said, there's a lot of football to be played.

Tim: The Packers and Vikings have similar rankings. In fact, the Vikings look better on defense, so how have the Packers come away with a 6-3 record at this point in the season?

Brett Favre hangs his head after Desmond Bishop's pick-six.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Bill: Turnovers. Green Bay is tied for fourth in the league with a turnover ratio of plus-5 while Minnesota is last at minus-11. I'm no math expert, but that's a swing of about two possessions per game. Just look at the last game, with Desmond Bishop's pick-six of Favre ultimately being the deciding points.

Over the last two-and-a-half games, Green Bay's defense has been superb, with 14 points allowed and 10 turnovers forced. And during that same span, Aaron Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception. Compare that to the first six-and-a-half games, when Rodgers' nine picks were two more than he had thrown all of last year. Plus, Rodgers has led the Packers to a league-best 80 points off of takeaways.

Tim: Green Bay has suffered some serious setbacks with injuries this year. Tell us which ones have hurt the most and which players are close to returning.

Bill: Losing two-time 1,200-yard rusher Ryan Grant in the opener and star tight end Jermichael Finley on the first series of the fifth game have been killers. Not only was Grant one of the league's better breakaway threats, but his presence made the play-action game so effective. And Finley was the recipient of a lot of those play-action passes and a superb safety-stretching deep threat.

They're two of the six starters (and 11 players overall) who are on injured reserve. Among the injured guys who have missed time, Donald Driver sounded pretty confident he'd be back after missing the Dallas game and going without a catch against Minnesota and the Jets. Ryan Pickett is on course to play, as well, after missing the first Vikings game with a sprained ankle. He's barely played over the last five games.

Bill Huber is the publisher of Packer Report and Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this hot topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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