Behind Enemy Lines: Questioning the Packers

How far have the Packers come since their Metrodome beating? With injuries since then, how will the matchups be affected? What kind of reception will Brett Favre receive? Bill Huber of answered some of those questions and more in an exchange with Tim Yotter of

Tim Yotter: I have a hard time believing that Brett Favre will get a warm reception at Lambeau Field, a theory some of the players are trying to sell. What's your opinion?

Bill Huber: If this were an all-Green Bay crowd, I'd say it would be 85 percent boos and 15 percent cheers. But you know how this series is: Just like thousands of Packers fans infiltrate the Metrodome, a lot of Vikings fans will find a way to get into this game. So, Favre will get those cheers. And one thing I've figured out is that, generally speaking, the closer the fan is to Green Bay, the more apt the fan is to see the Packers' side of things. It's the legion of Packers fans who live outside of Wisconsin, whose sole source of Packers news is what ESPN spoon-feeds them, that typically believe that Ted Thompson should have bent over backward to let Favre return. I've gotten plenty of e-mails from people who call themselves Packers fans who want to see the Packers lose every game so Thompson gets fired. Those fans were gloating after Favre's superb performance a few weeks ago, so that segment of Packers Nation will be cheering for Favre on Sunday. At the end, I think it's going to be a fairly typical Packers-Vikings game. A lot of boos, a lot of cheers and a great atmosphere to watch the game.

TY: With the Packers having their best performance against Adrian Peterson last time, did they sell out to stop him because they didn't believe Favre could hurt them as badly as he did?

BH: I guess I would agree with that statement, but there were other issues in that game. Safety Atari Bigby was out, and his replacement, Derrick Martin, arrived via a trade on cutdown Saturday. With a shaky understanding of all of the defense's nuances and in such a powder keg of an atmosphere, the secondary had some glaring breakdowns. Because of those breakdowns, defensive coordinator Dom Capers figured his defense would be dissected by Favre had he brought pressure. Of course, at the end of the night, Favre dissected the defense, anyway. As a defensive coordinator or head coach, Capers has never beaten Favre, going all the way back to his days in Pittsburgh and Carolina. More often than not, Favre produced big numbers. Some defensive schemes just suit the eye of a quarterback. Just like Favre struggled for several years with Tony Dungy's Tampa-2 scheme, he seems to have Capers' number. Coming back full circle, it will be interesting to see Capers' plan with Bigby back. In Bigby's three games, the Packers are 3-0 and have allowed a total of 18 points. The secondary has performed like a well-oiled machine in those games.

TY: Have you computed all the different possibilities for offensive line combinations that might be starting this game? In all seriousness, how do you expect the line will shake out Sunday afternoon?

BH: The Packers aren't saying, but coach Mike McCarthy said something about "continuity" during his Wednesday press conference. I took that as a hint that they're going to go with the offensive line that performed so well against Cleveland last week. That means rookie fourth-round pick T.J. Lang instead of veteran Chad Clifton at left tackle and Scott Wells at center instead of Jason Spitz. Wells was superb in the first meeting against Minnesota. You won't find Pat Williams' name on the stat sheet. Plus, Wells was superb last week against someone Vikings fans know all too well, Shaun Rogers. Of course, the big question is at left tackle in light of Jared Allen's quarterback-crushing performance against Clifton's former replacement, Daryn Colledge, in Round 1 of this series. Is an inexperienced Lang better than a less-than-full-strength Clifton? Clifton may or may not practice on Friday as he tries to bounce back from an ankle injury that he aggravated against Detroit two weeks ago. Nothing more than a hunch, but I think the Packers will go with Lang and keep Clifton warm on the sideline in case the rookie can't handle Allen.

TY: The Packers' defense is ranked third in the league. Does this mean that they've really bought into Dom Capers' philosophy now? Even Aaron Kampman?

BH: There was never a question about buying in. Well, maybe with Kampman, but most of the key figures on the defense bought in immediately. Charles Woodson was the biggest proponent of the change. Going back to what I mentioned earlier, a healthy Atari Bigby has made a world of difference. He's a talented player, he knows what he's doing, and the Packers' Pro Bowl defensive back trio of Woodson, Al Harris and Nick Collins have trust that Bigby will be where he needs to be. Now, with that said, the Packers' numbers are soaring because they just faced Daunte Culpepper/Drew Stanton and the Detroit Lions and Derek Anderson and the feeble Cleveland Browns. So, if you're grading the Packers' defense, you'd be wise to grade on a curve. Still, there haven't been any noticeable mental breakdowns, and that's what's encouraging. As for Kampman, he's started rushing with his hand on the ground, just like the old scheme, and that's made a difference for him. He has a sack in each of the last two games after being mostly invisible against Minnesota. They need him to come up big against the rookie Phil Loadholt.

TY: The Packers' players and coaches have all expressed confidence coming off two straight wins against bad teams. In what areas do you think they have made significant strides since the Oct. 5 meeting?

BH: You know, it's so hard to answer that question. It was the Lions, who had a million injuries, and it was the Browns, who had players coming off the flu. I know that, "They get paid too," and all of those other clichés, but facts are facts. You could put the Lions and Browns together, and they'd lose to the Vikings by a touchdown. At least. But if they are truly confident that they've made strides, then maybe that's good enough. It's hard to quibble with 57-3 over the last two weeks. The Packers haven't allowed a touchdown since the third quarter at Minnesota. On offense, Rodgers wasn't sacked last week. Sure, it was against the Browns, but he got up close and personal with the Lambeau Field turf five times against Detroit the week before. Ryan Grant, who has been about as productive as any runner against the Vikings, ran wild last week. Still, the most honest answer came from Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. I asked him basically what you're asking me, and he said, "We'll find out at 3:15 Sunday."

Bill Huber is the publisher of and Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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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