In advance of the Packers-Vikings rematch Sunday at the Metrodome, Fox Sports Wisconsin invited me to participate in a little back-and-forth banter with Fox Sports North Vikings columnist, Bo Mitchell, and the guys at KFAN in the Twin Cities.
Considering Favre has led the Vikings to a pretty dismal record, Mike Morris and the Power Trip Morning Show gang seem to be pretty defensive about the Vikings quarterback -- and fairly confident that the Vikings will emerge Sunday victorious. Me? I wasn't so sure. The transcript is posted at foxsportswisconsin.com, so give it a read.
Andrew Wagner: Believe it or not, this game is a "must win" for the Packers.
No, their playoff hopes aren't exactly on the line. The 2010 National Football League season isn't hanging in the balance.
But the Packers have to win this game because that's what good teams do in the NFL: they beat inferior, struggling teams whose postseason hopes are fleeting, whose seasons are in danger of spiraling completely out of control.
Forget about Brett Favre. This game is much more important than getting revenge on the former franchise idol. Yes, it very well may be his final chance at facing the Packers, and we all know that he has the ability to pull a magical performance out of his helmet in games like this, but he's also the same player who, when in a pinch, tries to force the issue and usually ends up harming his own team.
Really, Favre is nothing more than a sideshow in this game. He's done. He's got nothing. His ego wrote a check his body couldn't cash.
The Packers have to bury him. Not because he's Favre, but because by sticking it to him -- the opposing quarterback -- they will defeat the Vikings, improve to 7-3 and take another step towards a possible NFC North championship.
Green Bay took it to an awful Dallas team and needs to do the same with Minnesota, which has the talent to be successful, but has lost relevance thanks to any number of off-the-field circus acts.
Forget the artificial hype. Aaron Rodgers & Co. need to dispatch the Vikings and continue on their mission.
Bo Mitchell: The only sense in which I buy that this is a "must win" for the Packers is if their primary goal is a worry-free path to the playoffs. They're going to win the NFC North regardless of the outcome Sunday.
Do I think they will win? They are playing much better football than the Vikings are this season so, yeah, they should win. To call it a "must win" is stretching it, though. The Packers could lose this game and also lose one more and still could have the NFC North wrapped up by the time they face the Bears again in Week 17.
Whether they beat a Vikings team that is perilously close to just playing for pride probably won't change their ultimate destination this season – the postseason. Therefore, by definition this is more of a "must win" for the Vikings because if they lose, whatever desperate hope they have of putting together a run and getting to the postseason will be over – not mathematically, but realistically.
The Packers need to avoid the overconfidence trap, though. Rarely does one team sweep the other in a storied series. Last year was an exception, of course. I don't need to tell you that these are usually close, hard-fought, games. The game one month ago went down to the wire. Had the refs not admittedly blown the call on the touchdown they took away from Visanthe Shiancoe, and/or if the Vikings had challenged the touchdown by Andrew Quarless that was clearly a drop, the Vikings win that game. Even with those calls, they were throwing into the end zone at the end of the game with a chance to win it.
Thus, I expect another close contest this Sunday.
Wagner: "Must win" can take on different meanings for different teams. You're right, in terms of overall urgency; it's a "must win" for Minnesota. And while the Packers still find themselves in the driver's seat for the NFC North crown, that shouldn't be the ultimate goal: first-round bye, home-field advantage ... those are the things settled by midseason games against inferior opponents, which the Vikings, at the moment, are.
On paper, the Packers and Vikings are evenly matched. One team's strength is another's weakness, and vice versa. But right now, the Packers are the better team: they're playing cohesively, they're playing to their strengths and they lack the drama and extracurricular mess that are synonymous with the Vikings.
Green Bay needs this game to stay even with the Bears and remain on the heels of the conference's elite teams.
Yes, the Packers benefitted last time around due to some questionable calls. But that was then, this is now. A lot has happened since Oct. 24 and people forget that, while Green Bay is far from an NFC juggernaut, the Packers' three losses have come on field goals – two in overtime and one in the final seconds.
I don't see this one being as close as most people. I see Favre trying to do it all himself and tossing up bombs to the Packers' secondary. Rodgers has the poise to play well in a hostile environment but with Vikings fans jumping ship ... you have to wonder how many Packers fans will make the trip west this weekend.
Mitchell: This game probably shouldn't be a close one for many of the reasons you detailed, but somehow, someway, these games usually are, regardless of how much better one team actually is than the other.
Having said that, the Vikings best chance of winning is if they limit the turnovers – which they haven't done all season – and if they rediscover the pass rush they seem to have left behind in 2009.
If they don't pressure Rodgers, he'll pick them apart. And if the Packers get up early, as almost every team has done against the Vikings this season, it could unravel in a hurry for the Purple. Conversely, the longer the score stays close, the longer the Vikings fans will stay interested and make things loud and uncomfortable for Rodgers.
I'm with you, though, regarding the makeup of the crowd. I'm guessing there will be a lot more Packers fans than usual at the Metrodome this Sunday. This has all the makings of a Viking funeral, and to have their most-hated rival driving the nails in the coffin won't go over too well. Things could get ugly if the green and gold party-crashers get the brooms out to celebrate a Green Bay sweep.