Four Downs: Packers-Vikings preview
Four Downs is ready for primetime and the Packers’ last visit to the Metrodome ever, which is still weird to say out loud. Also discussed: Viking funerals and special teams. As always, comments and questions are welcome here or on our Facebook page. ‘Like’ us, if you would.
1. When a well-to-do Viking died in medieval Scandinavia, he or she was buried in accordance with the practices of a Norse funeral. A part of these traditional ceremonies included leaving the deceased with personal items, be that work-related tools, weapons or other meaningful objects that can be carried on into the afterlife, for some the fabled halls of Valhalla.
Sometimes, they’d be buried on their boats, which are sent on their final voyage in flames. On land, monuments typically made of stone were planted into the ground. For families or Norse clans, stones were arranged in the shape of a ship to mark the cemetery’s boundary. These could extend long across an open field depending on the departed’s standing in the world. The ground could also be raised with dirt and rock, forming a burial mound disguised as a hill.
For a deceased Viking it was important to be stocked with the essentials for the long eternity. It was just as important, for those doing the burying, to make sure they were leaving something behind for the rest of the world to see.
2. If the Minnesota Vikings are currently in the midst of preparing their own funeral for the 2013 regular season, what will they leave behind? What would it be right now?
At 1-5, the Vikings have been a smoldering garbage fire of embarrassing home losses, dubious offensive play-calling that goes hand-in-hand with a Choose Your Own Adventure, But The Adventure Is Going To Be Unpleasant No Matter What-style quarterback situation and a defense marred by injuries and bad secondary play.
The season maybe hit its nadir to date last week on Monday Night Football, as Josh Freeman, already the new guy in a foreign land, threw 53 times in a 23-7 loss to the New York Giants. He averaged 3.6 yards per completion and threw 33 incomplete passes. To remind, Minnesota has Adrian Peterson playing running back, and ran him 13 times against the Giants and 23 overall times in their last two games combined. This is a sort of mystical aversion to common sense that we cannot help but be impressed with.
We could go on, but what we’re saying is that the Vikings don’t appear to be in line with reason right now, and there might be a disconnect between this otherwise vast natural resource and them altogether. Instead they’re left breathing the same stale air – they’re likely going to start Christian Ponder again on Sunday night – hoping this time it won’t give them the same nasty sinus infection it did the last time they left all the windows shut for a month.
So if it were all to end soon for the Vikings as we know them, if changes were made, what would they leave behind, other than skunked funeral ale and the blowing ashes of a ship once seemingly pointed in the right direction?
3. Things aren’t great in Minnesota, we know, but we cannot overlook this game, as it’s the Packers’ last trip to the Metrodome. When the game allows for its fans to be invested throughout, it’s as loud a scream-box as there is in the league, especially when the much-despised Packers are in town. Nobody has done great there – Mike McCarthy is a respectable 4-3 overall as head coach; Mike Holmgren went 2-6 – and, growing up to now, we’ll always remember the sense of oncoming dread that filled the week before a game at Minnesota.
So kudos to being terrifying in your marshmallowy hut of doom, Vikings. While it will be strange not worrying about this home-field advantage anymore, we certainly welcome the change. Snow is happy about this, too, because now it won’t have to resort to clumsily sneaking into the Metrodome after it wasn’t invited inside for all those years.
An important life rule: in all cases, even when it’s not ideal, it is best to just let snow crash on your floor if it wants, because it’s going to do so whether you’re okay with it or not.
4. Clearly how Green Bay’s thus-far clobbering rush defense fares against Peterson could be one of the fulcrums on which this one turns. But again, the Vikings have to commit to their best player a bit more than they have in the previous two weeks, which we guess is like saying Kevin Durant should probably take a lot of shots for your basketball team, if you have him.
Last season Peterson ran for 508 yards in three games against the Packers. He and defensive end Jared Allen, tight end Kyle Rudolph and Minnesota’s kick and punt return units are examples showing the Vikings are indeed bringing some weapons with them, even if their ship is hemorrhaging water right now and potentially slipping into a drawn-out funeral service for the remainder of the season.
(A little more on those Vikings return teams: a less-mentioned effect of the Packers’ recent string of injuries is the trickle-down impact its had on their special teams units. In a game that, although very beat up in their own regard, Green Bay should probably take care of, big plays in the return game are just the thing a down-in-the-dumps team needs to convince itself that an upset is possible.
The Packers have allowed a league-worst average of 29.5 yards per kickoff return this season. Last week against the Browns, Green Bay allowed an average of 47.3 yards on four kick returns, of course including Travis Benjamin’s 86-yarder. Punt returns are better, as they’re allowing only 7.9 yards per return, good for 16th in the NFL.
But Minnesota is one of the best in both categories, already with a kick return for a touchdown from rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and a punt return for a score by cornerback Marcus Sherels. As a team, they’re second in the league in both categories, average-wise, getting 15.9 yards per punt return and 30.4 yards per kickoff. It’s something worth monitoring, is what we’re saying.)
And in all, there’s this: if the Vikings can be revived by anything in this world, it’s probably by beating their nemeses in a nationally-televised game. That desperate feeling hanging over them going into it should only further heighten this awareness. If the Metrodome was good for anything, it was for providing a live hotspot of electricity for Minnesota to feed off of and transmit into something quick and dumb and powerful, if only for a game.
The pulse of the Vikings isn’t spiking too high right now. The stones, maybe, are beginning to be gathered to mark their forgettable plot of land in history. But Green Bay can’t completely bury them for good on Sunday Night Football, not yet. Instead, for this game, the Packers should be the ones letting the rest of the world know where each is headed.
(On the following scale: Ted Thompson is a tough guy to read. In an attempt to pay homage to his flat style of delivery, we will couple our pick with a 1-5 rating scale of our confidence translated into Thompson Confidence, which, we feel, is just as ultimately silly and tough to derive meaning from as choosing a score.)
Honorary Ted Thompson ‘I feel confident’ scale of confidence: 3.99 ‘I feel confident’-s out of 5.