It’s Vikings week, and to me, that means a few things.
It means phone calls from relatives, nervous pre-game thoughts, and even a pre-game prayer for the Packers to stay healthy. That is all a die-hard fan can ask for, right? That their team stays healthy.
Being born and raised in Minnesota and cheering for the Packers is quite the twist. I never knew another way. It was always getting up on Sundays waiting to watch Brett Favre take on that week’s opponent. There was never any doubt that Favre was going to play, either. It was consistent because he was the quarterback.
The average fan does get excited for their team to take on an opponent, let alone a rival.
From my point of view, the Packers/Vikings game is two of the most important days of the year. Watching Brett Favre every week, I knew the Packers had the advantage, no matter who we were playing. I mean, the Packers had guys like Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson, Bubba Franks, and Ahman Green around Favre.
Then the impossible happened. Favre retired and then unretired enough times to make his way to the one team I was always nervous to play, the Minnesota Vikings. It was unreal. It was like watching a scary movie, except that evil demon you had been watching on the TV jumps out at you. Dramatic it may be, but for a young Packers fan, watching Brett Favre on ESPN talk about how he felt he could still play was about as scary a feeling as ever.
You mean to tell me that the Brett Favre not only doesn’t play for the Packers, but he plays for the Minnesota Vikings? I had the opportunity to watch Brett Favre in a Vikings uniform, too. What a strange feeling for a young Packers fan, or for any Packers fan for that matter.
Fast forward almost a decade, and Favre’s successor is not only still on the Packers but picked up a Super Bowl ring and two MVP awards along the way. During that time Rodgers has spent as the starting quarterback, he has gone 12-8-1 against the Vikings. For most Packers fans, Vikings week has been important, but nothing to what those who live in MN feel. For both sides.
Vikings fans are loyal fans, but like most fans, they love their team the most when their team is winning. They carry this pride in their team when they are on top, but they also love Packers week. It is the border battle, it’s trying to beat Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers.
For me, I am a curse to the Packers organization when the Packers are on the road. I have watched the Packers in Minnesota three times, each time they lost. Including the infamous Anthony Barr to Aaron Rodgers hit where Rodgers broke his collarbone. I was also on that side of the end zone, and it was as heartbreaking as one could imagine for a Packers fan watching his quarterback lay on the ground lifeless. I was also at the Packers game in Minnesota last season, where the Packers lost to Minnesota. In the introductions for that game, Anthony Barr was the first person featured, go figure. What is significant about that game? It was the last away game ever coached by Mike McCarthy as the Packers head coach. What a moment it was, even in a loss.
What’s different about this week? So many things for both teams have changed.
For Minnesota, they have revamped their offensive line. Four of their top five offensive linemen were drafted in the 3rd round at the latest. For good reason too. Kirk Cousins had been struggling big time behind their offensive line of last season. Dalvin Cook, who is coming off of a torn ACL from last season, is bound to have a breakout season, the man ran the Falcons into the ground last week with 111 yards rushing on 21 carries which screams consistency.
On the Packers side of the ball, almost everything has changed. Revamped defense, new offensive scheme, new head coach, new offensive coordinator, everything is simply new.
Packers and Vikings fans alike should expect the game on Sunday to be a defensive battle, one that starts at the line of scrimmage. If the Packers can shut down Dalvin Cook and similarly what they did to Bears QB Mitch Trubisky, make Kirk Cousins play quarterback, the Packers should be just fine.
Let’s get excited, Packers fans. Let’s not do the wave on third down while we are on offense, and stand up loud and proud on third downs, because hey– we would never let down Aaron Rodgers’ requests.