Wednesday, November 18, 1998

Packers Roll in NY on Way to Minnesota

OK, I promise not to overreact to this victory. It was just the Giants, who aren't very good anymore. And once you get ahead and on a roll, sometimes you just keep rolling, as the Packers did Sunday, on their way to a 37-3 win over the G-Men.

Still, it was only the second Packer win on outdoor Astroturf in the entire Holmgren - Favre era. That made it a bit more satisfying. And for once, an opposing quarterback didn't come off looking like a future hall-of-famer against the Packer defensive backs. (See Cunningham, R., Batch, C., and Stewart, K., not to mention Garrett, J. from a few years ago.)

Darick Holmes finally gets his chance to run against the Giants, and he not only scores a touchdown, but gains over 100 yards AND did a pretty nice job of picking up some blitzes (which was what the coaches were concerned he might not be ready for).

As a matter of fact, if they had a definition of "Total Domination" in the dictionary, they would probably have a shot from this game.

But I promise not to overreact. The reason is simple. Out here in the San Francisco area, we see this sort of thing all the time. The 49ers roll over some second-division team (funny how they always seem to be from the 49ers OWN division), and the 49er "Faithful" (as they call themselves) celebrate the victory as if they just beat the defending world champions. But the Packers, and the Bills, and now even the Falcons, have demonstrated that seven 49er victories over mostly crummy teams does not turn the 49ers into world-beaters. And a crushing win over the Giants will not do the trick for the Packers, either.

So how do the Packers match up with the Vikings? Not real well, at least on paper. Everyone knows that the Vikings were built for artificial turf, while the Packers were built for grass. As a result, in the dome, the Vikings' speed has traditionally caused a lot of problems for the Packers. Cunningham is having a better year than Favre, and the Vikings' receivers as a group are having a better year than the Packers' receivers. The Vikings' running game is much better than the Packers', unless last week is a good indication of what Darick Holmes can do (let's hope so). The Packers' defensive line is better than the Vikings' defensive line, but for some reason they were not able to bother Cunningham at all in the first game (I read somewhere that his uniform was clean after the game, despite the weather). So it makes sense to see that the Vikings are favored to win the game. None of us can or should be shocked if the Vikings win.

Still, somehow I feel that the Packers have a good chance in this game. Call it the "revenge" factor, call it the embarrassment factor, call it the aging champions summoning up the will to defeat the rising challengers. I am looking (and hoping) for big games from Favre, Holmes, Butler, White and Brooks. It seems like Brooks has been coming on in the past few weeks, and this would be a heck of a game for him to shine.

SEASON PREDICTIONS

It's time to look down the road a bit. If the Vikings win this game, they pretty obviously have the division locked up. The reverse is not necessarily true, but if the Packers win, I think they will win the division, probably on a tie-breaker with the Vikes. Here is a peek at the games ahead for each NFC Contender.

Green Bay. Road games at Minnesota, Tampa and Chicago. Home games against Philadelphia, Chicago and Tennessee. I think they will go 4-2 or 5-1, ending up at 11-5 or 12-4.

Minnesota. Home games against Green Bay, Chicago and Jacksonville. Road games at Dallas, Baltimore and Tennessee. I think they will go 3-3 or 4-2, ending up with a 12-4 or 13-3 record.

Atlanta. The Falcons play at home against Chicago, Indianapolis and Miami. Road games at St. Louis, New Orleans and Detroit. ALL DOME GAMES! These guys look like they are going to go 5-1 on the way to a 13-3 record and possible home field advantage.

San Francisco. Home games against New Orleans, NY Giants, Detroit and St. Louis. Road games against Carolina and New England. They could win all of these games, but I think 4-2 is more like it, leading to an 11-5 record.

Dallas. Home games against Seattle, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Washington. Road games at New Orleans and Kansas City. That looks like about a 3-3 to me, giving them a 10-6 record.

Somebody has to win the last wild card, but I am not sure who. My best guess is the Cardinals, mainly because the Saints have too many good teams left to play.

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