I don't know about you, but I can't find much of anything to complain about from last Sunday. First, I woke up to find out that Saddam Hussein had been captured. That was a good start. Then, the Rams beat the Seahawks (that one I expected) and the Bears beat the Vikings (I didn't have enough courage to come right out and predict that one). I was flipping back and forth between these two games, enjoying both very much. I hope you saw the way the Vikings game ended. In the closing minutes, with the Bears leading 13-10, the Vikings got the ball back and had driven to the Bears' 10 yard line. Then, Culpepper went back to pass, Moss went up for the ball in the end zone, it was in his hands for what would probably be the winning touchdown, when the Bears' defensive back just scooped it out of Moss' hands and came down with the ball for the
game-preserving interception. That might be the best play by a defensive back of the new millennium so far. It sort of looked as if he was trying to bat the pass out of Moss' hands, but it was a controlled bat, instead of smacking the ball as hard as he could, and he literally just scooped it away from the great Moss. What a way to win a game and help the Packers out.
Now it was time to switch to the Packer game, although somehow the NFL Sunday Ticket (and I guess the whole FOX network) forgot to throw a switch, so that the Packers were actually ahead 7-0 by the time they switched to the game. Other than a few really painful minutes at the start of the 4th quarter, this game went exactly as I had hoped. [Ed. note - the Packers beat the Chargers, 38-21.] The result: the Packers are now tied for first in the division (with complicated tie-breaker implications at the minute) and tied for the first wild card (with a clear tie-breaker advantage over the Seahawks). If the Packers win their last two games, it is almost certain (but not yet 100% certain) that they will be in the playoffs.
Looking forward to this weekend, the Chiefs play at the Vikings on Saturday. The Chiefs are not as good as they seemed at times this year, and the Vikings might not be quite as bad as they have seemed in recent weeks. Still, I think the Chiefs have enough strength and motivation to beat the Vikings. On Sunday, I don't think it is reasonable to think that the Cardinals will beat the Seahawks, so the Packers will not likely get any help there. It is debatable whether it is better for the Packers for the Cowboys to win, or to lose, but in any event I expect them to beat the Giants.
Which brings us, of course, to Monday night. The re-match of Super Bowl II. Another game between the same two teams who were playing the day that Leroy Butler invented the Lambeau Leap. Most likely the last time the Raiders will ever play against Brett Favre, and most likely the last time the Packers ever play against Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. Lots of history in this game, and despite the fact that most of the Raiders' home games have been blacked out here in the Bay Area, so that I have not seen as many Raider games as you might expect, I cannot believe that the Raiders are as bad as their 4-10 record. In fact, the Raiders' victory over the Ravens last week (who were fighting for a playoff spot) tends to prove the point, and hopefully will help the Packers to avoid complacency.
My wife was driving during the Raiders game last week, and heard the radio announcers say that the Raiders' attendance was the lowest of the year. Bear in mind, even if the Raiders were out of the playoffs, the Raiders sort of had a score to settle with the Ravens, since the Ravens kept them out of the Super Bowl a few years ago. Still, the paid attendance was 45,398 in a stadium that holds over 63,000 in football configuration. I just checked (Friday afternoon)on Tickets.com, and it looks as if there are nothing but single tickets left for the game Monday night. Who bought all those extra tickets for the game this Monday? You know as well as I do who bought the tickets. I think that means that the crowd will be approximately one-third Packer fans on Monday night. Including yours truly and family, of course. (A little advice to Packer fans attending the game: be careful, some Raiders fans are just as crazy as they appear.)
I am not saying it is going to be easy, but I think the Packers will win this game, probably convincingly. The Packers' running game is too strong for the Raiders' depleted defense, and if they try too hard to stop Ahman Green, I think that Favre's thumb is now getting healthy enough for the passing game to do the trick. The Packers' defense may have some deficiencies, but are Rick Mirer and a couple of the oldest receivers in the league going to beat them? I don't think so.
If all goes well, the Packers will be in sole possession of first place in the NFC North by late Monday night.