The border battle resumes Sunday at Lambeau Field. Hard to believe the last team the Green Bay Packers beat was the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome on October 27. They hit their high water mark offensively with a 44-31 rout that wasn't even that close. Since, Green Bay has scored only 46 points in three straight defeats. At 5-5, looking up at two teams in their own division, not to mention Seattle, New Orleans, Carolina, San Francisco, Philadelphia and heaven forbid, Arizona, the Packers are just about at the playoffs point of no return. They've been saying all the right things during the forgettable month of November, "Next man up", "Gotta execute", "It's still in front of us.", but they haven't done the right things. Namely, finish what you start on offense, the red zone failures are nearing epic proportions, if opponents dare you to pass by stacking the box to shut down Eddie Lacy, make 'em pay. Tackle with confidence on defense, eliminate the communication snafus in coverage and start taking the ball away. On special teams, could you please start a possession from beyond the 20 after a kickoff?
The battered braided bunch might offer the perfect tonic for the Packers. They will limp into Lambeau at 2-8, off a Wild Card season no less. They'll start an almost certain lame duck quarterback in Christian Ponder and the coach who created the quarterback mess in Minnesota may also be paying his last call on Titletown. Leslie Frazier took over as an interim coach after Brad Childress was fired the day after a Packer rout. He might not survive a second, double digit losing season in three years. Jared Allen knows he's probably on a farewell tour of the NFC North. The All-Pro defensive end still gives high effort but with declining results and at a salary the Vikes can ill afford in 2014. Greg Jennings will sheepishly step on the tundra for the first time since he took the money and ran across the border. Even the magnificent Adrian Peterson will play on less than a full tank, battling a nagging groin injury. About the only motivating factor in favor of the Vikings is that this game is against the Packers, the team they hate more than any other. If the Packers jump on top, the fight will evaporate quickly from a team already booking January tee times.
From inside the fortress at 1265 Lombardi Avenue, here's what the coach and the guys have to say about the 107th meeting between the Packers and the Vikings.
So how's this one gonna play out? Scott Tolzien makes his second start and while he's thrown a few nice balls and moved the team, he's got to make plays when they count the most. Expect the Vikes to crowd the line as did the Giants. A second week of prep time should give Tolzien a better chance to check out of bad plays at the line of scrimmage. The Minnesota secondary is wounded and vulnerable. The defense should have an easier time controlling Peterson on one and a half wheels. They are also still red-faced after surrendering 210 yards to him in last year's game in Green Bay. Forcing Ponder to keep drives alive will result in sacks and maybe for a change, multiple picks. Let's see if the Packers play "kick-away" with Cordarelle Patterson after he needed only 14 seconds to cover 109 yards to start that game in the Metrodome with a record tying kickoff return touchdown. Three straight losses is one thing, but back to back losses at Lambeau should infuriate the team and they'll take it out on the Minnesotans. The Packers should score a little more than 13 this week, not much, but I think it will be enough. The bleeding stops with a 23-16 Green Bay victory.