You know the people in the NFL offices in New York scheduled this game with just this scenario in mind. This game on Christmas Eve will be the only game going that day and everybody will be watching the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings battle it out for the NFC North Division title.
I think right now the Packers need this game more than the Vikings do. It's time to show that the last week was not the way things should be. The Packers have a history of peaking in December and January, while Minnesota is a team that has established a history of collapsing at this time of the year.
Last week, the Vikings played the Detroit Lions and won the game on a great stroke of luck. The Lions scored what should have been a tying touchdown at the end of the game but botched the snap on the extra point.
It's time for the Packers to change that luck, and they're going to have to get it done on defense. The Packers cannot allow Randy Moss to run free and score on long touchdown passes in the Metrodome.
Daunte Culpepper threw for over 350 yards the last time these teams played each other, and he didn't even have Moss to throw to that day. The Vikings' game plan is going to be to throw the ball down the field and try to get some kind of holding or interference penalty called if they can't complete the passes.
The Packers defenders have got to realize that they can't make contact with the receivers down the field with the officials calling things the way they are. They also have to realize that defending Randy Moss is not the only thing they will have to do Friday afternoon.
They will also have to stop the run. The Vikings have a very capable running game with Onterrio Smith and Wisconsin's own Michael Bennett.
However, the Minnesota offensive line is susceptible to speed rushers like Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and power rushers like Cullen Jenkins up the middle and Aaron Kampman on the other side. The Green Bay defensive line needs to dominate the Vikings' offensive line. With Dorsey and McKinnie at tackle, there's no way the Packers' linemen shouldn't be all over Culpepper all day. If they don't get four or five sacks, I'll be very disappointed.
Nate Burleson and Marcus Robinson have played well, but the Minnesota offense is based around Randy Moss. They like to move him around, put him in the backfield, put him in the slot, but it doesn't matter. The Packers are going to put their best guy against their best guy. Al Harris against Randy Moss, and I like our chances.
This is a game where the veterans will be telling the rookies that it's time for them to step their game up. This is the reason why they were drafted - for games just like this. Everybody on this defense will need to play above the level that they even think they need to play.
On offense, I don't see the Vikings having the ability to match up on the perimeter with the Green Bay receivers. Javon Walker and Donald Driver are two of the top receivers in the NFC and they match up very well against the Minnesota defenders.
The big thing this week will be the Packers' ability to run the football against a set of inexperienced linebackers. They are susceptible to play-fakes and being hit on counter runs. I'd like to see the Packers play very physical up front and just mash the defenders. There's no way the Minnesota defensive line can match up with the Packers' front.
If you're reading this, you're probably thinking, 'Man, LeRoy Butler sounds very confident.' The reason why I'm confident is because the Packers match up well with this team.
Green Bay has a better offensive line, a better defensive line - so on paper, the Packers should win this game.
Two things could potentially hurt the Green Bay Packers this week. They must cut out the turnovers and drastically cut down on the penalties. The Packers must cut the penalties to five or less.
Right now, it's time for every one of the Green Bay Packers to stand up and recognize the magnitude of this season. The door has opened with the injury of Terrell Owens in Philadelphia. The NFC is wide open and anything can happen in the playoffs.
That's why this game means even more. This is a game the Packers need to win to establish themselves as one of the top contenders in the NFC. With a win here, they will get to start the playoffs at home in front of their fans in Lambeau Field and get off to a great playoff run.
I look for the Green Bay Packers not only to win this game, but to prove to the rest of the league that they are in fact an elite team. They will win the NFC North Division and you'll get a chance to see your Packers at least one more time on your home field this season.
*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.
Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*
LeRoy serves as the host on the new DVD, 'Brett Favre - On and Off the Field'. Click here for more information on the DVD.