It was only one win, and the Green Bay Packers still have a long way to go if they're going to get back into the NFC North division race this season. Having said that, last week's victory on the road against the tough Atlanta Falcons boosted the confidence level of the Packers as they head into their Monday night match-up against their arch rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. The excitement level will be sky high at Lambeau Field, for the coaches and players and, of course, the fans who have agonized through so many difficult games this year.
This game also represents an opportunity for some serious payback to the Vikings for what happened in the Metrodome last month. That last-second loss was probably the Packers' most difficult defeat of the season. I'm sure the Packers, in the back of their minds, are very much looking forward to the opportunity to exact a bit of revenge. Coming off their big win at Atlanta, the Packers have to be feeling pretty good about themselves because they played extremely well. If they prepare with the same intensity and passion, I think they'll be in great shape for Monday Night's matchup with Minnesota.
Not only do the Packers come into this game with a little momentum, they will likely have a couple more of their weapons back from the injury list. Wide receiver Robert Ferguson and tight end David Martin might be able to play and, if they can, Brett Favre will have even more flexibility with the way he runs the offense. As long as the team can continue to run the ball the way they did against Atlanta, they'll be in great shape. They won't be a one-dimensional passing team and that would allow them to beat anybody in this league.
The Vikings come into this game on a bit of a high, too, with their surprising victory on the road against the New York Giants. But that win might be a little misleading because Minnesota won with defense and special teams. Yes, a win is a win but when you look at it, I think the loss of Daunte Culpepper is going to hurt the Vikings quite a bit. Brad Johnson is a good, solid backup quarterback, but he's 37 years old. He's a sitting target in the pocket and he's very immobile. If the Packers' defense can play anywhere near as well as they did last week against Michael Vick, the best athlete at quarterback in the NFL, they'll be in great shape. Minnesota's running game is non-existent and they only had six yards of total offense in the first half and a grand total of 137 total yards for the game against the Giants. Green Bay has an excellent opportunity to shut down the Vikings' offense.
Meanwhile the Packers need to stay away from turnovers and not give away big plays on special teams because that's how Minnesota scored all of its points against New York. A kickoff return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown and a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown by former Packers safety Darren Sharper added up to a win for Minnesota. That's the first time that's ever happened in NFL history so it's unlikely they could do that again this week.
Packers fans are certainly familiar with Sharper and they're well aware of his athleticism and ability to come up with the big play. Even though these two teams know each other well, there are some things Sharper will be able to share with his teammates as they prepare for Green Bay. He's got a deep familiarity with most of the players because he's played against them so many times in practice. He knows Donald Driver a little better than most defensive backs in the league and he can probably read Favre a little better than most defensive backs. Sharper is a great player and he had three interceptions last week. But as long as the Packers' offense can remain well-balanced between the run and the pass, I think they'll be fine.
Finally Packers fans have a game to be really excited about. The win against Atlanta brought some genuine hope because they found a way to beat an excellent team. This game has all the elements to be a classic -- two great rivals playing on Monday Night on national television in arguably the most storied NFL stadium. It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it!
Don "Majik" Majkowski was inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame earlier this year. His career for the Packers spanned six seasons (1987-92), including being named to the Pro Bowl in 1989 when he led the NFL in passing yards. In addition to his duties with Packers.com, Majik provides football analysis for WSSP-AM, SportsRadio 1250 in Milwaukee, WDUZ SportsRadio 107.5 & 1400 The Fan in Green Bay, WTSO - ESPN 1070 in Madison, WDEZ in Wausau, and WIZD in Stevens Point. Visit Majik's Web site, www.majiknetwork.net, for more information.