The Packers' season has reached that magical point that its fans can start thinking about what it'll take to clinch a playoff berth. Let's start with this: Given the time-honored belief that 10 wins will usually get you into the playoffs, then wins at home in the next two games would theoretically allow the Packers to put a check next to the first item on their to-do list.
Hey, didn't we just revel in the excitement of "Kickoff Weekend?" Didn't B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett just combine to stop Mark Ingram and preserve that opening-night win against the Saints?
It actually wasn't that long ago, it's just that the Packers have been on the fast track to playoff talk, which is what happens when you win all of your games. Now we find the Packers in the third quartile of their schedule, which will make a lot of dominoes fall if the Packers keep on winning.
The upcoming opponent took the Packers to the wire two weeks ago. Behind a surprisingly poised rookie quarterback, the best running back in the game and the best pass-rusher on the planet, the Vikings came the closest to dealing the Packers a loss.
What should we expect this time?
Outdoors and at home in front of a crowd energized by the bright lights of Monday Night Football, this is a game that should play into the Packers' wheelhouse. Let's start with expectation No. 1: improvement on defense.
More than anything else, that's what Packers fans want to see on Monday night. They want to know that the second half of the season will see the defense return to some semblance of its 2010 self. Packers fans are football-savvy enough to know that giving up 400 yards a game isn't likely to get a team through the postseason.
So, in this week's 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Vikings, let's start with:
1. Get tough on defense—The days are growing shorter and so is the time between now and the postseason.
2. Stop Peterson—He's the guy that drives the Vikings.
3. Attack—The Vikings are struggling in pass-defense; they're 30th in the league.
4. Beware the weather—November means cold and wet; ball security is the priority.
5. Deny big plays—Both on defense and on special teams. That's late-season football. You don't win big games late in the season by allowing easy scores.
6. Block Allen—Jared Allen is a scary dude because he can put your quarterback out of the game. He must be blocked, regardless of how many people it takes to accomplish that task.
7. Rush Ponder—He's a rookie quarterback and they are prone to errors.
8. Get off blocks—It's how you rush the passer. You don't do it consistently by fooling people with schemes, you do it by winning your one-on-one battles by getting off blocks and making the quarterback move his feet.
9. Throw on time—Extending the play is nice, but not getting the quarterback hit is nicer.
10. Communicate—Apparently the Packers didn't do enough of that in San Diego. Additional coverage - Nov. 11