At one time Minnesota-Green Bay looked like the keynote game of September. It was to be Ron Wolf's day of reckoning. So devastated was the Packers general manager by the way the Vikings' Randall Cunningham and Randy Moss played catch against his cornerbacks last season that he devoted the top of his draft to making sure that would never happen again. Green Bay's first three picks were used to select corners—Antuan Edwards, Fred Vinson and Mike McKenzie.
Now this Sunday's matchup is a battle for survival. The Packers and the Vikings went down in major upsets on Sunday. Both are seriously flawed at this stage of the season.
With Green Bay the obvious problem is the injury to Brett Favre's right thumb. In the loss to the Lions he was laboring on some of his throws, turning his body to get everything he could on the ball, and even then some of the usual zip was missing. The Lions cheated strong safety Ron Rice up close to the line to load up against Dorsey Levens's running and cut off the short passes. (Against a healthy Favre, that simply isn't the way to operate.) The Vikings, no doubt, will follow suit with their strong safety, Robert Griffith. Favre has feasted off that ploy in the past, but now...who knows?
The Vikings' offense has fallen into a pattern in the first two games: a lot of yards in the first half, then a struggle after intermission. It almost cost them against the Falcons. It did cost them against the Raiders. When the Packers go into their six-back dime defense, all three rookie corners are on the field. McKenzie will see the most action. An aggressive corner who doesn't back down, he starts on the left side. We'll see what kind of harvest Wolf's April strategy will reap. Moss will certainly see a lot of front and back coverage, which seems to annoy him.
I like the Packers at home in a mini-upset. The decisive factor may be the running game. I can see Levens just about doubling the output of the Vikings' Robert Smith-Leroy Hoard combination.
Looking for another upset? How about Arizona over San Francisco on Monday night? Expect Aeneas Williams to cover 49ers wideout Terrell Owens all over the field, and Corey Chavous, the other corner, to take his chances against Jerry Rice. The crowd will be stoked; the Arizona heat can be brutal. Steve Young, who was sacked five times against the Saints, will have his hands full.
I like the Patriots over the Giants because of the wideout versus cornerback matchup. The Redskins' Michael West-brook and Albert Connell had New York's corners grasping air all day, and New England's twosome of Terry Glenn and Shawn Jefferson should do likewise, unless Giants corner Jason Sehorn, out all of last year with a knee injury and sidelined since the start of training camp by a slightly torn left hamstring, is all the way back.
I see the Jets in a nasty mood after their loss to the Bills. I see the Redskins coming back to earth after scoring 85 points in two games. Just a hunch, but I like the Jets.
The Chiefs ran all over the Broncos, but I don't see them doing the same to the Lions. At the same time I don't like Detroit's offensive line against the K.C. rush. Home field decides it, so give this one to the Chiefs. Can the Broncos start 0-3? Yes they can, and I think they will. Denver will fall to Tampa Bay and a defense that features a lighter, nastier Warren Sapp.