Looking rejuvenated in a purple and gold Vikings uniform, Favre had just defeated the Packers and his old nemesis Ted Thompson for the second time in less than a month. Old No. 4 was leading one of the most potent offenses in the league, and the Vikings were in firm control of the NFC North.
That was probably Favre’s highest peak since leaving the Green Bay Packers. After winning at Lambeau, Favre has:
- Not lead the Vikings to another road victory
- Threw an indefensible interception late in the NFC Championship game
- Went through another retirement soap opera during the offseason
- Battled nagging injuries, and
- Became the center of an embarrassing sexting story.
Oh, and by the way, he also hasn’t played very well. After beating the Packers, Favre stayed hot and put up quarterback ratings over 100 in wins over lowly Detroit, Seattle and Chicago. Since beating Chicago, Favre has managed a rating of 100 or better in just four of 11 games, including the playoffs. He has also thrown 13 interceptions over that span.
Since beating the Packers, I would argue that Favre has led the Vikings to just three “key wins.” Obviously, every win is a key win, but wins against teams that have a similar record as your own, wins in must-win games, and playoff wins ultimately define how good your team is. Favre’s key wins since winning at Lambeau have come against the Bengals, the Cowboys in the playoffs and the Cowboys last week.
When the Vikings signed Favre midway through training camp last season, he was viewed as the final piece of the puzzle on a talented team that just needed a quarterback. The Vikings were not expecting Favre to play like he did in his prime. They didn’t think he had to. As it turned out, Favre played better than when he was in his prime, and it was almost good enough to reach the Super Bowl.
Favre strolled into Lambeau Field last season surrounded by a level of talent that almost seemed unfair. When he comes out of the visitor’s tunnel on Sunday, he will be surrounded by even more talent than he was last year.
The Vikings roster has three definite Hall of Famers (Favre, Randy Moss and Steve Hutchinson). The Vikings also have three other players that stand a good chance of making the Hall of Fame if their career arcs continue on their current path (Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Kevin Williams). The Vikings also had eight players named to the Pro Bowl last season and two more added as alternates.
On paper, based solely on individual talent and past track record, the Vikings should roll over the Packers. It shouldn’t even be close. But for whatever reason, the Vikings have not yet been able to turn all that individual talent into team success this season. Perhaps it’s because Favre is fading fast, or maybe it can all be attributed to a shoddy offensive line and a tougher schedule. Whatever the reason, the Vikings are 2-3, and looking up at the Packers in the standings.
The Packers’ struggles this season have been an entirely different story. Most observers agree that the Packers also have a talented roster, probably even a very talented roster. But the difference between the Packers talent and the Vikings talent is track record. Players like Favre, Hutchinson, Allen, Williams, Peterson and Winfield have been turning in dominant pro-bowl caliber seasons over several years. For the Packers, players like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Greg Jennings, and Tramon Williams appear to have the talent to be pro bowlers for several years to come, but they have yet to prove it.
There is no doubt that the Packers wish to be considered on the same level talent-wise as the Vikings. Rodgers wants to reach icon status like Favre. Matthews wants to be feared like Allen. Jennings wants to be a receiver that other teams gameplan for like Moss. I get the sense that the Packers already think they have the talent to be on this level, but they’re frustrated that they have not been able to prove it yet.
Sunday is their opportunity to prove it.
The most disappointing aspect of the Packers in 2010 has been their inability to play with a lead and put teams away. The Packers have had opportunities to put their opponents away early in all three of their losses. They failed to do so and now find themselves 3-3 and battling for position in an up-for-grabs NFC.
By beating the Vikings on Sunday, the Packers can accomplish three things:
- Earn a much needed NFC North victory and build more separation from the Vikings.
- Kick an extremely talented team with a talented, but fading, quarterback while it’s down, reducing its chances of getting back up.
- Get people to take the Packers seriously again as both a Super Bowl contender and a team with enough superior individual talent to frighten whomever they play each week.
Bret Favre was on top of world after beating the Packers last year. He’s been knocked down since. If he manages to get another win at Lambeau on Sunday, he might very well start climbing back up again. If the Packers allow that to happen, 2010 might turn out to be one of the most painful seasons in Packers history.
More of Adam Czech’s writing can be found on Packerchatters.com