My packing checklist for the weekend:
Extra Strength Tylenol
Must be a trip to Mall of America Field at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. This will be the last excursion to the "Roller Dome" as Mike Ditka once called it. The teflon covered yard downtown is coming down after this season and the Minnesota Vikings will (with plenty of Minnesotans' help) begin constructing a new, glass encased palace. Until it's finished, the football team will have to cross the river and play home dates at TCFBank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus the next couple of years. The Metrodome opened in 1982, replacing the old Met in Bloomington. The Packers had the first trip there wiped out by the NFL Players strike. They've ventured indoors every year since and I've covered 'em all. Granted, the first game there, Novmeber 13th, 1983, was two days after my wedding but my wife knew what she was getting into before the nuptials. The Packers won five of the first 6 games at the dome but things have a way of evening out. Sunday night will be the 31st game between the division rivals and fittingly, this one will settle it, the all-time record between the teams at the Metrodome is 15-15, a best of 31 I guess.
I've seen some things in that place. A sober Tommy Kramer rifling five touchdown passes in a 42-7 rout in 1986. A young Mark Brunell warming up quickly for a wildly erratic Brett Favre in 1993 but Mike Holmgren resisted benching Favre, good move about 16 starts into his record iron man streak. The following year, Holmgren had no choice when Favre got nicked but Brunell had a costly fumble on a potential game winning drive, a 15-13 loss. Who can ever forget T.J. Rubley's audible, against Holmgren's wishes that led to a pick and a loss. Terrell Buckley daring an aging Jim McMahon to beat him with his arm, and he did. There have been walkoff field goals from Faud Reveiz to Ryan Longwell and of course, Brett's first game against his former team was indoors in 2009, a 30-23 Vikings win. The constant throughout all that history has been the noise, artificial and otherwise, and of course, the Gjallarhorn. That's where the Tylenol comes in.
So let's play one more, the 4-2 Packers, winners of three straight, against the 1-5 Vikings who have the look of a team ready to impload. Before I offer my suggestions on what we'll see, let's hear what the boys at 1265 Lombardi Avenue have to say about the matchup:
The Packers are nine point favorites, a pretty big spread for a divisional road game, but seeing how the Vikings have yet to win on American soil (the only victory came against the Steelers in London), you can understand the line. I think the offense will function about as it did last week, hopefully Eddie Lacy will carry the workload and Aaron Rodgers will pick his spots outside with the young receivers forced to play again. The loss of Jermichael Finley will be more noticeable. Andrew Quarless isn't nearly as explosive against linebacker or safety coverage. David Bakhtiari's baptism will really be tested by Jared Allen up front.
Defensively, as the players said, it's Yo, Adrian! Not allowing him to crease the second level and beyond for huge chunks will be critical. Peterson will get his, just can't him get the big gainers. Christian Ponder is probably the best alternative in the three headed quarterback mess with Matt Cassel and newly acquired Josh Freeman, but he's likely going to be rusty. Greg Jennings led the league in 40 yard plus receptions while in Green Bay, I think he's had one with the Vikes, a lot of money for an offensive afterthought.
I like the Packers to make it four straight, a 27-20 sendoff to the dome. It won't be missed.