Packers/Vikings, Brewers, MLB Playoffs

Coming into week four, it’s time to even the score.

(Sorry I’m not as cool as David Caruso, but I did put on my sunglasses in a very suave manner after I wrote that opening line. By the way, did you know that CSI: Miami is the most popular show in the world? Did you know what’s in second place? That’s right: Supermarket Sweep.)

Forget it. Let’s get down to business. What I meant by that opening is that after the first three weeks of the NFL season, I’m 1-2 in my pre-season Packer predictions. Which, given how much better the Packers are playing than most predicted, isn’t that bad. And with Sunday’s win over the Vikings, which I predicted with a score of 13-10, I’m now officially at .500 with a score of 2-2.

Really, the result of this week’s game wasn’t surprising. The Packers are making a very good case for being considered the best team in the NFC, while the Vikings are making a very good case for being considered one of the worst. Mike McCarthy and Brett Favre are two of the most popular people in all of Wisconsin, whereas Vikings coach Brad Childress and Vikings quarterbacks Tavaris Jackson and Kelly Holcomb probably can’t get a table at the local Ponderosa.

The disparity between the two rivals is really quite interesting, particularly when you consider what are supposedly the golden rules of football success: Run the ball and stop the run. The Vikings are very good at running the ball and the best team in the league at stopping the run. The Packers are the worst team in the league at running the ball and are merely average — at least statistically — at stopping the run.

But the Packers have Favre. Not only do the Packers have Favre, they have Favre — and I apologize if I’ve said this every week — playing as good as I’ve ever seen him play. Which is darn good. Not to mention he’s having a hell of a good time. And fans are having a hell of a good time watching him because he’s playing smarter (i.e. his picks are way down) while losing virtually none of his ability to make something out of nothing (i.e. the frequency with which he now employs the little shovel passes while under heavy pressure).

Favre himself attributes his mistake-free playing with a confidence in his defense that he didn’t always have. But if Packer fans have anything to be concerned about after Sunday’s win, it might be that defense. I was stunned that the Vikings were able to gain nearly 400 yards of offense, and would have gained plenty more if not for Kelly Holcomb’s sheer ineptitude, both with his passing accuracy and with his clock management. Granted, a chunk of that purple offense was racked up after the Packers had built what seemed like an insurmountable lead of 23-9, but the game wasn’t in hand enough for the Packers defense to feel like it could relax, and it could have ended badly if not for Atari Bigby’s interception a mere thirty seconds after Ryan Grant’s scary fumble.

So do the Packers need a running game? Favre says they do, McCarthy says they do, most pundits and fans say they do. I’m certainly inclined to say they do, but I’m not that convinced that they can’t ride this Favre train a while longer. But they’ll need to do better than 2.3 yards a rush once they make the playoffs.

Playoffs? Playoffs? (See, if this was one of those wacky sports talk radio shows, you’d be hearing Jim Mora right now and chuckling. See, the Internet can’t completely replace the old forms of communication, like radio, vaudeville, and the daguerreotype.) Why shouldn’t Packer fans be thinking playoffs? Do you really think Detroit’s going to hang around? Do you look at the Packers’ schedule and see a lot of scary games? I see one: November 29 at Dallas. (Which, Charter fans, is on the NFL Network.)

There’s a lot of football to play, but Favre — now of course the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdown passes, pass attempts, and career victories — is definitely playing like he’s in it to win it.

More catchy rhyming statements. Cue the sunglasses.

Quickly on to baseball as I’m sure most of you are putting off some important work or family obligations to read this: As disappointed as Brewer fans are not to be in the playoffs this year, take heart that Milwaukee has a good team that will be more mature, more experienced, and more prepared to deal with the pressures of winning next year. They’ll be hungry, they’ll be better, and they should make a run next year. I didn’t see it this year — check the blog archives — but I see it next year. You’d like that starting rotation to be a little stronger, though, wouldn’t you? Oh, and to the people that want to dump on Ned Yost: The Brewers aren’t sitting out the postseason because Yost lost his mind late in the season with the arguing, the retailiations, and the ejections. They’re sitting out the postseason because they went 20-34 in July and August.

Baseball playoffs? I like the Yankees this year. Well, I don’t like the Yankees, but I like their chances to win another World Series. The offense is unparalleled, the pitching is improving, and they — especially Alex Rodriguez — have something to prove after so many people had written them off after a lousy start. I just wish Costanza was still there to celebrate.

In the other series, I like the Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Phillies — even though I’m writing this after the Phillies dropped game one of the NLDS to the Rockies. I like the Yankees and Phillies to meet in the World Series, and the Yankees to win, possibly even sweep.

If the Yankees lose to Cleveland in the ALDS, then I’ll take the Indians to go all the way. It’s odd that the two best teams meet in an opening series, but that’s the fact, Jack.

Man, I’m smooth.


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