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
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 Westbrook 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
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. --Paul
COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON Levens, who had 153 yards on Sunday, may be the key for the Pack.