The Green Bay Packers finished the 2004 regular season on a winning note by handing the Chicago Bears a 31 - 14 spanking last Sunday. The win means that the North division champions finish with a 10 - 6 record, which is quite an accomplishment considering their horrible 1 - 4 start this season. The win was also a vindication for their awful performance in the first meeting this year against the old rivals from the windy city.
As sweet as any victory against the Bears is, this one was a bit anti-climatic. The game was one sided and basically over by the middle of the second quarter when the Packers gained a 21 - 7 advantage and pulled their skilled position starters. Early in the game, Favre and the Packer offense looked sharp against an injury-riddled Bears squad. The Packer passing attack is diversified and awesome. When it was clicking, the Bears weren't able to compete. After Favre, Green and company took their early seats on the bench, the Packers' reserves took over and played the Bears to a standoff for the balance of the game.
The 2004 Bears are offensively challenged, to put it nicely, and the Packer defense responded with their best game of the year. Coach Sherman made a couple of good coaching moves Sunday, one of which was to bench unproductive defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt. The rest of defensive line responded with a record performance by sacking the Bears' quarterback nine times, four of which were credited to KGB. Cullen Jenkins responded well in his first start, and I think some of the other underachievers on defense may have gotten the message.
So now it is a brand new season, and we are off to the playoffs. The way the games played out Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings are our first round opponent next Sunday afternoon. The Packers have beaten the Vikings twice this year by identical scores of 34 -31. Both games were won on last second field goals by Ryan Longwell. These teams, as stated in this column two weeks ago, are evenly matched, which makes winning three times in one season a very tough task.
Nonetheless, it is doable and I expect the Pack to be 3 - 4 point favorites when the gamblers line up at the gates this week. The Vikings are in the midst of one of their trademark late-season tailspins, having lost seven of their last ten games. The Vikings are a poorly-coached, undisciplined lot, the latest example being Randy Moss's early exit from the field prior to the termination of their loss to the Redskins. Randy has no concept that football is a team sport"¦ and he never will. Cheeseheads can hope he is still pouting next Sunday.
I would love to predict a 20-point Packer blowout, but that can't happen until Packer management reorganizes the defense. This game could go many different directions. Twelve inches of snow just before the game would be nice to tilt the odds towards the Pack. Or maybe ole Red McCombs will trade the Vikes for a car dealership in LA before next weekend.
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