Brett Favre's Return Gives Packers Something to Worry About
Until Tuesday, if you really believed Tarvaris Jackson was going to be the Vikings' starting quarterback in 2010, it was easy to look at the Packers as clear favorites to win the division, maybe even the whole NFC. (Personally, I kind of like the Cowboys, but that's for another day.) But now that it appears Favre will be back under center in Minnesota, the landscape shifts. No longer the obvious choice to win the NFC North, the Packers are now, at best, co-favorites.
Don't get me wrong. Green Bay looks like a loaded team. Aaron Rodgers and the passing game were brilliant all through last year, even as the offensive line struggled to keep its star quarterback upright. Any improvement at all on the line should make Rodgers even more deadly. As for defense, the second year in coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme is likely to go more smoothly than the first. Capers says he has a plan to improve the pass rush, and when you speak to him, he points out that the 2009 Packers led the league in rush defense and takeaways. So if they could find a pass rush, well, that would pretty much complete the picture, wouldn't it?
Thing is, it's not as important to have a pass rush in a division in which the other three teams employ quarterbacks who are going to throw interceptions whether you pressure them or not. The Bears, with Jittery Jay Cutler, and the Lions, with impressive-but-still-young Matthew Stafford, fit the description. But with Favre instead of Jackson, the Vikings are a team for which Capers is going to have to scheme more creatively. Favre beat the Packers twice last year, a bitter fact not lost on a Green Bay team that also lost the division to Favre and the Vikings by a single game. Minnesota scored a total of 68 points in those two games, so you can bet the Packers are aware Favre's potential impact on the Vikings' offense.
Without Favre, the Vikings would have looked about the same as they looked prior to Favre's reemergence last year -- like a team that had all of the pieces in place for a Super Bowl run, but just needed somebody who could stabilize the quarterback position. Favre's surprisingly brilliant season gave them much more. They ended up with one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
This year's Vikings are pretty much the same unit. Toby Gerhart replaces free-agent defector Chester Taylor, who was much more useful than most backup running backs are, but that probably just means more Adrian Peterson (and maybe more Percy Harvin) out of the backfield, and there's nothing wrong with that. They still have their solid offensive line and that terrifying defensive front four that wrecked Tony Romo and the Cowboys in the divisional playoff round last year. And even if Favre doesn't give them everything he gave them last year -- even if he's just the don't-mess-it-up caretaker type they said he was going to be when he came on board in 2009 -- they still have enough on their roster to make them one of the favorites to win it all.
They go on that list right next to the Packers, who may still turn out to be the best team in the NFC North. Favre's return to Minnesota is just going to make it harder for Green Bay to prove it.