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Monday, November 22, 2010
Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

After the Green Bay Packers' 31-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, here are three issues that merit further examination:
Head Exam
Following their win over the Vikings, the Packers make their trip to the examination room.
  1. If anything was holding back quarterback Aaron Rodgers earlier this season, it seems gone now. In his past two games, Rodgers has completed 75.4 percent of his passes for 590 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions. That's good for a 138.6 passer rating. Most importantly, the Packers have won those two games by a combined score of 76-10. Rodgers' personal statistics have not always corresponded with the team's win-loss percentage, but he has clearly been a driving force in the Packers' four-game winning streak. From a personal standpoint, here is one more superlative: Sunday was the eighth game in Rodgers' career in which he has thrown three or more touchdown passes without an interception. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other players have as many games in that category within three seasons of their first NFL start: Kurt Warner (nine) and Tom Brady (eight).
  2. This is getting interesting. After limiting the Vikings to three points, the Packers' defense is now holding opponents to an average of 14.6 points per game. That figure pulls them into a tie with the Chicago Bears for the lowest mark in the NFL. (Bears fans would note the Vikings lost a 51-yard field goal because of a holding penalty, but facts are facts.) It's almost become a cliché, but the Packers' defense really is playing lights-out football. In their past three games, opponents have scored zero, seven and three points. Packers coach Mike McCarthy is so confident in them that he deferred the kickoff to the second half after winning the coin toss Sunday. Coordinator Dom Capers is mixing up schemes and coverages as well as anyone in the league. And I think it's also time to start considering the Pro Bowl candidacies of at least four Packers defenders: Nose tackle B.J. Raji, linebacker Clay Matthews, and cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. Would you add anyone else to the list?
  3. Two months after signing him from the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad, the Packers finally got rookie tailback Dimitri Nance involved. Nance carried 12 times for 37 yards, including a nice first-quarter bulldozing of Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson, and seemed to establish himself as the Packers' No. 2 tailback behind starter Brandon Jackson. "It was time really to get him going and give him some opportunities," McCarthy said. "We need to continue to grow with him and Brandon. I was pleased to finally get that rotation going." I would imagine that John Kuhn will continue to get some touches, particularly in short-yardage situations, but Nance has livelier legs and would be a nice second-half addition to the Packers' offense.
And here is one issue I don't get:
Why are we even calling this a rivalry? The Packers have won seven of their past 10 meetings with the Vikings, dating back to the start of the McCarthy era. Obviously, two of the three losses came in Brett Favre's so-called "revenge" games. What's more, the Packers have built a team around young(er), elite players who seem to have this franchise positioned for long-term competitiveness. The Vikings, on the other hand, have swung and missed at a short-term Super Bowl run with Favre and a host of aging veterans. Anything could happen, but at this point it's hard to predict anything other than more of the same in the Packers-Vikings matchup.