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Louis Villaume

Hamel, Minn.

Villaume: Fans Welcome the Cold Weather

Back when I was young I used to listen to my Mother's "Rock" music in the basement whenever I could. My early albums included Neil Diamond, Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, and Hair. My affinity for musicals and theater can be directly linked to my Mom.

We added an 8-track cassette player which meant more music options. I recall one particular 8-track, Jerry Butler, standing on top of cubes of ice, with the title "The Iceman Cometh". While he was no Al Green, he was pretty cool.

And cold standing on all that ice.

As temperatures are dropping below zero, I am reminded of the cold days of the past. Without a doubt, one reason Minnesota was so successful in the 1970s was that it played home playoff games at Met Stadium in December and January. I went to many home playoff games as a child. I would be wrapped up in my snowmobile suit, given blankets and a thermos of hot chocolate, and sent off to tailgate in the parking lot in the early hours of the morning.

As most know through legend or life, Bud Grant kept his players without gloves and heaters. As a fan I joined others in taking great pride in the toughness of our football team. I recall games versus the Rams and Cowboys where they would be huddled around a single heater, two or three rows deep, close together trying to create enough warmth to avoid frost bite. Meanwhile, the Minnesota players would be standing tall, in a straight line, looking as if the biting winds somehow went around them.

And we would laugh at the "warm-blooded" teams.

All that changed upon the making of the Metrodome. And while I was thankful for the Dome in helping us bring World Series rings to Minnesota in 1987 and 1991, I have never been of the belief that we should have moved the Vikings under a bubble, thus eliminating the elements. The only adversity left, trying to avoid bursting ear drums due to piped in music at 150 decibels.

We lost our toughness.

For the last thirty plus years we have been a soft team from a Dome. Even 1998, when we were 15-1, we had this softness about us. Our division rivals, the Packers and the Bears, continued on with their frigid playoff games and both won Super Bowls while we stayed warm. 

We have become the Detroit Lions.

Today we have a chance to change all of that. The TCF Bank Stadium will be cold. Very cold. A noon start with temperatures expected to be near zero. The Seattle Seahawks are not a cold weather team. They are a very strong team that has relied more and more on the pass this year than in their recent past. And now with Marshawn Lynch unavailable, and the best running option Christine Michael, it appears that the worse the playing conditions are, the better for our Purple.

Watching Saturday's playoff games was educational. Both visiting team won mostly because the quarterback experience was on the side of the visitors. Brian Hoyer had five turnovers for the Texans in a 30-0 loss to the red-hot Chiefs. Alex Smith just did his job and watched his counterpart implode. An injured Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a final winning drive late in the game. Those whom watched that game know that the two biggest idiots on the Bengals committed costly personal fouls on the same final drive which handed the victory to Pittsburgh. But it also did not help Cincinnati that inexperienced quarterback A.J. McCarron took a long time to get into the swing of his first ever playoff game.

Today's games have a eerily similar look. Russell Wilson has a lopsided wealth of more experience than Teddy Bridgewater. In the night game, Aaron Rodgers the same as opposed to Kirk Cousins. If the games play out like most expect, Seattle and Green Bay will win because of their quarterbacks.

Well, they think Seattle should win. Not too many are high on Green Bay after last weekend.

And so we look to the cold. We hope that the elements reduce the skills of Wilson, and that the defense contains him while shutting down what is left of the Seattle running attack. Sure, it will also hamper our own attack, but most fans reason Adrian Peterson can do more against the Seahawks defense than Michael can versus the Vikings.

There is a reason Minnesota was made a 7 point underdog at home to start this playoff week. And there is also a reason that "line" has shrunk to 4 or 5 points. The cold weather will have a hand in leveling the playing field.

As the icy conditions worsen, we grow greater in hope. Never mind that Teddy Bridgewater is not used to playing in the cold. Never mind that we are still an offense built for artificial turf and a Dome. As it gets closer to dangerously cold, we just think of how it will impact our opponents. We hope they are huddled around a heater. Miserable in every way.

Let the cold weather cometh. Where are you Jerry Butler?

Skol.

Villaume: Fans' Five Keys to Vikings' Victory

Coaches and players will have keys to victory, They will study film and statistics, look for patterns and weaknesses, injuries.. and exploit them. A developed game plan.

We fans are free from the constraints of logic when it comes to our football team.

Passion > Logic.

So with that in mind, the keys to a Vikings' victory this Sunday include:

1. Referees stop treating Green Bay receivers like they are royalty.

Having watched a handful of Packers games this year, and all of the Minnesota games, it is clear to me that there is a bias toward the Green and Gold. The Packers offense thrives almost as much on penalties as they do performance. Don't believe me? Here are the stats:

The Packers are 2nd in first downs by penalty with 43. The Vikings are 19th with 28. 

The Packers are 1st in fewest first downs allowed via penalty with 18. Minnesota is 25th best with 34.

So, Green Bay is a plus 25 in first downs by penalty and Minnesota is minus 6.

In the 11/22 meeting that the Packers won 30-13, the Green and Gold were awarded three first downs by penalty to none for Minnesota. Rodgers might have drawn us offside one of those times, but it is clear to purple fans that referees see more crimes against the Pack than otherwise.

Now someone will try and say logical things like... good teams draw penalties, or a young secondary will commit more fouls...but we fans in purple know better. It is the same treatment Michael Jordan and the Bulls got for years, or the Yankees, or Red Wings. Winning teams get the calls.

On this Sunday we would like a reprieve. Just because Xavier Rhodes has his hand on a receiver it does not always mean you have to throw a flag, and conversely, if the Packers slow down our receivers with their arms and hands, you can throw a flag once in a while.

2. Must dominate 3rd Down Conversion battle

In the first meeting Minnesota was 5 for 13 on 3rd down conversions, or roughly 39 percent. Green Bay was 6 for 16, or 38.5 percent. Advantage Minnesota, but barely.

On the season Minnesota's offense is 17th overall in the NFL with 39.4%; Green Bay is 27th at 35.2%. Defensively, Minnesota is ranked 8th in allowing 3rd down conversions at a rate of 36.1%, good for 3rd in the NFC. The Packers are 10th defensively in 3rd down conversion, with a 36.8%. 

In this game that margin of difference will be crucial. Minnesota must get Aaron Rodgers off of the field early and often. If the Vikings can avoid defensive penalties on 3rd down that might just be enough. If not, expect more of the same from the last five seasons, where Green Bay has won ten of the last twelve games.

3. Win the turnover battle

Coming into the final game of the season these two teams could not be more even in the plus/minus category of turnovers. Both teams are plus five, with 20 takeaways and 15 turnovers. 

In the previous meeting, Green Bay won the turnover battle 1-0 with a lone fumble by Adrian Peterson recoverd by Sam Shields. In the rematch, the Vikings must finish on the plus side in order to win. A two turnover swing could mean as much as 14 points.

Teddy Bridgewater has avoided the turnovers that plagued the quarterbacks before him. Rodgers has only recently begun to turn the ball over via the pass. He is known for his ability to avoid turnovers. Pressure on the quarterback will be one of the keys to who will win this battle.

4. Adrian Peterson vs. Eddie Lacy

Peterson has looked very strong all year. Eddie Lacy looks like he spent the off-season on his couch watching reruns of Happy Days. Peterson has the overall rushing title in the NFL nearly wrapped up, while Lacy fights for playing time (and air) with veteran James Starks.

However, in the first meeting Lacy ran for 100 yards on 22 carries, including a 27 yard run. Peterson was given the ball 13 times which resulted in 45 yards. This was not a shock to those in the know, Lacy has been tough to stop in all the border battles.

On Sunday, Minnesota must find ways to give AP the ball when the Packers are not fully expecting him to have it. The predictable run on 1st and 10 might need a few down field passes instead. In 2005, Randy Moss scored 3 TDs on passes to humble the Packers at Lambeau Field. Like a visit to Disney World, it might behoove the Vikings to look for "off-peak" hours or plays do get Peterson involved. 

One thing is certain, do not give up on Peterson like we did in November.

Stopping Lacy is apparently more difficult for Minnesota than it should be. The big back has broken many tackles the last few years. With Linval Joseph out, the run defense is suspect. While Green Bay is most dangerous via the pass, stopping Lacy and/or Starks is important in allowing our defensive rush to attack the pocket.

5. Contain and Batter Aaron Rodgers

Finally, anyone who witnessed the Packers last game vs. the Cardinals was given a blueprint for beating Green Bay. The Packers offensive line is struggling with injuries to the point I almost felt sorry for them as they were overrun by Arizona last week. 

Almost.

Green Bay and Minnesota have surrendered 2.8 sacks per game. However, in the last three games the Packers have surrendered 4.3 sacks per game compared to Minnesota's 2.3. The nine sacks that Green Bay allowed last week was a joy to watch. Rodgers was beaten, angry, but unable to change what was happening.

In the first meeting the Packers sacked Bridgewater six times, as he tried to pass while behind in the game. Rodgers was sacked twice. Rodgers deftly stepped up and around our rush, finding receivers like James Jones, who had six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Those numbers should be reversed. One of the issues Minnesota has had this year is containing teams with mobile quarterbacks. It is no coincidence that the three blowouts the Vikings suffered this year (San Fran, Green Bay, and Seattle) all involved QBs who avoided our pass rush. Minnesota fared much better against pocket passers like Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler...

Gone are the days of all-out rushes from guys like Jared Allen, hell-bent on getting a sack. Our defensive ends (Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, and Brian Robison) must contain Rodgers within the pocket. If we must blitz to add pressure, then so be it.

If Minnesota hits Rodgers early and often, it will be a glorious day most certainly.

Well, that is a fan's view of what must occur in order to end this silly domination since 2010. Yes, Green Bay has been a very good team over the years. No, they are not invincible. 

In fact, they look ripe for a beating.

Skol.