Sunday afternoon, many of you watched the Green Bay Packers knock Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys out of the NFL Playoffs. As it seems to go more often than not lately, the game went the way of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. For the third time in the past eight seasons, the Packers are on their way to the NFC Championship game, one win away from another Super Bowl appearance.
It’s tough to look across the Hudson, at the landscape of the NFL in Green Bay and not feel like they have everything and we have nothing. They have Rodgers, we’ll start our third new quarterback in as many years. They have the reigning rookie of the year (Eddie Lacy), we have a question mark at running back. They have Lambeau, we are currently displaced. They are playing in the NFC Championship game next weekend, we are watching from our couch.
For the past 10 or so years, outside of a flash in the pan in 2009, this has been the way things have gone. The future is starting to look a little brighter in Minneapolis, but the gap is still wide.
But how wide is it? It’s time to quantify the gap and answer the question, just how far behind the Green Bay Packers are the Minnesota Vikings?
To do this, we’ve created a fictitious 100-point grading scale with five categories. Each category brings with it a value scale of 0-20 points, with 20 points being the highest. Grading each of these teams across the Offense, Defense, Special Teams, Coaching and Fan Base, we’ll come up with a number to show us just how far the Vikings are from where the Green Bay Packers currently reside.
Buckle up, Vikings fans, the results are not expected to be pretty.
OFFENSIVE SCALE (20): Green Bay 19, Minnesota 8
The Green Bay Packers hold the trump card when it comes to the offensive category, his name is Aaron Rodgers. A-Rodg is currently the best quarterback in the league and I’m not sure there are any questions any more. He has the skills, he has the attitude and he has the confidence it takes to be a star in this league, and he does it on a regular basis, calf injury or not. Sprinkle in a decent offensive line, a top-5 wide receiver in Jordy Nelson and a dominant running back in Eddie Lacy and the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the best in the league. The only knock that kept them from a perfect 20, is the offensive line that lacks consistency from time-to-time.
For the Vikings, we’ll split the middle and give them a 10, based mainly on potential. Teddy looks like he’s going to be the guy, but there’s really no telling what that ceiling is. Does he have the potential to be a guy like Aaron Rodgers or will he be an adequate starting quarterback, something like Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan? We just don’t know. With a gigantic question mark in the backfield given Adrian Peterson’s current situation, holes at the wide receiver spot and an offensive line that functions like a leaky sink, there are some big concerns for the Vikings on offense after the 2014 season.
DEFENSIVE SCALE (20): Green Bay 13, Minnesota 14
This may be the only category where the Vikings walk away on top, but I’m not sure that a one-point loss will mean much to the Packers. The two teams finished 14th (Minnesota) and 15th (Green Bay) during the regular season this year but the Minnesota defense is younger and seems to be trending in the right direction. Julius Pepper is playing on borrowed time and despite still being a dominant defender, even Clay Matthews is starting to show signs of normalcy. For the Vikings, Zimmer’s scheme mixed with Rhodes’ progression, Smith’s steady play and the upside that is Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr, the Vikings played poorly down the stretch and still finished ahead of the Pack. Give some of these young players another year or two and it will be very interesting to see where these two defenses stand.
SPECIAL TEAMS (20): Green Bay 12, Minnesota 12
By most accounts, this year was one of the worst special teams years for the Vikings in recent memory. Bad punts followed up by missed field goals preceding poor kick returns, that seemed to be the recipe for the Vikings season this year. Locke, Walsh and Patterson all had down seasons and their stats were all still better than the Packers lot.
Masthay, Crosby and Cobb had a down season across the border too. That said, the problems seem less pressing when your offense is able to score no matter the starting position. Giving both teams a 12 in this category is kind of a cop-out, but trying to weigh potential on something like special teams is a bit of a crap shoot. Just ask the Minnesota Vikings how their assessment of Cordarrelle Patterson played out this year?
COACHING STAFF (20): Green Bay 18, Minnesota 12
The most promising thing about comparing the two coaching staffs for these teams is the fact that last season, the gap within this category would have been twice as wide. Mike Zimmer has given the Vikings hope for the leadership of this team in the future. Norv Turner adds to that equation and we’ll sprinkle in the GM here too, Rick Spielman seemingly makes more good decisions than bad ones (yes we remember Christian Ponder). The attitude, the direction and the coaching seem to be the right mix for a successful team here in Minnesota.
Over in Green Bay, they’re working off of the same recipe card, but they are about six steps ahead of us here in Minnesota. Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson have this football thing figured out. The way they have not only identified the talent, but then go and utilize those skills is second to none right now. Again this is trending in a positive direction, but it has to be the Packers by a good margin right now.
FAN BASE/GAMEDAY ATMOSPHERE (20): Green Bay 20, Minnesota 8
I’m sure that this will upset certain factions of Vikings fans, but anybody that has ever visited Lambeau Field on Green Bay Packers gameday cannot argue that the atmosphere around that stadium, the level of passion inside the gates and the overall knowledge of the game among the fan base is top-notch. That’s what comes with a history of winning. I’m not saying that Minnesota doesn’t have those fans, but 4 Super Bowl losses and 0 victories followed by decades of disappointment have left those fans in hibernation mode. The new stadium in Minnesota will bring out the fan base again, if the team can pair that with a quality product on the field the fan base will mobilize again and this number will even out a bit. That said, mainly because they’re crazy, I’m not sure that Vikings fans will ever fully catch up to that of the Packers fan base. Trust me, I hate saying this, and they are annoying as can be, but they might be the best fan base in the league.
GREEN BAY 82 - MINNESOTA 54
It’s obviously not a scientific scale, but doing our best to compare the two franchises as a whole, the Vikings are currently 28 grade points behind the Green Bay Packers. Understanding that the Vikings are trending in the right direction in almost all categories, I honestly thought it was going to be worse. Let’s take another look at this in two years when the Zimmer/Spielman crew have had a few more draft classes and Teddy has a few more games under his belt. I’m not saying they will have usurped the Packers on top of the division by then, but this conversation will likely be a lot more interesting then.