by Troy Sparks
GREEN BAY – Is the pressure on the Green Bay Packers to finish the regular season undefeated? What if they don’t? What matters is whether they will finish the season in January or February.
The Packers, who entered their game at home, Nov. 14, at 8-0, went after the season series sweep of the Minnesota Vikings – without Brett Favre. That guy had a minor effect on the outcome of the Vikings’ season so far.
When Minnesota got Donovan McNabb in the offseason, they were all of a sudden the team that would give Green Bay a run for their money in the NFC North. The Packers didn’t even win the division last season, but you knew how their season ended.
So what’s the Vikings’ excuse now? They were 2-6 before their game at Lambeau Field. McNabb is at the end of his career. The team gave first round pick Christian Ponder a shot to salvage something of a year. He’s getting his education as an NFL quarterback on the fly while being thrown to the wolves like the Pack, Chicago and Detroit. McNabb isn’t the answer that Minnesota was looking for. He was expected to lead them to the playoffs, but that magic he displayed in Philadelphia didn’t pan out in Washington, his last stop, and certainly not in the Twin Cities.
Imagine how the division could shake out if the Packers finally lose a game. Guess who will be waiting for them on Thanksgiving and Christmas? The Lions and Bears, respectively, and it won’t be pretty on either day.
It was ugly for the Vikings when rookie sensation Randall Cobb ran a punt 80 yards for the touchdown to jumpstart the scoring for the Packers. Greg Jennings caught a TD pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to give the Pack a 14-0 first quarter lead. They added a field goal in the second quarter from Mason Crosby to lead at the half, 17-0.
Packer fans know by now that the team can turn up the heat with their potent offense and win the game running away. The lopsided final score of 45-7 gave the Pack the sweep over the Vikings and a 9-0 record. Maybe they will sweep the Lions and Bears too. Green Bay is guaranteed a winning season, even if they lose their last seven games.
“This game is a significant win,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s a division game as always. We had a chance to sweep the Vikings this year to stay in command and in control of our division. But as a football team, we needed a significant win.”
Beating any team in the division is significant, but what about the other important wins against the other six opponents outside their division? Those wins are crucial or the Packers wouldn’t be undefeated right now. Minnesota is now 2-7. What are they going to do?
Fresh Coast Classic
November Madness is coming to Wisconsin Lutheran College again this year on Thanksgiving weekend. The annual basketball tournament and college and resource fair will be in town on Nov. 23, 25-26. The college fair will be at the Harley-Davidson Museum, Nov. 23, from 3-7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
“We’ve ramped up our college fair,” MPS assistant commissioner of athletics Russ Thomas said. “In addition to the historically black colleges, we have well over 48 institutions coming in from around the state and the Midwest.”
The basketball tournament, Nov. 25-26, will feature city high school teams battling the suburban teams. The college games will be sandwiched between the prep contests. University schools participating in this year’s collegiate portion of the tournament include Lincoln (PA), Fisk (TN), Bowie State (MD) and Cheyney (PA).
Participating Milwaukee schools are Morse-Marshall, South, Hamilton, Washington, Tech, Vincent, Riverside and King. The suburban schools include Brown Deer, Manitowoc Roncalli, Sussex Hamilton, Whitnall, Mukwonago, Racine Case, Kettle Moraine and Arrowhead.
This is the second year that MPS is involved in the Fresh Coast Classic event. Thomas said wrapping the high school games around the college games makes the tournament more interesting. He thinks that MPS’ involvement in the Fresh Coast Classic makes a good marriage.
Organizers of the event are competing each year on that weekend with the retail stores who draw lots of shoppers the two days after Thanksgiving, which affects the attendance to the basketball games.
“The turnout was kind of flat (last year),” Thomas said. “This year we’re working with local, what we call, Friends of Fresh Coast Classic groups by offering ticket packages that will get them into our games.” There will be free giveaways throughout the tournament, including 150 gift cards from Wal-Mart and four 40-inch HD TVs. For more information, call 475-8227 or visit the Fresh Coast Classic website at www.freshcoastclassic.org.
NBA Union Breaks Up, Season on Brink
Players from the NBA rejected the latest offer from the owners, who are at their wits end of dealing with the greedy players because they wanted to maintain their 57 percent split in basketball income. It was reduced to 50%. With the split down to 47% if they rejected the 50-50, the players’ union broke up.
The players called the latest offer “unacceptable.” They don’t care about the impact it has already had on employees who work for the NBA teams. They have to feed their families too. If there won’t be a season, you can always watch another local pro team, the Milwaukee Blast. They score more points than the Bucks do.