Saturday, January 5, 2013

Vikings-Packers Keys to the Game

Keys to the game against the Minnesota Vikings
1)  Stop Christian Ponder.  You'd think the first key is to stop Adrian Peterson.  As I tweeted earlier, this is not actually the case.  In Peterson's 4 games outdoors this season, he has rushed for 579 yards and averaged 7.9 yards per carry.  Yes, that's almost eight yards a carry.  The most interesting fact about all of this is that the Vikings are 0-4 in these games, giving a lot of evidence that stopping Adrian is not the way to go. 

So that leaves the passing game.  Ponder, when outdoors is 80/142 (56%) for 693 yds with 4 TD and 6 INT for a 61.8 Rating. These numbers are Trent Dilfer-esque.  And really this all makes sense.  In the NFL, teams must have some level of balance to be effective and win.  It's far easier to take away a team's weakness than it is to take away their strength. 

2)  Control the ball.  The game will likely come down to whoever has the ball last.  The Packers were able to pull away in their first meeting after a grueling 10 minute 56 second drive to start the 4th quarter.  That drive made the ground game of the Vikings irrelevant because they could not stop the clock.

3)  Win the turnover battle.  Teams that win the turnover battle win at a greater than 70% margin.  The Packers typically force a large number of turnovers while doing a good job of doing giving many back.  Charles Woodson may help a lot in this area.  Chances are good he would have intercepted the pass M.D. Jennings let go through his hands for a TD last week.  That would have been the difference right there.

4)  Manage the game.  For whatever reason, when a game is on the line, Mike McCarthy struggles to manage the game effectively.  In the first half against the Vikings, McCarthy blew all three of his timeouts early, not allowing the Packers to challenge a clear incompletion, which then ensued in a TD for the Vikings.  McCarthy needs to get the plays in efficiently and personel on the field quickly.  Simplifying the offense is important for this.  Rotating WRs, TEs, and RBs constantly may keep the team fresh and defenses off balance, but it also leads to confusion at times.  Luckily the Packers are at home and won't have to battle the pumped in distortion that the Vikings use in the Metrodome.  The timeout in most question last week, however, was the first one taken on 4th and 11 after looking like they were going to go for it.  Taking a time out and then pooch punting is a waste.  Take the delay of game, and still pooch punt it.  Lastly, know the rules.  Throwing the challenge flag was clearly a terrible choice on the TD review and McCarthy got lucky that the review was already initiated.  Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers both knew the rule and Rodgers was about as angry as I've ever seen him for the call. 

5)  Take what's there.  Playing the Vikings can be frustrating because the windows are tight for anything deep and it's hard to sustain a drive for 80 yards with 4-5 yard dumpoffs all the way down the field.  The Packers need to stay focused and take what's there.  Doing that enough will open up the seem and allow the Packers to take advantage of their one-step-too-slow linebackers.

Bonus:
Keep warm.  I tweeted about this earlier, but the NFL has a LONG way to go in understanding how core temperature plays in muscle performance.  Going sleaveless may make you seem tough, but it just shows how uneducated you are about the cold.  Muscles are not nearly effective when cold, injury is far more common, and recovery time much higher. 

For anyone who wants to brave cold temperatures here are my recommendations after years of skiing in temperatures as low as -20 and with even more severe windchills: 

First off, polypropylene is your friend.  Cotton is your enemy. Wool is good too but it's thick and expensive.  If you're just going to stand there, wool is just fine, but for athletic wear, polypro is the cat's meow.  It's thin, stretches well, breathes, and when layered properly is extremely warm while wicking away the sweat that causes the chill to come in. 

My recommendations: 

Layer 1:  Running tights - the synthetic fabric is comfortable, form-fitting and designed to keep sweat away from the skin. 

Layer 2:  Polypropylene - this is good.  In temperatures as low as 10 degrees, one layer of this is enough.  Below 10 degrees, add another layer (that'll get you to -20 no problem). 

Layer 3:  Outer shell.  For the NFL player, this is the uniform.  The shell should be wind resistant (but not wind proof so it breathes) but it doesn't have to actually be warm as long as it isn't cotton. 

For socks, I wear smart wool or polypropylene.  Smart wool is fairly thin.  My dad, believe it or not, wore nylons for a while because they were thin and the synthetic fabric wicked sweat away from the foot.  I'm guessing it wouldn't pass in an NFL lockeroom though.

Hat:  Stocking cap is mandatory.  You lose a tone of heat from your head.  Also a baclava is nice or at least a turtle neck (not cotton again) to protect the top of your chest from leaking heat.  The goal is to keep heat in and moisture out.  Cotton doesn't wick the moisture and then your body must not only heat the air around the body but also the water in the clothing, which it just isn't capable of doing.

Using the above techniques, I've been sweating in -20 degrees and have had to open or vent my shell. 

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