In this week’s installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” I talked with Max Ginsberg of Purple Pants, Green Jersey, a blog dedicated to news and information about both the Vikings and Packers. Max also writes on occasion for Cheesehead TV. He’s a great follow on Twitter (@MaxGinsberg) for news and opinions on both franchises.
Enough with the intros, let’s get to some Packers-Vikings talk.
ZACH KRUSE: The big news this week is the transition from Donovan McNabb to Christian Ponder at quarterback. McNabb has historically done well against the Packers, but I think we could all see that this move needed to happen sooner rather than later. What are some of the pros and cons of the Vikings’ decision to start the rookie this week?
MAX GINSBERG: I don’t see much of a negative side to this one. The worst-case scenario entails Ponder falling flat on his face and the Vikings completely tanking; in which case, the Vikings would secure a top pick in next year’s quarterback-heavy draft. On the other hand, the move to Ponder has a lot of benefits. It satisfies a fan base that (aside from one golden year with Favre) has suffered through mediocrity at the quarterback position for a long time, and it could also reenergize a team that could use a lift. The Metrodome is a crazy place where anything can happen; why not turn to a rookie quarterback and give the Vikings coaching staff a chance to see what he can do? And while one player is not going to make-or-break the team’s chances on a new stadium, the move to Ponder shows the state of Minnesota that the Vikings are looking to the future. In return, the Vikings are hoping the state ensures that future is in Minnesota by building the team a new stadium.
ZK: C John Sullivan was a no show at practice on both Wednesday and Thursday, and T Phil Loadholt missed Wednesday and was limited Thursday. Their injury statuses could be something to watch with a rookie quarterback preparing to make his first start. How big of losses would those two be if they can’t go?
MG: When former tackle Bryant McKinnie showed up to training camp weighing close to 400 pounds, the Vikings offensive line woes began. His replacement, Charlie Johnson, has been okay, but add in the fact that left guard Steve Hutchinson is aging and ailing himself, and the Vikings could use some help at the offensive line position. The injuries to Sullivan and Loadholt just make an already weak line even more vulnerable. Loadholt says he is going to play, but the Vikings are dangerously thin at backup lineman should he — or anyone else — go down. The other injury to watch is to cornerback Antoine Winfield. He missed last week’s game against Chicago with a neck injury, and it doesn’t appear that he is fully healed yet. When you’re facing Aaron Rodgers, the last thing you want is your best cornerback not on the field.
ZK: In the Vikings’ 39-10 loss last week, Chicago loaded up the box on Adrian Peterson on defense and kept extra blockers in to neutralize the Vikings pass rush on offense. Do you think the Packers will adopt something similar for Sunday? Make Ponder beat you with his arm, and help the tackles enough to keep Jared Allen and Brian Robison off of Aaron Rodgers?
MG: Absolutely. Specifically this season, Dom Capers has committed his squad to stopping the run early, and it should be no different come Sunday. In fact, Capers’ number one priority will be to stop Adrian Peterson. If Ponder can somehow figure out Capers’ blitz and pressure packages, then he deserves to win. While Ponder will make a few completions, I have a feeling it is going to be a long day for the Vikings signal caller. As far as the offense goes, I think that initially Mike McCarthy will help his young tackles out with extra blockers, but we’ve seen that McCarthy expects them to win their one-on-ones and is not afraid to depend on their abilities to operate on an island. I actually expect to see McCarthy run the ball directly at Allen and Robison; that way he can neutralize their pass rushing skills by forcing them to read-and-react rather than simply rushing the passer.
ZK: For being just 1-5, the Vikings have played well at home. OK, maybe I should re-phrase that. The Vikings have played well at home in the first half. They got up big on both the Bucs and Lions before losing, and they also blew out the Cardinals two weeks ago with 28 first quarter points. What happens after half time to the Vikings that is so markedly different from the first 30 minutes? Out coached?
MG: I expect the Vikings to come out of the tunnel fired up. Their first-round draft pick is finally getting his shot, a division rival is in town, and overall, they have a good defense. As a unit, they are better at defending the run than the pass, but ultimately it’s a solid group. But there’s only so long a strong defense can make up for an offense that cannot move the ball, and I think that explains the second half collapses more than anything else. Another factor has to be the mental aspect of the recurring losses. It’s a lot like baseball; when you’re in the midst of a losing streak, you need your ace pitcher to get you out of it and get you back on the winning track. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they do not have an ace pitcher, and they seem to forget to hand the ball off to their ace running back in the second half of football games. Is it coaching? I don’t know. Aside from Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier didn’t exactly inherit the most talented roster, so I think it’s too early to tell. If the trend continues into next season, however, you have to start questioning the coaching staff.
ZK: Aaron Rodgers’ success in domes over his career is well-documented. Last season, he threw for 301 yards and four scores at the Metrodome in a 31-3 win for the Packers. What do the Vikings need to do Sunday defensively to reverse their own fortunes against Rodgers at the Metrodome?
MG: The Vikings need to get to Rodgers early and often. Their best shot at making a game of this is to get in the heads of the Packers young offensive linemen and to give the Metrodome crowd something to cheer about. When the Dome is rocking, it’s tough to hear the person next to you, let alone the other players on the field. If the Vikings can maintain a tenacious pass rush and consistently get to Rodgers, they could shock the NFC North and knock off the defending champs. Do I think it’s going to happen? No. But it’s the Metrodome and you just never know what will happen when you play there.
ZK: Final question. You follow both the Vikings and Packers closely, so no one should be able to give a more accurate prediction for Sunday’s game. Who wins and what’s the score?
MG: I think the Vikings will manage to hang around longer than anyone expects them to, and I would not be surprised to see Christian Ponder make a few good throws. Ultimately, however, the Packers offense is simply too strong, and Aaron Rodgers will begin to pick apart a sub-par Vikings secondary. I’m going with the palindrome on this one, Packers 31-13.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2