Didn’t we just beat the Vikings?
Only three short weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers did indeed beat the Minnesota Vikings, 33-27 at the Metrodome. One bye and a win over the San Diego Chargers later, and the Packers host the Vikings on Monday Night Football.
Though it doesn’t offer Brett Favre’s return to Green Bay, the game still holds plenty of intrigue. Will the Packers’ perfect season continue to hold up despite a porous defense? Can Aaron Rodgers maintain his level of play? Is Christian Ponder the next big thorn in the side of the Packers?
It’s also a divisional game which means the records can be thrown out the window when comparing the two teams. Packers/Vikings games often end up being real close no matter how either team performs against the other 30 clubs.
Key Vikings Players
QB Christian Ponder
Ponder made his presence known immediately in his first meeting with the Packers, completing a 72 yard pass to Michael Jenkins on the very first play from scrimmage. After that, he still played fairly well though some poor throws wound up in the hands of the Packers secondary and likely ended up costing the Vikings the upset.
Ponder improved in the next game with a 236 yard and zero-interception effort in a 24-21 win over the Carolina Panthers. So far after two games, Ponder is looking like a very mobile quarterback with an arm strong enough to make most of his throws. He will only get better with experience.
After getting caught off guard in their first meeting, the Packers will definitely be keeping a close eye on Ponder. Until they develop any semblance of a pass rush, the Packers best hope is to let their cornerbacks force Ponder into some poor decisions.
RB Adrian Peterson
What else can I say about AP that hasn’t already been said over and over again?
Peterson had another great game against the Packers three weeks ago, rushing for 175 yards and a touchdown. He’s on pace for another 1500 yard season and is obviously the Vikings biggest weapon on offense. If they develop even a decent passing attack with Ponder, this will open things up even more for Peterson and make the Vikings one of the biggest spoilers the rest of the season.
The Packers will need to be very fundamentally sound in their tackling in order to shut Peterson down. Many times in the previous matchup, the Packers had Peterson contained but failed to bring him to the ground. Bad tackling. Of course, Peterson’s ability also had something to do with that.
They must be able to bring him down on the first hit. If he escapes that, Peterson can be lethal.
DE Jared Allen
Lost in the Vikings 2-6 season has been another stellar year by Allen. In a season where the Vikings have blown multiple large halftime leads, Allen has amassed 12.5 sacks. With a thin Packers offensive line, Allen has his sights set once again on Aaron Rodgers, but will Rodgers’ mobility save him from Allen’s clutches?
Marshall Newhouse will face one of his biggest challenges of the season against Allen. In their previous game, Allen sacked Rodgers twice. Newhouse will have to be on his toes to keep his quarterback upright.
CB Antoine Winfield
Winfield finally returns to the field this week after missing the previous six games with a neck injury. His presence was missed the last go round with the Packers as Rodgers started off the game completing his first 13 passes. Rodgers shredded the Vikings secondary and forced Ponder and the offense to play catch-up late in the game.
Winfield also could be a liability however due to some rust. He hasn’t seen action in six games and will get the mother of all wakeup calls against Rodgers and the explosive Packers offense. Still, he has been the key part to the Vikings secondary, and his mere presence should escalate the play of the entire unit.
Three things to watch
Marshall Newhouse vs. Jared Allen Newhouse is the obvious underdog in this matchup. He will have to do better than the effort he had against Allen in the Metrodome. Allen was on Rodgers all day and in a game where the final margin of victory was less than a touchdown, there is very little margin for error.
Christian Ponder vs. the G Force Ponder has yet to play in a true hostile environment and will face his first true crowd noise test against the Packers at Lambeau Field. It will be a daunting challenge for the rookie and the fans can have as big an impact on this game as they ever have.
The Packers defense vs. Adrian Peterson The Packers defense was maligned so much this week, you’d swear the team was 4-4 and not 8-0. Still, the unit deserves some criticism. They face a big test against the best running back in the NFL and can go a long way towards salvaging their reputation as a unit by shutting Peterson down and forcing Ponder into some bad decisions. Sacking Ponder wouldn’t hurt either.
Packers 38, Vikings 24
The games will get tougher for the Packers as they get each opponent’s best each week. Still the talent gap is too wide between the two teams for the Vikings to overcome.
Rodgers will still be able to pick on the Vikings secondary all night despite Winfield’s return. Peterson will have his way again with Packers as questions about the defense drag on for yet another week. Allen gets to Rodgers once, but Newhouse will hold his own.
It all adds up to a 9-0 record for the Packers who prepare to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke