Matthews, who leads the NFL with 8.5 sacks, is expected to play after being held out of last week's game against Miami with a hamstring strain. Matthews is listed as the starter at right outside linebacker but also plays on the left side and frequently blitzes from the middle, too. Matthews, who didn't get a sack in either game last year, is a relentless rusher who can win with speed and power. He frequently dips his shoulder to get under a taller blocker. That's key, since both of the Vikings' tackles stand 6-foot-8 and have long arms that they use to try to steer pass rushers around the quarterback. McKinnie, the longtime starter at left tackle, has allowed two sacks this season after yielding nine last season. Loadholt, the second-year right tackle, has allowed 2.5 sacks. They're facing a 3-4 defense for the third consecutive week, which will help.
Given the importance of the game between two NFC North title aspirants who are underachieving, the timing may be right for veteran Harris to make his season debut after being on the PUP list. If so, the rust of not playing for nearly a year notwithstanding, Harris would give the Packers more of a fighting chance to counter Minnesota's playmaking trio than if they had to rely on undrafted rookie Shields when the Vikings spread the field with three wide receivers. Chances are Williams will line up across from Moss most of the night since the Vikings have been predominantly flanking the All-Pro out to the left side since his return to the team two games ago. Moss would enjoy a 5-inch advantage on Williams, but Williams has been playing at a high level and has improved his deep-ball skills since last year. That would leave Woodson in his customary position in the slot and lined up against the explosive Harvin.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS ON OFFENSE
Allen had a great season in just two games against Rodgers.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
The venerable Driver has had some of his best games against the Vikings, with his career highs in catches and yards both coming against Minnesota. A lot of that production has come when he's been lined up in the slot, which is his customary spot when the Packers go with three receivers. That likely would put him up against the tough-as-nails as Winfield, who offensive coordinator Joe Philbin raves about before every Packers-Vikings matchup as a guy who just knows how to play football. Driver is a tremendous open-field runner while Winfield is one of the finest tacklers at his position. Driver, who was held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday and limited on Friday by an injured quad, has been the Packers' most consistent receiver. He is catching 71 percent of the passes thrown his way, a figure that ranks fourth in the NFC among wide receivers.
THE PACKERS WILL WIN IF ...
Rodgers reacts after his 86-yard touchdown pass to Jennings last week.
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
THE PACKERS WILL LOSE IF ...
Their special teams fail again. The Vikings have an enormous edge in the kicking units, whether it's the consistent punting of Chris Kluwe, the clutch kicking of Ryan Longwell or the legal kickoff return ability of Harvin. The Packers' special teams don't have to win the game. They just can't lose it.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF ...
They can protect Favre adequately like they did last year. They don't have to hit on a lot of explosive plays to Moss because Favre and Harvin are coming alive as well, but giving Favre enough time to make smart decisions is key.
THE VIKINGS WILL LOSE IF ...
They don't at least pressure Rodgers. The pass defense seems to have improved, but you'd expect the Packers to go to a 3-to-1 pass-to-run ratio. Without Cedric Griffin and with Chris Cook at less than 100 percent, the secondary will need some help up front.
At some point, you figure the Packers are going to get out of their funk. All three losses have been by a field goal, so it's not like they're that far away from turning those losses into wins. But, six games is a good sample of where a team stands. Until Mike McCarthy and Rodgers can beat a good team in a close game, then I can't pick them. Vikings 20, Packers 17.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.