Minnesota Vikings (2-3) at Green Bay Packers (3-3)
Kickoff: 7:20 p.m. Sunday.
TV: NBC, (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Andrea Kremer).
In a surprise, the Packers decided not to activate cornerback Al Harris and safety Atari Bigby from the physically unable to perform list. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said that would have done on Saturday, and as of Saturday night, no roster moves have been made. That means Sam Shields will be the third cornerback and Charlie Peprah will start at safety.
Keys to the game
Brett Favre is doing his best to keep the focus on the field. He has targeted Randy Moss 16 times in his first two games back with the Vikings. Not only does Moss stretch the field and make it more difficult to load the box against running back Adrian Peterson, he also enables Percy Harvin to work the slot. Green Bay has to find a way to stuff Peterson on first and second down and then come after Favre, who is battling tendinitis in his throwing arm.
The Packers' inability to run the ball consistently and control the clock means they must capitalize on drives and not settle for field goals. Aaron Rodgers is minus a trusted red-zone target in tight end Jermichael Finley, but did get receiver Greg Jennings more involved last week. Minnesota is thin in the secondary, so look for the Packers to spread the field with three- and four-receiver threats and turn this into a track meet.
By the numbers
The Packers rank 13th in offense (19th rushing, 10th passing) and 15th in defense (21st rushing, 17th passing). The Vikings rank 24th in offense (11th rushing, 24th passing) and fifth in defense (11th rushing, sixth passing). Turnovers have been the bugaboo for both teams, with Green Bay at minus-2 and Minnesota at minus-5.
Favre will make his 119th start at Lambeau Field, passing John Elway (118 at Mile High) for the most starts by a quarterback at one stadium. ... Packers WR Donald Driver has at least four catches in each of the past 11 meetings. ... The Vikings have allowed a league-low 83 first downs.
Inside the Vikings
Rookie cornerback Chris Cook is hoping to return Sunday night at Green Bay after missing the past two games following knee surgery.
Cook suffered a tear of the meniscus in his left knee in Week 3 against Detroit. That marked his regular-season debut after he tore the meniscus in his right knee in an exhibition game.
Tom Dahlin/Getty Images
Cedric Griffin was the starting right corner after returning from a torn ACL in his left knee in Week 3, but he tore the same ligament in his right knee Oct. 11 against the Jets and has been placed on injured reserve.
"I want to (play)," said Cook, who is working at both corner spots. "I'm taking reps with the defense, and the plan is to play on Sunday."
Last Sunday against Dallas, the Vikings used Antoine Winfield as their starting left corner and Asher Allen on the right side. Winfield slid inside and Lito Sheppard played the left corner in the nickel.
However, the Cowboys got three touchdowns against Sheppard, and ideally the Vikings would use a rotation that includes Winfield and Cook as the starters and Allen in the nickel.
If Cook does play Sunday, the Vikings will have to monitor his reps because of the time he has missed. That could mean that Winfield and Allen would start and Cook would be used only in nickel situations.
Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers' number and then some. Favre, with two wins against his old team last season, improved to 8-0 against teams for which Capers was head coach or defensive coordinator. Capers' out-of-character reluctance to blitz Favre like crazy, more so in the first meeting than the second, proved disastrous as he shredded the Packers for seven touchdowns with nary an interception or a sack. In fact, Favre was hit only five times, with his quick-hit passes in the midst of Capers' blitzes being the major reason why Capers backed off on the pressure.
Capers can't allow his banged-up defense to sit back again Sunday and must go with a heavy dose of pressure to unnerve Favre, who has been mistake-prone in both handling the football (five fumbles) as well as throwing it (seven interceptions) this season. The likely return of outside linebacker Clay Matthews, the league leader with 8.5 sacks, after a one-game absence is big for the Packers' secondary, which can't be left on an island if Favre has time to pick his poison with his vaunted receiving corps. Of course, Green Bay can't forget about running back Adrian Peterson – and stopping him always is Capers' priority. The Packers held Peterson to less than 100 yards in both games last year, effectively pinching him in to limit his bounce-out opportunities for big gains. Green Bay hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 19 straight games, the longest streak in the league.
Offensively, the Packers can't be expected to make any inroads running the football with the pedestrian likes of Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn against Minnesota's formidable front. So, it will be up to Aaron Rodgers to throw like crazy and get the passing game out of its recent funk against a short-handed Vikings secondary, where cornerback Asher Allen and nickel back Lito Sheppard are ripe to be picked on on the perimeter.
The Packers have to be careful how they kick off to the electric Percy Harvin, who had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to spark Minnesota's win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and burned Green Bay in the game at Lambeau Field last season for runbacks of 77 and 48 yards.
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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.