LT Chad Clifton vs. DE Jared Allen: Allen had 7.5 sacks against fill-in left tackles Daryn Colledge and T.J. Lang in last season's games against the Packers but Clifton is playing some of the best ball of his long career. In the matchup last month, Clifton almost pitched a shutout against Allen, who finished with no sacks, one quarterback hit and merely one tackle. Since joining Minnesota in 2008, Allen has one sack against Clifton in three games. This, however, appears to be a different Allen than the the one who had just one sack in the first seven games this season. Allen had 2.5 sacks two weeks ago against Arizona and 2.0 sacks against Chicago last week. Throw in the crowd noise, and Clifton will face his biggest challenge of the year.
QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Vikings CBs Asher Allen/Chris Cook: Allen and Cook are listed as probable, with Allen coming back from a concussion and the rookie Cook finally getting past the knee problems that have dogged him since training camp. The Packers, starting with coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, treat left cornerback (and slot corner in three-receiver sets) Antoine Winfield like royalty because of his coverage skills, smarts and run-stopping ability. That means the Packers will go after Allen and Cook, with Cook likely to start and Allen playing in nickel. The Packers continually went after Cook in the first matchup but he's been playing better the last few weeks. Watch for the Packers to try to isolate Greg Jennings on Allen and Cook as much as possible. Jennings caught six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown in the first matchup and has 25 catches in his last four games.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS ON DEFENSE
Charles Woodson tackles Percy Harvin.
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
LB Clay Matthews vs. RT Phil Loadholt: Everyone knows that Matthews is the motor that makes the Packers' top-ranked scoring defense run. With a league-leading 10.5 sacks, he's the front-runner to win defensive player of the year. He couldn't beat Loadholt for a sack in Round 1 of the rivalry but he did draw the big 15-yard penalty that pushed the Vikings out of scoring range. Beyond rushing the passer, though, Peterson runs outside and to the right more than any other direction, according to STATS, and Loadholt is a big, powerful blocker. Matthews is more than a one-trick pony, and he'll need to play a great all-around game to help keep Peterson in check while making Brett Favre uncomfortable in the pocket.
THE PACKERS WILL WIN IF ...
Vikings fans have turned on Brad Childress.
Tom Dahlin/Getty Images
THE PACKERS WILL LOSE IF ...
... they can't stop the run better than they did in last month's game. In retrospect, it's almost unbelievable that the Packers won that game considering Adrian Peterson rumbled for 131 of the Vikings' 196 rushing yards. Green Bay's game plan always begins with stopping the run. Favre might lead the league in interceptions, but he was brilliant in rallying the Vikings against visiting Arizona two weeks ago and was right on the money for the most part in the loss at Chicago. In other words, the ol' gunslinger can still sling it. If Favre has a running game to lean on, it's going to be a long day for the Packers' defense. As always, Dom Capers' game plan will be to stop Peterson and force Favre into sure-passing situations.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF ...
… they can protect Brett Favre. When Favre has time, he has shown he still has the arm and accuracy to deliver a strike, despite dealing with numerous injuries. After a career year in 2009, Favre's rating has been one of the worst of his career in 2010 – it's currently at 72.2 – but he hasn't been helped by his uneven receiving corps. Last Sunday, you could make a case that none of his three interceptions were really his fault. Once was tipped at the line of scrimmage and the other two came when receivers slipped. But the key is keeping Favre clean. According to NFL stats, the Vikings are one of only eight teams to have taken 50 or more QB hits. He hasn't been sacked a lot (only 17 times), but he's felt the pressure.
THE VIKINGS WILL LOSE IF ...
… they lose the turnover battle. Favre has been the main culprit here, throwing a league-high 16 interceptions (at least three more than any other QB) and adding another five fumbles lost. That means 21 of the Vikings' 23 turnovers are on Favre. Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin are the Packers. Aaron Rodgers has only nine interceptions and the Packers have lost only four fumbles total. Their defense has also been better than the Vikings at creating turnovers, getting 14 interceptions (compared to Minnesota's eight) and five fumble recoveries (Minnesota has four). Add it all up and the Vikings are minus-11 in turnovers and the Packers are plus-6. Of all the statistics that explain why one team is 3-6 and the other is 6-3, that's easily the most glaring.
I'm waffling on this one. In my banter with Yotter for Fox Sports Wisconsin, I picked the Packers to win. I'm calling an audible. The Vikings are 3-1 at home, and while Green Bay has won three in a row, is the offense legit based on a blowout over the Cowboys? Vikings 27, Packers 24.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and Tim Yotter is publisher of Viking Update.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.