First Look at ... Packers-Vikings

It's early, but it's never too soon to contemplate the keys to the game and the key matchup for Monday night's NFC North game between the Packers and Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Kickoff: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis. - TV: ESPN

TV announcers: Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden

Keys to the game: Vikings rookie QB Christian Ponder faces a tall order in his first start at Lambeau Field. While he performed admirably in his first career start against Green Bay three weeks ago, that was at home. He is completing just 51.9 percent of his passes, but coach Leslie Frazier has lauded Ponder's ability to check the ball down, take what the defense gives him and get RB Adrian Peterson more involved in the passing game. The Packers give up yards in big chunks, but focus on clamping down in the red zone. They lost containment on Chargers WR Vincent Jackson in the deep secondary routinely last week, but the Vikings lack that type of big, speedy vertical threat. The bigger issue for Minnesota is coping with blazing-hot Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. He has 24 touchdowns against just three interceptions on the season and the Vikings' secondary has been carved up much of the season. Minnesota's ace in the hole is DE Jared Allen working against backup LT Marshall Newhouse and whether Allen can generate a handful of impact plays.

Matchup to watch - Vikings CB Antoine Winfield vs. Packers receivers: Winfield expects to return after missing four games with a neck injury, and it can't come at a better time for the Vikings' secondary thinned by the absence of Chris Cook. Winfield is one of the league's top cornerbacks against the run, but might lack the field speed to hang with the Packers' quick group of receivers in man coverage.

Player spotlight - Vikings WR Devin Aromashodu: He leads the team with 21.9 yards per reception, but it's on just seven catches. With Bernard Berrian released, the Vikings spent time over the bye week looking for ways to get Aromashodu more involved in the passing game.

Fast facts: The Packers have scored at least 24 points in each game, an eight-game streak that matches the longest single-season streak in franchise annals (Sept. 22-Nov. 10, 1963). ... Green Bay is the third Super Bowl champion to begin the next season 8-0.

Who will win and why: Vikings LB Chad Greenway described the first loss to Green Bay as the most "positive loss in our whole lives." Yes, the Vikings are playing more inspired football with rookie QB Christian Ponder, but on the road the second loss to the Packers will feel less rewarding. TSX pick: Packers 30-19.


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