Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

We examine the five matchups that will go a long way toward deciding who wins Monday night's showdown between the Packers and Vikings. Leading off: Can Marshall Newhouse keep Jared Allen away from Aaron Rodgers? And can the Vikings' secondary keep up with Greg Jennings?

Packers LT Marshall Newhouse vs. Vikings DE Jared Allen

Allen, the NFL's sacks leader with 12.5 at the halfway point of the season will get his second run at Newhouse in a span of three weeks. Newhouse, a second-year player, will be making his fourth straight start in place of injured veteran Chad Clifton. Although Allen worked off Newhouse for two sacks at the noisy Metrodome on Oct. 23, the young player did a good job against the relentless All-Pro with intermittent help from an extra blocker.

Newhouse should be a lot more at ease in his rematch with Allen, especially with the home crowd allowing him to hear the snap count.

"He'll be more technically sound," offensive line coach James Campen said. "Playing against an elite player like that and a player that's not only technically sound himself, which Jared Allen is, and you couple that with the fact that he has a motor and he's relentless, that's why he's a good player."

Packers WR Greg Jennings vs. Vikings defensive backs

Green Bay's most productive among many playmakers for quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a monster game in the teams' first encounter this season. Jennings hauled in seven passes for a season-high 147 yards, highlighted by a 79-yard catch-and-run touchdown on which he was left open a good 15 yards past midfield on busted coverage by Minnesota's short-handed secondary. Jennings' best receiving numbers have come against the Vikings 49 catches for 759 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games.

Of particular concern for the Vikings will be when Jennings is matched up on starter Cedric Griffin or third corner Asher Allen. Griffin was beaten on all three targeted passes in the first matchup and has given up a season-long passer rating of 102.6. Allen has been even worse. Quarterbacks have completed 72.7 percent of the passes thrown at him, including 9-of-10 by Rodgers three weeks ago.

Packers NT B.J. Raji vs. Vikings C John Sullivan

The Vikings didn't have their standout center for the first matchup. Sullivan is one of the best run-blocking centers in the game, and he'll see plenty of Raji, who hasn't made near the impact he did last season. Plus, like Packers counterpart Scott Wells, Sullivan is a major part of the pre-snap adjustments that must be made at the line of scrimmage to combat the Packers' aggressive defensive scheme.

"I think when you have your veteran center who's now playing, whether you're an young or an older quarterback, it definitely helps you," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It takes less of a burden off of you, particularly at the line of scrimmage and adjustments, just because veteran centers see more. I think that's the facts, the matter of experience is priceless in this league, especially at the quarterback and center position because of the responsibility that those two positions with the offense as far as runs, protections. I think it'll definitely help Christian Ponder to have Sullivan back."

Packers S Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson

It's a group effort to get the indomitable Peterson to the ground, and in a perfect world, the defensive line and linebackers will do all the dirty work. But with Peterson, that's just not going to happen, and at some point, the safeties are going to have to be there to prevent an 8-yard gain from being a 50-yarder. The Packers failed at that too often a few weeks ago, with Peterson rumbling for 175 yards on 24 attempts. Of that total, 108 yards came on three carries.

"Three of his runs, that's where he got the majority of his yardage," outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. "We need to continue to play the way which we know how in the run game and just hold him from the big plays. If we can eliminate those big, big plays, we'd have a successful day against him."

As a wild card, Peterson caught five passes against Carolina last week. That's a new wrinkle to help get Peterson in space. The Vikings surely will want to do that to see if Peterson can use his explosive athletic ability to get past Peprah or to challenge Burnett, who continues to play with a club-cast over a broken hand.

"When you've got guys like (Percy) Harvin and Peterson, you're always searching for ways to get the ball to them," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "You saw them bring Harvin in and used him some as a running back. He's as good a reverse runner as there is in the league because he's got running back skills playing wide receiver. He's really strong and hard to tackle. They tried to get the ball to Peterson a couple times against us on screens and we had a pressure on where the screen never really had a chance to develop. They're a good screen team, and I think Harvin and Peterson, you've got to be ready for those guys in their screen game."

Packers OLBs Clay Matthews and Erik Walden vs. Vikings LT Charlie Johnson and RT Phil Loadholt

Clearly, the best way to make a rookie quarterback feel queasy in the pocket is to put him on his back side a few times. If they can do that, it would play into the hands of a secondary that leads the league with 16 interceptions.

The Packers have had a devil of time sacking the quarterback, but Matthews has been getting there all season and Walden has had three strong performances in his last four games.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Loadholt have allowed five sacks apiece. Of the 58 offensive tackles who have played at least 50 percent of their team's offensive snaps, as broken down by, they're tied with the10th-most quarterback pressures allowed with 18 apiece.

"They do a great job of disguising things and playing different coverages that you wouldn't expect, and with Charles Woodson, he's playing over the slot and it looks like man-to-man coverage, then he's dropping back to be a half-safety," rookie quarterback Christian Ponder said. "They just do a lot of different disguises and different pressures and they make great plays. That play with Charles, it was man-to-man coverage and he undercut a throw. They are kind of a bend-but-don't-break defense, and they create a lot of turnovers and big plays."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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