Minnesota Vikings (2-6) at Green Bay Packers (8-0)
KICKOFF: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, Rachel Nichols.
SERIES HISTORY: 101st regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 52-47-1. Green Bay's three-game winning streak in the series, which includes a 33-27 victory at Minnesota on Oct. 23, is the Packers' longest since they won five in a row spanning the 2006 to 2008 seasons. Green Bay is seeking a series sweep against its division rival for the second straight year and the fourth time in Mike McCarthy's six years as Packers coach. The Packers have won four of the last five meetings in Green Bay. The teams' only postseason encounter came at Lambeau Field, where the Vikings upset the NFC North-champion Packers 31-17 in a wild-card game during the 2004 season.
TEAM STATISTICS: Packers on offense — First in scoring with 34.4 ppg (Fourth in yards, 20th rushing, third passing). Vikings on defense — 25th in scoring with 24.9 ppg (20th in yards, fifth rushing, 30th passing). Packers defense — 17th in points with 22.4 ppg (30th in yards, eighth rushing, 31st passing). Vikings offense — 20th in scoring with 21.5 ppg (18th in yards, fourth rushing, 29th passing).
KEYS TO THE GAME: As solidly as QB Christian Ponder played in his first career start against Green Bay three weeks ago, he was 0-for-5 passing with two interceptions as the Packers outscored the Vikings 20-0 in the third quarter. Minnesota can't afford that type of inconsistency, and it can't fall behind by multiple scores and marginalize RB Adrian Peterson's role. Peterson has become more involved in the passing game and the Packers are giving up yards in large chunks, but they're also opportunistic. Green Bay will try to turn this into a shootout on the arm of red-hot QB Aaron Rodgers. Minnesota's undermanned secondary needs a massive effort out of DE Jared Allen (12.5 sacks).
FAST FACTS: Peterson had 175 rushing yards on 24 carries (7.3-yard average) in the first meeting. ... The Packers have scored 24-plus points in a franchise-record-tying eight consecutive games. ... Vikings coach Leslie Frazier doesn't anticipate Ponder will be fazed making his third pro start under the bright lights on Monday night for the first time and at iconic Lambeau Field, to boot. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers may have something to say, er, do about that. Capers' beleaguered defense has come under great scrutiny of late, and a mostly impressive starting debut by Ponder in the NFC North rivals' first meeting Oct. 23 contributed to the handwringing.
BY THE NUMBERS: 29 — Number of days that will have elapsed from the Packers' last home game Oct. 16 until they play again at Lambeau Field on Monday night. It's the longest span between home games for Green Bay since a similar break in 2003. ... 22 — Number of days between these teams' meetings this year. That doesn't beat the Vikings' first season, however. In 1961, the Vikings played the Packers on back-to-back weeks, losing by a combined score of 61-17.
GAME PLAN: Ponder's game-opening deep pass of 72 yards to Michael Jenkins at the expense of CB Tramon Williams opened plenty of eyes. The Packers, who rank second from the bottom in the league for pass defense, don't want a repeat. So, look for Capers to turn things up with the pressure much earlier than he did in the last meeting and keep Ponder from getting comfortable in the pocket. Devoting more guys up near the line would serve a second and more important purpose of trying to bottle up Peterson. Minnesota's ball-carrying wunderkind gashed Green Bay's slumping defense for 175 yards and a gaudy per-rush average of 7.3 yards three weeks ago.
As for the Packers' potent offense, it received an unusual lift from its running game, specifically James Starks (13 carries, 75 yards), in closing out that 33-27 win after the Vikings made a late comeback. Still, it was Rodgers, as usual, who carried the day with his passing exploits going 24-of-30 for 335 yards and three touchdowns for a near-perfect passer rating of 146.5. Minnesota was handcuffed in the secondary for that one because of injuries and the arrest of CB Chris Cook a day before the game. Cook remains out, but the Vikings will have veteran CB Antoine Winfield available after he's been sidelined the last four games because of a serious neck injury. Winfield has played well against the Packers in the past, but even his presence won't deter McCarthy from dealing with the hot right hand of Rodgers, who has won three in a row against Minnesota.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave publisher Bill Huber a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.