Game Day Countdown: Packers vs. Vikings

Today's the day - after a long and sometimes painful preseason, the Packers and Vikings are ready to kick it off for real with a noon start at Lambeau Field.<p> The high-powered offensive weapons of both teams are certainly no secret. On the other side of the ball, the defenses aren't quite as potent. Which team has a better shot at stopping the opponent's fire power?<P>

Cornerbacks: The Vikings are counting on LCB Denard Walker to stop Donald Driver, even with Walker coming off a preseason hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Mike McKenzie and Al Harris have the unenviable task of handling Randy Moss, and they'll need some help from their friends.

ADVANTAGE: Packers – a slight edge based on Harris who appears to be an upgrade over Tyrone Williams.

Safeties: The Packers' fate here depends on Darren Sharper's recovery from a groin pull. Against the Vikings' air attack, Sharper, Marques Anderson and Antuan Edwards are going to be "on call" and they'd better be ready to answer. The Vikings are gambling on the extremely green Brian Russell at free safety. Russell is making his first start at the position and only the third start of his pro career. Will Favre feast? SS Corey Chavous is more solid, with three picks last season including one brought back for a touchdown.

ADVANTAGE: Packers – again, just a slim edge due to Russell's inexperience.

Defensive line: The Vikings pit top pick Kevin Williams against Green Bay RT Mark Tauscher, and other the other side Lance Johnstone will face Chad Clifton. Ahman Green could have a field day as the Vikings are unproven run-stoppers, but again much depends on how well Clifton and Tauscher come back from their injuries in their first real test. At tackle, the mouthy Chris Hovan will match up against Marco Rivera, playing with a torn MCL.

For Green Bay, the defensive end situation is intriguing. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is the Packers sack leader and is developing into a top-notch d-lineman. He seems intent on proving the rap about his run defense wrong, and did so in the preseason. Joe Johnson, once thought of as a big free agent catch, has been a disappointment so far and not just due to injury. He's got to come through for the Packers or their defense will suffer immeasurably. At defensive tackle, Cletidus Hunt is a proven commodity but Gilbert Brown has yet to really test that injured arm. Brown has served as an inspiration playing with a torn biceps muscle, but will emotion carry him far enough?

ADVANTAGE: Tie. Both teams feature a mix of solid players and unproven commodities, whether through inexperience or injury. Both teams lack a truly terrorizing defensive lineman the likes of Reggie White.

Linebackers: Here is a cast of characters that could fall anywhere on the spectrum. Green Bay's starters are SLB Hannibal Navies from Carolina, the proven but injured Na'il Diggs at weak-side linebacker, and top draft pick Nick Barnett in the middle. Backups Marcus Wilkins and Paris Lenon had strong preseason performances. The Vikings feature dependable SLB Henri Crockett, veteran MLB Greg Biekert (who had three interceptions against the Packers last season) and WLB Chris Claiborne, a key free agent catch from Detroit where he recorded a career-high 17 tackles vs the Packers last season.

ADVANTAGE: Vikings. Their starting trio boast experience, production and a clean injury slate.

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