Tim Yotter: The players will tell you that it is penalties and mistakes in the red zone. In part, they are right – the Vikings are worst in the league at turning trips in the red zone into touchdowns, getting a touchdown only 22 percent of the time they reach the red zone. However, I believe it goes deeper than just red-zone penalties. As Antoine Winfield said earlier this week, the offense isn't aggressive enough, and I think that's because it just doesn't have the receivers to pull it off anymore. In March, it was supposed to be Koren Robinson and Nate Burleson as the 1-2 wide receivers. Now it is Troy Williamson, who is dropping far too many easy passes, and Travis Taylor, who is a decent but unspectacular slot receiver. Combine that with Brad Johnson not being the most mobile guy and an offensive line that appears to be struggling to grasp their new blocking scheme and you have issues at almost every level of the offense.
TK: Is quarterback Brad Johnson in danger of losing his job to Brooks Bollinger? University of Wisconsin fans want to know!
TY: There is no question that head coach Brad Childress' leash is shorter on Johnson after all the turnovers the last two games, but I also think he realizes that Brooks Bollinger might not be the long-term answer, either. It doesn't appear Childress is ready to go with second-round pick Tarvaris Jackson, either. So while I could see Bollinger getting time if Johnson turns it over a couple times in the first half, I'm not convinced it would be a permanent move.
TK: Is Steve Hutchinson worth the money that the Vikings are paying him?
TY: I think so. He hasn't been as dominant this year, but I think that is mostly because of the blocking schemes he and others are trying to learn. The left side of the line should moving people off the ball and creating big holes, but I believe their aggressiveness is limited with the zone blocking schemes the Vikings are employing.
TK: Is Darren Sharper still playing at a Pro Bowl level?
TY: He is still as solid as they come, but he isn't getting the interceptions he did last year. I don't think that's as much a reflection on his play as it is compliment to the entire defense. The Vikings defense has been getting off the field much quicker this year, and teams haven't had as many opportunities to throw the ball. Sharper got burned once against Seattle, but other than him gambling and losing on that one play, he has been as solid as ever.
TK: How have Brad Childress and his staff adjusted to the personnel that they inherited this year?
TY: The defense has been excellent. Coordinator Mike Tomlin has done an outstanding job of mixing his schemes between a traditional Tampa-2 defense and his version of a blitzing defense from that look. They have been more aggressive this year and it's paid off with the No. 1 rush defense and a top-10 defense overall. Offensively, it hasn't been good. Marcus Robinson hasn't been healthy enough to give them anything consistently, but I don't believe they used him enough when he was healthy. I think Childress is looking to make the players he inherited fit his system, but some of them just don't.
TK: How has Childress fared as the chief play-caller?
TY: Not so well. His scripted plays for the first drive have produced a touchdown or field goal seven out of eight games, but after that the offense has been shut down once they get inside an opponent's 30-yard line. Winfield basically called out Childress as being too conservative on Monday, which resulted in a meeting between Winfield and Childress, and then Winfield addressing the team. However, I think his message was on point. Defenses are increasingly less concerned with the Vikings' deep ball, and rightfully so. When there has been an opportunity for that recently, the receivers have dropped good passes.
TK: Do you think the Vikings consider the Packers their biggest rival?
TY: No question about it. I think some of the luster of the rivalry could be down this year because of the new coaching staffs, but Green Bay has always been the top target of Vikings fans. If both teams can continue to be competitive, then it will always be the top rivalry for the Vikings.
TK: What area is the Vikings' weakest link on offense and defense?
TY: I mentioned that the receivers have been inconsistent, but I think the biggest advantage the Packers have is Aaron Kampman against right tackle Marcus Johnson. Johnson is in his second year and still gets beat too often. Kampman being the sack-master he is this year could have a big day if the Vikings don't give Johnson much help. Defensively, they will likely not be starting Fred Smoot, whose brother died in a car accident on Sunday. Smoot has been in Mississippi all week. He requested materials to study up for this game, but rookie Cedric Griffin is likely to get the start at right cornerback. Griffin has a chance to be a very nice cornerback, but having him on the field full-time for the first time makes him a potential target. The other area on defense that could be exploited is getting the tight ends underneath the top coverage. Other than that, almost no team has had much success running against the Vikings.
TK: Is there one player that has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Vikings?
TY: That would probably have to be running back Chester Taylor. His average isn't that impressive, but he has been an absolute workhorse and has held up well physically considering the pounding he has taken. Given that this is his first year as a full-time feature back, he has been a pleasant surprise.
TK: Who will win Sunday, the score, and why?
TY: I hate predictions because so much can change with momentum and injuries in a game, and the fact that Brett Favre is involved makes it impossible to really say with much certainty. Will the good Favre or bad Favre show up? Given his inconsistent nature in the Metrodome, the crowd noise and the Vikings' very underrated defense, I'll say Favre will make a couple of mistakes that help the Vikings put points on the board, just enough to overcome a struggling offense. So I'll say Vikings 20-16 in typical low-scoring fashion that has become the trademark with Minnesota this year.