Packers-Vikings: Key matchups, game plan

Can the Packers run against the Vikes? Will Driver kick it in gear again?

Interior of Packers offensive line vs. Vikings DTs Pat Williams and Kevin Williams
After calling Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy and his offensive line "cowards" for its reliance on cut blocks in the run scheme, Pat Williams had a whale of a game in the heated rivals' first meeting last month. Williams had nine tackles, including eight stops of Ahman Green for gains of no more than 3 yards. The Packers were held to 47 yards on the ground but managed to get out of the Metrodome with a win.

Kevin Williams, who typically has given Green Bay fits, was quiet in the first go-around. The effort from center Scott Wells and rookie guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz will have to better against the Williams' if Green is going to be able to finally break through the line. He hasn't rushed for 100 yards in the last four games against Minnesota. He comes in needing 54 for a 1,000-yard season and is 158 shy of Jim Taylor's franchise record of 8,207 career yards.

Packers WR Donald Driver vs. Vikings secondary
Driver was the difference-maker in Round 1 of the season series, turning a modest pass play into an 82-yard touchdown in the closing minute of the first half and finishing with six catches for a career-high 191 yards. Minnesota's defensive backs, including safety and ex-Packer Darren Sharper, were out of sorts trying to match up with Driver in the Cover 2 scheme. The newly anointed Pro Bowler has three 100-yard games and five touchdowns in the last five meetings with Minnesota.

Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson vs. MLB Nick Barnett
Tarvaris Jackson isn't afraid to run the football, meaning the Packers' linebackers will have to do their part to contain the rookie. Much of this assignment will fall to veteran middle linebacker Nick Barnett, who will have to keep an eye on Jackson at all times. Jackson, of course, could use this to his advantage.

Vikings ORT tackle Ryan Cook vs. LDE Aaron Kampman
Cook, a rookie, played all but one series on Sunday against the Jets. He wasn't pleased with his performance but didn't get embarrassed. However, he will have to be much better against Packers left end Aaron Kampman. Kampman has an NFC-leading 12.5 sacks this season and was named to the Pro Bowl this week. The Vikings would be wise to get Cook plenty of help or they might want to think long and hard about getting veteran Mike Rosenthal back into the rotation.

GAME PLAN
Both teams are in the same proverbial boat with little preparation time on a short week and facing a must-win situation as they cling to remote playoff prospects with an identical 6-8 record.

The Packers defense comes in with little knowledge of rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. He is the antithesis of the weak-armed, immobile Brad Johnson, whom Green Bay sacked four times in its win at Minnesota last month. So, Bob Sanders probably won't be as aggressive with his pressure packages as he was Sunday, when the Packers' relentless line piled up a season-high six sacks against Detroit.

The Green Bay offense, meanwhile, has a tough nut to try to crack with the Vikings' impenetrable run defense, which is yielding all of 55.1 yards per game.

Mike McCarthy clearly thought he would have to win the first meeting through the air, as evidenced by pass calls on nine of the first 12 plays. The Packers did prevail with that mindset, thanks in part to a mistake-free performance by Brett Favre. Five weeks later, though, Favre is up to his 2005 tricks of throwing careless picks. For that, the running game has to be an emphasis in the rematch. Having speedy Vernand Morency available -- Ahman Green's understudy was out with a back injury in the first meeting -- is a plus.


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