Peterson poses big problems for the Packers and their dinged-up defensive line. The Vikings' star running back will be counted on to carry the load on Monday night, especially with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson coming off a preseason knee (MCL) injury.
Last year, the Packers didn't exactly shut down Peterson. He gained 112 yards on just 12 carries (9.3 yards per carry) in Green Bay's 23-16 win over the Vikings on Sept. 30. For whatever reason, Vikings head coach Brad Childress, who has yet to beat the Packers in the last two years, inexplicably shied away from giving the ball to Peterson. When the two teams met again in November, an ineffective backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger allowed the Packers to focus on Peterson, who had 45 yards on 11 carries before leaving the game with a knee injury in the third quarter. Green Bay won the game 34-0 in perhaps its best outing of the season.
As sure as the Packers' offense will be trying to control the ball more, the Packers defense again will be focusing on Peterson in order to stall Minnesota's offense and win the game. It will help that Vikings' starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie will only be able to watch the game as he begins the first of a four-game suspension by the NFL for acting like an idiot outside a Miami nightclub last February. With McKinnie out, Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins should be able to take advantage of left tackle Artis Hicks. And when Jenkins is playing inside on passing downs, Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Kampman probably will be lining up against Hicks to get to Jackson.
Hicks has started 49 games in his seven seasons but only four of those have come at left tackle. The Vikings used him as their starting right guard in 2006 but he lost the job early last season to Anthony Herrera.
The Packers' wounded on the defensive line should be ready to play on Monday. Pickett, Jolly and Gbaja-Biamila are all veterans and know what's at stake. Green Bay's linebacking corp also should be able to step up and either stop or chase down Peterson as well. The linebackers are improved over last year and will be counted on to play a bigger role in shutting down opposing rushing attacks.
Here are some other matchups to watch on Monday night:
Packers offensive line vs. Vikings defensive line: Aaron Rodgers could be in for a rude awakening as he makes his long-awaited starting debut at quarterback. The Vikings already were formidable with behemoths Kevin Williams and Pat Williams on the inside. They became more scary with the acquisition of Pro Bowl end Jared Allen in an offseason trade with Kansas City. Thanks to injuries to center Scott Wells and rookie right guard Josh Sitton, both of whom aren't expected to play Monday, the Packers never solidified the starting five on the line in the preseason. Pass protection was an issue for Green Bay in the first two exhibition games, until Rodgers finally got wise and unloaded the ball quickly. Of greater concern is how the reshuffled interior trio of left guard Daryn Colledge, center Jason Spitz and right guard Tony Moll will contend with the Williams' as the Packers try to get their mysterious running game on track.
Vikings RDE Jared Allen vs. Packers LT Chad Clifton: If the Vikings have concerns about their situation at left tackle, at least they know the Packers also will have their hands full at that position. That's because Allen, a Pro Bowler, will be playing his first regular-season game as a member of the Vikings. Clifton is a very solid player, but Allen who led the NFL with 15.5 sacks last season and will want to make a quick impact.
Todd Korth writes for PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.