MATCHUPS TO WATCH: PACKERS OFFENSE VS. VIKINGS DEFENSE
Green Bay Interior OL vs. Minnesota DTs: As always when the Packers face the Vikings, the Packers have to control the dynamic defensive tackle duo of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Because of that sturdy tandem, the Vikings' run defense perennially is among the NFL's best. Packers center Scott Wells and guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz have had some of their best games against them, though.
Minnesota ranks second in the league in run defense with 69.6 yards allowed per game, but the Packers rushed 27 times for 139 yards in the opener. Get close to replicating that, and the Packers can open up the offensive playbook while silencing the raucous Metrodome crowd.
WR Greg Jennings vs. CB Cedric Griffin: Most teams have opted to throw away from Antoine Winfield and Darren Sharper and found decent success getting quick-hitting passes against Griffin. That changed last week, when Griffin was physical with Houston's Andre Johnson and limited him to four catches – Johnson had come into the game with three consecutive games of 10-plus catches and 130 yards. Johnson said afterward that the Vikings were physical with him, which is a bit surprising considering that they usually don't press receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Jennings has caught touchdown passes in 12 of his last 13 games. Last year, Jennings had six touchdowns of 40-plus yards, and in the first meeting this year against the Vikings he made a leaping 56-yard catch over nickelback Charles Gordon for a touchdown to lead the team with 91 yards on five catches. Last week, the Vikings gave up big yardage in the passing game but came away with key interceptions in the red zone to limit Houston's scoring. This week, they'll need to get to Aaron Rodgers early if they want a different result than what they received in the season opener.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: VIKINGS OFFENSE VS. PACKERS DEFENSE
WR Bernard Berrian vs. CBs Charles Woodson and Al Harris: Since Gus Frerotte has taken over at quarterback, Berrian has turned into one of the NFL's most lethal downfield threats. He's averaging better than 21 yards per reception in his last six games. Harris blanketed Berrian in the opener, but the Packers might be inclined to match Woodson on him as often as possible in the rematch. When Harris was out with a lacerated spleen, Woodson shut down Pro Bowlers Terrell Owens and Reggie Wayne.
WR Bernard Berrian
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Regardless of who gets called upon, if the Packers can take away Berrian, they'll take their chances with the rest of the Vikings' mediocre receivers.
RB Adrian Peterson vs. Green Bay Run Defense: Without much confidence in Tarvaris Jackson to open the season, the Vikings relied heavily on their running game in the season opener at Lambeau Field. While that resulted in 187 yards on the ground, 65 of those were Jackson scrambling for first downs. This time, the improved passing game with Frerotte should help the offense, but there is no doubt the Packers will concentrate heavily on Peterson. They have the 27th-ranked rushing defense in the league, and they can't afford to let Peterson run roughshod over them in the Metrodome.
The Vikings would like nothing more than to keep pounding the ball at the Packers' front seven. The Vikings know it. The Packers know it. Now it will be up to the Packers defense to do something about it.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
... they simply limit turnovers and stupid mistakes. With the advantage of the Metrodome to create noise, it will be interesting to see how the Green Bay fans attend with an uninspiring start for both teams. But if the Vikings can generate some excitement early in the game like they did against the Houston Texans with a game-opening 55-yard pass to Berrian, they will be able to get the crowd on their side. If they let the Packers hang around by throwing interceptions to an aggressive Green Bay defense or making more blunders on special teams, it probably won't take long for the "Fire Childress" chants to build under the Teflon top. Whether that's started by Green Bay fans to irritate the Minnesota faithful or started by Vikings fans doesn't matter, because the fans have come to expect a more consistent product and are turning fickle in a season that so far has been mediocre.
QB Aaron Rodgers
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
THE VIKINGS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
... they can't get enough pressure on Aaron Rodgers. With Jared Allen sidelined during practices this week with a sprained shoulder, the Packers' blocking schemes could get much easier without having to account for both Allen and Kevin Williams, who are tied for the team lead with seven sacks apiece. The downfall for the Vikings of recent vintage has been a quarterback who can execute a quick-release passing attack. Although Ryan Grant has been one of the more successful running backs against the Vikings, it's rarely ever about Minnesota's run defense and almost always about their pass defense. If the Packers are patient enough with the underneath passes, they will have a chance to run their record to 6-0 against the Vikings during the Mike McCarthy-Brad Childress eras.
THE PACKERS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
... they win the battle of big plays. Peterson and Berrian are big plays waiting to happen, and the Packers' run defense has been gashed for a long run in five of eight games. On the other side of the ball, this will be Rodgers' first trip to the Metrodome, and it took Brett Favre most of his career to solve the place. Rodgers' ability to make the right calls in such a noisy environment is key. He must be patient and let Jennings and Donald Driver do their thing against Minnesota's secondary.
THE PACKERS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
... Peterson has the type of game he's capable of producing. The Packers' problems against the run have been well-documented. They rank 27th in the league with 146.4 rushing yards allowed per game and 30th with 4.9 yards allowed per carry. If the Packers can't control Peterson, they have almost no chance.
Tim Yotter: The Packers have been on the winning end for the past two-plus seasons, but I believe that this year the Vikings possess more talent. McCarthy has the better record and the quarterback more familiar with his system, but the turning point could be Rodgers' baptism into the Metrodome atmosphere. It's a different place to play, and it can rattle young quarterbacks if the Minnesota crowd has a reason to get into full throat. Expect the Vikings to run the ball often, and look for the occasional deep pass – a formula that Childress would love to follow and one that worked against a slightly better run defense than Green Bay last week. And, let's face it, the Vikings are due to beat the Packers and have the best quarterbacking situation they've had against them since Childress took over. ... VIKINGS 27, PACKERS 23.
Bill Huber: This league is still about quarterbacks and coaching, and Rodgers is better than Frerotte and McCarthy is better than Childress. Plus, the wild card is special teams. The Packers' are among the NFL's best, and the Vikings' have been putrid. That could be the difference in a series in which 11 of the last 12 games have been decided by a touchdown or less. ... PACKERS 27, VIKINGS 20.
To go back and read Part I, where Tim answers five questions from Bill, Click Here. For Part II, where Bill answers five questions from Tim, Click Here.
Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report. Doug Farrar is a Staff Writer for FootballOutsiders.com.