Three Headaches That Do Not Involve No. 4

Brett Favre will get the headlines, but we go inside the numbers to outline the three areas that could be fatal flaws for the Packers during Monday night's showdown against Minnesota.

The Brett Favre Hype Machine will be cranked into overdrive on Thursday, when he's scheduled to meet with reporters in Minneapolis and take part in a midday conference call with Packers beat reporters.

But as the Vikings showed last year — and have shown this year — they don't need Favre to win games. In the Vikings' first two games, wins over Cleveland and Detroit, Favre averaged 7.16 yards per completion. The target for a quarterback is to average 7.50 yards per attempt. Aaron Rodgers has that target beat with 7.93 yards per attempt this season.

And while Favre got the headlines for his stunning last-second touchdown pass to beat the 49ers last week, he was merely 17-of-36 before that final drive.

So, while Favre very well may steal the spotlight by throwing for four touchdowns or reprising his first game against Mike Holmgren by chucking four interceptions, the Packers have much bigger things to concern themselves with as they prepare for Monday night. Three of the Packers' biggest weaknesses will be running headlong into three of the Vikings' biggest strengths.

Packers run offense

If you hadn't watched the Packers all season, you might think their running game isn't that big of an issue. As a pass-first team, Green Bay ranks a respectable 15th in the NFL in rushing with 105.7 yards per game and 16th with a 4.1-yard average.

But 16 carries for 101 yards (6.3 average) have come on the legs of Rodgers and Donald Driver. Ryan Grant is averaging only 3.7 yards on his 56 rushes. By contrast, Adrian Peterson has only three more carries than Grant but has 151 more yards. Or, for another perspective, Grant ranks ninth in the NFL in carries but 14th in yards.

"I thought the training camp that we had this year as far as running the football has been our best training camp getting ready for the season," coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. "Now, that has not carried over to Sundays the first three weeks of the season, so that's why we work every day."

On the other side of the equation, the Vikings have boasted the league's top-ranked defense the past four seasons. This year, they rank 12th but are allowing only 3.4 yards per carry and have piled up a league-leading 14 tackles for losses on running plays. The longest rush allowed by Minnesota has gone for merely 15 yards.

On Sunday against a Rams front four that isn't very good, the Packers gave it to Grant on first down 17 times. He averaged 2.0 yards on those carries, meaning the offense faced a steady diet of second-and-long. On Monday, they'll face arguably the best front four in the NFL. That's bad news considering what's under the next subhead.

Packers pass blocking

Jared Allen
Tom Olmscheid/AP Images
Even after allowing "only" two sacks last week against the Rams, the Packers have given up a league-high 12 sacks. Both came against right tackle Allen Barbre in the first quarter, though the second can be chalked up to good coverage and Rodgers hanging onto the ball too long.

Rodgers has dropped back to pass 102 times, meaning he's been sacked on 11.8 percent of his dropbacks. Only Cleveland's Brady Quinn (11.9 percent) has been sacked at a higher frequency.

The Vikings, who ranked fourth in the NFL in sacks last year, are tied for sixth with eight sacks. They'll have Ray Edwards (1.5 sacks) going Barbre and All-Pro Jared Allen (2.0 sacks) going up either gimpy left tackle Chad Clifton or fill-in left tackle Daryn Colledge. Mix in a raucous Metrodome and the problems tackles have hearing the quarterback, and this is another huge advantage for Minnesota.

Packers run defense

What can you say about the Vikings' Adrian Peterson? He leads the NFL in rushing with 357 yards. His average of 6.1 yards per attempt ranks second in the league among backs with more than 13 carries per game. His 10 carries of 10 yards or longer ranks second. Peterson moves the chains (tied for NFL lead with 15 first downs) and produces once they're moved (leads the NFL by a mile in first-down rushing). Oh, and as the game goes on, the stronger Peterson gets, as evidenced by his 7.7-yard average after intermission.

The Packers, of course, couldn't stop the Bengals' Cedric Benson and had mixed success last week against the Rams' Steven Jackson. They played with five linebackers for most of that game, a tactic that's not going to work with Favre. For the most part over the last six quarters, the Packers' run defense has been pretty good, but it's the occasional breakdown that's getting them in trouble. A breakdown against Peterson can turn into six points in the blink of an eye.

"If you don't play great leverage and you constrict the running lanes, they're going to come out of there with big runs," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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