Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

Our insiders wrap up this three-part series with four matchups to watch, the keys to victory for both teams and a final prediction.


LT Chad Clifton or Daryn Colledge vs. RDE Jared Allen. Clifton hasn't been ruled out from returning to the lineup only two weeks after suffering a bad ankle sprain. He'll be a game-time decision, though coach Mike McCarthy suggested on Saturday that Colledge likely will get the call. Whoever is protecting Aaron Rodgers' back side faces a daunting challenge. Allen exacted payback on Clifton for shutting out the All-Pro speed rusher in the 2008 season opener by dominating Clifton when the teams met on the fast track at the Metrodome in a midseason clash. Allen sacked Rodgers for a safety in the Vikings' one-point win. Rodgers was knocked down at least 12 times, including four sacks, by Minnesota in his worst performance since replacing the departed Brett Favre last season. Colledge has struggled in pass protection after taking over for Clifton the last 1 1/2 games, so he doesn't engender much hope against Allen if Clifton can't make a speedy recovery.

RT Allen Barbre vs. LDE Ray Edwards: Barbre has had a rough start to the season, giving up three sacks and a few other pressures to the Bears' Adewale Ogunleye and two more sacks to the Rams' Leonard Little in the first quarter last week before playing relatively well for the rest of the game. Edwards, who is second on the team with 1.5 sacks, did not have a sack last week against San Francisco but did finish with four quarterback hurries. Edwards doesn't have the veteran guile of Ogunleye or Little but he's fast enough to take advantage of the double-teams that Jared Allen and Kevin Williams typically get on passing downs.


CBs Charles Woodson, Al Harris and Tramon Williams vs. QB Brett Favre. For Green Bay's nickel trio of cover guys, going against a Favre-led offense will be nothing new. They were well-versed in trying to draw a bead on passes thrown by their one-time teammate in practice until the Packers traded an unretired Favre before the 2008 season to the New York Jets. Favre ultimately found his way to division rival Minnesota after retiring and unretiring again this year. Since the Vikings have the personnel to spread things out with multiple receivers to keep a defense honest as it homes in on stopping running back Adrian Peterson, the Packers could wind up in nickel often in this game. With only one interception, Favre is belying the reputation he cultivated during his 16-year tenure in Green Bay as a mistake-prone gunslinger. That could quickly change against a pick-happy Green Bay defense, which has a co-league-high seven interceptions, led by three from the wily Woodson.

Adrian Peterson vs. Desmond Bishop
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
ILBs Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk vs. RB Adrian Peterson: Barnett and Hawk haven't made much of an impact in the first three games, and this would be a good time for these former first-round picks to get on track. Peterson is a huge threat anyplace on the field, but he does most of his damage on off-tackle runs. That makes it critical that nose tackle Ryan Pickett commands a double-team block and Barnett and Hawk beat the blocks of Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson, right guard Anthony Herrera and 254-pound fullback Naufahu Tahi. Barnett has 1.5 tackles for loss and Hawk has one.


The defense can keep the indomitable Adrian Peterson in check and force Brett Favre to win the game. Favre's big-game history does not match his legend. Including a loss in Super Bowl XXXII, Favre is 3-7 in his last 10 playoff games, and he famously threw four interceptions in his first matchup against Mike Holmgren and played poorly in a 2007 loss at Dallas with home-field advantage on the line.


It can't play solid run defense on every snap. For the most part, the Packers kept the Rams' Steven Jackson under wraps, but a critical mistake here and there allowed Jackson to easily pass 100 yards. The Vikings' offensive line is superior to the Rams' line, so on paper, this is a huge advantage for the Vikings.


Its on-paper advantages in the trenches transpire in the game. The Packers' offensive line has struggled through three games, and few teams — if any — can match the Vikings' superior defensive front seven. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings have an offensive line built to bludgeon opponents on the ground.


The Vikings' special teams doesn't get its act together. Will Blackmon returned a punt for a touchdown in both games last season. Thus far, the Vikings have allowed a touchdown on a punt and a blocked field goal but also have a touchdown on a kickoff return by Percy Harvin.


Vikings 27, Packers 20: Favre Bowl I goes to the Vikings. McCarthy is a blocked field goal away from being 6-0 against Minnesota, but too many factors appear to be working against the Packers in this game. The Packers need Clifton to play — and play well — and goad Favre into an interception or two.

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