In-game chat live from the Metrodome
Who: Green Bay Packers (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (3-0)
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN (Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden)
Series: 96th regular-season meeting. Packers lead 49-45-1. Green Bay is 5-1 against NFC North rival Minnesota since Mike McCarthy was hired as Packers coach and Brad Childress as Vikings coach in 2006. The Vikings' lone win in that span came in the teams' last meeting, by a score of 28-27 in Minneapolis on Nov. 9. The Packers have won four of their last six games at the Metrodome. The only postseason matchup occurred in an NFC wild-card playoff game during the 2004 season, a 31-17 Vikings win at Green Bay.
Packers: LT Chad Clifton, S Atari Bigby, RB Brandon Jackson, CB Brandon Underwood, FB Quinn Johnson, RT Breno Giacomini, DE Michael Montgomery, LB Jeremy Thompson.
Vikings: QB Sage Rosenfels (third quarterback), WR Darius Reynaud, DT Latroy Guion, S Jamarca Sanford, LB Erin Henderson, C Jon Cooper, DE Jayme Mitchell, and CB Asher Allen. Noteworthy:
Keys to the game
Packers RB Ryan Grant rushed for 64 yards on his final 13 carries last Sunday. Green Bay could use similar production from the ground game not only to sustain drives and keep the crowd from becoming a factor, but also to protect their patchwork offensive line that has allowed a league-high 12 sacks. Rodgers has 11 completions of 20-plus yards and four of 40-plus, but the five- and seven-step drops required to take deeper throws require time to develop.
WR Donald Driver needs five receptions to pass Sterling Sharpe (595) as the Packers' all-time receptions leader. ... A Minnesota win would give Favre at least one victory over every NFL team. ... Vikings WRs Bernard Berrian and Jaymar Johnson would be candidates to return punts if Darius Reynaud (hamstring) can't play.
Packers — Out — Safety Atari Bigby (knee); running back Brandon Jackson (ankle); linebacker Jeremy Thompson (knee). Questionable — Clifton. Probable — Defensive end Cullen Jenkins (groin); receiver Greg Jennings (wrist); defensive end Johnny Jolly (abdomen); defensive lineman B.J. Raji (ankle); cornerback Charles Woodson (foot).
Vikings — Linebacker Erin Henderson (calf); receiver Darius Reynaud (hamstring). Questionable — Guard Steve Hutchinson (back); fullback Naufahu Tahi (back). Probable — Quarterback Brett Favre (foot); cornerback Cedric Griffin (hand); linebacker E.J. Henderson (shoulder); tight end Jim Kleinsasser (hand); punter Chris Kluwe (illness).
The Packers' defense will be under the gun in hostile enemy territory, on the big Monday night stage no less, and the heavier burden has little to do with the biggest story line of the early-season battle for first place in the NFC North.
While defensive coordinator Dom Capers is ever mindful of the havoc former longtime Packers quarterback Brett Favre can wreak just shy of his 40th birthday now in a Vikings uniform, the more pressing priority for Capers' unit is to do everything possible to keep running back Adrian Peterson from emerging as the star attraction. Peterson gashed the Packers for 192 rushing yards and a game-winning 29-yard touchdown run in the waning minutes when the teams met late last season, also at the Metrodome.
Green Bay has been run deficient, allowing an average of 128.7 yards per game. Capers, who is 0-6 against Favre as a head coach or defensive coordinator, might have to roll the dice and lean on the 3-5 front he debuted to mixed results in Sunday's win at the St. Louis Rams to try to keep Peterson hemmed in between the tackles. Of course, that could open things up for Favre to strong-arm single coverage in the vertical passing game.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy showed a commitment to the running game down the stretch Sunday, and Ryan Grant snapped out of his early-season doldrums late in the game. Getting Grant on track at the outset against the Vikings' imposing and talented front four would be a bonus to take the heat off a disjointed offensive line that has put quarterback Aaron Rodgers frequently in harm's way. Rodgers has been chucking the deep ball with regularity and some success this season, but he'll need the time on those five- and seven-step drops to get the ball out to playmakers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
The ‘X' factor in the latest installment of a hotly contested rivalry in recent years could be the returners. The Packers' Will Blackmon had a punt return for a touchdown in both games last season. Vikings rookie Percy Harvin is a week removed from his dazzling 101-yard kickoff return for a score.
— Dom Capers, on OTs Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt: Both of their tackles are giants. They're both 6-8. They're very tall, long-armed, long-levered guys that they use their size to make you have to run around them. Because of their size, they're hard to bull rush and walk 'em back because they're so big. They try to guide and steer you around in pass protection. So they've big bookends, those tackles. I don't know of anybody who has two bigger tackles.
— Nick Barnett, on RB Adrian Peterson: He's a tough back. He has a lot of sets of tools in his toolbox. He can cut it out, he can run it up, and he has speed and vision. He's definitely a specimen as far as running backs go. We'll have a hell of a challenge facing him. And it's not just him. They have a two-back tandem where they bring Chester in there. It's a tough task on third down to handle him.
— Scott Wells, on NT Pat Williams: Pat does an excellent job on the outside zones. If you overreach, he'll go around your block and he's quick enough to make the tackle. On the inside zones, if you're short on your landmark, he's quick enough to beat you to the punch and make the tackle that way. You really have to be conscientious of getting your feet down, getting your hands inside and driving your feet and locking on him.
— Shawn Slocum, on KR Percy Harvin: I think he's an outstanding football player. He's very explosive. I think he's got a running style where he can put his foot in the grass and go north and south right away when he sees a hole. He's strong enough to run through an arm tackle. He's a dynamic young player.
— Nick Barnett, on Brett Favre: It's the same Brett Favre. He runs that West Coast real well. He'll throw it off the back foot. He makes stuff happen in space. If there's pressure, he slides out and he'll try to make something happen. We've got to latch onto our responsibilities and make sure he doesn't make anything happen if he gets out of the pocket.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.