Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

We wrap up our Behind Enemy Lines series with the four key matchups to watch on Sunday and why the Packers will (or will not) beat the Vikings in this NFC North grudge match.


Packers LT T.J. Lang or Chad Clifton vs. Vikings RDE Jared Allen: The nightmare of having Allen in on 4.5 of the eight sacks Minnesota produced against Aaron Rodgers in the teams' first meeting Oct. 5 is still fresh for the Packers. The seasoned Clifton didn't play in that game because of an ankle sprain, and the lingering injury makes him iffy for the rematch. As it stands, rookie Lang would make only his second pro start, giving Allen a decided advantage on paper. Yet, Lang received praise from his coaches for doing a decent job lined up opposite Allen during the fourth quarter of the first meeting after replacing an injured Daryn Colledge, who was overmatched by the speedy pass rusher. Lang since had a solid starting debut Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. The versatile Lang moves well and has a spirited temperament that could work in his favor against the high-strung Allen.

Packers WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings vs. Vikings CB Karl Paymah: You'd expect the Packers to go after Paymah, who is replacing Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield in the starting lineup. The Vikings elected to keep Benny Sapp in his role as the nickel corner, so Winfield's replacement is actually the Vikings' fourth corner. If the Packers can protect Aaron Rodgers, Paymah will be the man they'll want to exploit. Paymah has supreme speed but he's not nearly the physical force that Winfield is, and Driver and Jennings are both playmakers on those short one-step routes in which they get the ball and use either their moves or their brute strength to gain extra yardage. In the first matchup, Driver and Jennings were the targets on 12 passes but caught only seven for 86 yards. They'll need more production on Sunday.


Packers nickel back Tramon Williams vs. Vikings WR Sidney Rice: Green Bay played extensively in its nickel packages in the first meeting. That means Charles Woodson will slide inside to cover the slot, leaving Williams in a one-on-one matchup on the left side against the 6-foot-3 Rice. Williams had a lackluster performance against the up-and-coming Rice the last time out. Williams slipped in man-to-man coverage on a 24-yard catch by Rice, who also had a 14-yard touchdown on broken zone coverage. Rice had five receptions for 70 yards in the game. He has become Brett Favre's top target the last few games, so look for the sly quarterback to try to exploit Williams.

Aaron Kampman tackles Bernard Berrian
Jim Mone/AP Images
Packers LOLB Aaron Kampman vs. Vikings RT Phil Loadholt: Since starting to put his hand down again on some pass-rushing situations, Kampman has a sack in each of the last two games and looks a lot like the guy who ranks third in the NFL in sacks since 2006. In Round 1 against the Vikings' towering rookie Loadholt, Kampman was credited with five tackles, no sacks and only one quarterback hit. As the Packers' best pass rusher, they need Kampman to generate pressure. Otherwise, they'll be forced to blitz more often, and fewer players in coverage means more openings for Favre and his playmakers on the perimeter.


They simply play better in this game than they did last month at the Metrodome. It might have felt like the Packers were losing by two touchdowns the entire game, but they lost by seven points on the road, even though their mistakes cost them at least 13 points on offense. Win the turnover battle, protect Rodgers and keep the crowd in the game. Do that, and the Packers are 5-2.


They can't stop Adrian Peterson. Stopping Peterson and Favre is not an either-or proposition, like some make it out to be. But if the Packers can't stop Peterson, they'll face too many second-and-5 and third-and-2 situations. That's when the Vikings are at their most dangerous.


Their defensive front four overwhelms the Packers' offensive line again. Jared Allen got all of the headlines last game, and rightfully so, But Pat Williams and Kevin Williams can dominate a game as well, and Brian Robison had 1.5 sacks of Rodgers as a reserve.


Favre can't handle the emotions of his return to Lambeau Field. If Favre comes out with his adrenaline dripping from his sleeve, the defense will be in position to set the tone early and perhaps the Packers can play from ahead on the scoreboard. Favre held those emotions in check the first time, but this game is in Green Bay and the Packers' defense feels a whole lot better about itself.


Bill Huber (5-1): I keep coming back to the point that the Packers had a chance in that first game, even though they played horribly and the Vikings were on top of their game. Whoever starts at left tackle will be better than Daryn Colledge, and that either Clifton or Lang will have the advantage of hearing the snap count and playing on grass just amplifies that. The return of Atari Bigby has been the biggest reason for the defense's improved play the last two weeks. The Packers are better now than they were a few weeks ago. They're at home. And they're desperate. Packers 24, Vikings 20.

If you missed Part 1 of Behind Enemy Lines, in which Viking Update's Tim Yotter answered five questions from Packer Report's Bill Huber, click here. If you missed Part 2, in which Bill answered five questions from Tim, click here.
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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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