Vikings-Packers game plan

The Vikings will need a protective effort from Adrian Peterson to keep the Packers defense honest against rookie QB Christian Ponder. There's some solid analysis on the Packers vs. rookie QBs, Jared Allen vs. the Packers minus Chad Clifton, and other intriguing matchups to watch Sunday at Mall of America Field.

VIKINGS

With a rookie quarterback Christian Ponder making his starting debut, the Vikings obviously need to control the clock with RB Adrian Peterson and force turnovers on defense if they're to have any chance to compete against Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated defending Super Bowl champions.

That will be difficult because the Vikings have only eight takeaways while the Packers have only seven giveaways. Blitzing Rodgers won't help either since he's especially dangerous in those situations. The Vikings' front-four pass rush is much more effective at home, which should help.

The Packers are fifth in the league against the run, so they know how to contain Peterson. The Packers are 31st against the pass, but part of that can be attributed to having big leads and teams being forced to throw more.

PACKERS

Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier didn't waste any time earlier this week in anointing Ponder the starting quarterback for Sunday's game and apparently the rest of the season. Taking away the element of surprise when Frazier could have waffled throughout the week between struggling veteran Donovan McNabb and Ponder has given Green Bay ample time to study Ponder and build its game plan around him.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers more often than not gets the better of a rookie quarterback, though Capers didn't sit easy in the coaches' box at Carolina in Week 2 this season, when Cam Newton shredded Green Bay's wobbly pass defense for 432 yards.

The Vikings took Ponder 11 selections after Newton was off the April draft board as the No. 1 overall pick. Like Newton, Ponder moves well outside the pocket, but the first-time starter out of Florida State isn't nearly as stout as Newton. Throwing a steady diet of blitzes off the edges could be Capers' approach to keep Ponder between the tackles.

The Packers' primary focal point with Minnesota's offense is trying to contain Peterson, who is averaging 4.4 yards per rush and already has seven touchdowns on the ground. Minnesota undoubtedly will look to Peterson on track early and give Ponder time to settle in. Green Bay will have to be better than it has played against the run the last three games, allowing an average of 113 yards to the opposition. On offense for the Packers, it should be more of the same from Mike McCarthy in making liberal use of MVP front-runner Rodgers and his arsenal of weapons in the passing game on the fast indoor track. The Vikings are a mess in the secondary.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Packers LT Marshall Newhouse vs. Vikings DE Jared Allen - With veteran Chad Clifton out a second straight game because of a hamstring injury, the odds swing greater in Allen's favor that he will add to his league-leading sacks total of 9½ . Allen has 10 career sacks against the Packers, and 7½ came in Minnesota's two-game sweep of Green Bay in the 2009 season, when Clifton missed both contests because of injury. The replacement combination of Daryn Colledge and T.J. Lang on the left side and Allen Barbre on the right side (for an injured Mark Tauscher) was overmatched that year by Allen, who recorded a career-high 4.5 sacks in the first '09 meeting at the Metrodome. Allen had all of two sacks when Clifton played in the teams' other four games since Aaron Rodgers took over as Green Bay's starting quarterback in 2008. Improving second-year player Newhouse, making just his fourth pro start and second at left tackle, will have his toughest test yet. "I'm really proud of the way he's played," Rodgers said. "I'm not worried about him. Jared is a great player; he's one of the premier pass rushers in this league. (But) tackles are expected to block ends, so we expect him to be prepared and play well."

Packers LOLB Clay Matthews vs. Vikings RT Phil Loadholt or Pat Brown - Minnesota is counting on Loadholt to play Sunday after he left last Sunday night's lopsided loss at Chicago with a knee bruise. Neither Loadholt nor Brown played well against an active Chicago pass rush, which produced five sacks. The 6-foot-8, 343-pound Loadholt, a second-round draft pick in 2009, is a load but gives up a lot against a speed rusher such as Matthews, who is practically 100 pounds lighter and also is five inches shorter to be able to dip underneath the block. Matthews has only one sack in two games at the Metrodome but could be primed for a breakout performance after registering his second sack of this season last time out.

Packers coverage units vs. Vikings kick returners - Speedy 5-11 receiver Percy Harvin has a league-leading four kickoff returns for touchdowns since 2009, including one in this year's season opener at San Diego that covered 103 yards. Harvin is averaging 32.1 yards on runbacks this season, but the Vikings' primary kickoff returner has been 5-10 running back Lorenzo Booker, who has a 26.6 average with a long of 68. First-year cornerback Marcus Sherels, who also stands 5-10, has been productive on punt returns with an average of 13.9 yards with a long of 53. Green Bay continues to be prone to giving up a sizable return, which could be just the spark a woebegone Vikings team would need to stay in the game and threaten the Packers' unblemished record. Playing indoors should allow strong-legged Mason Crosby to make Harvin and/or Booker nonfactors by booting his kickoffs out of the end zone. Tim Masthay has struggled on punts at the outset of this season, but his directional expertise could neutralize Sherels.

Vikings RCB Cedric Griffin, who has struggled coming back from two torn ACLs the past two years, vs. Packers WR Greg Jennings, who has a team-high 35 catches for 530 yards (15.1) and four TDs - Griffin has given up far too many big plays this season. He's been torched in the team's past two losses. He fell in coverage while allowing the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe to make an easy 52-yard touchdown catch three weeks ago. And last week, on Chicago's third offensive play, receiver Devin Hester blew by Griffin for a 48-yard touchdown catch. Jennings is one of the more dangerous receivers in the league downfield. Griffin is going to need safety help.


Viking Update Top Stories

\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" With a rookie quarterback Christian Ponder making his starting debut, the Vikings obviously need to control the clock with RB Adrian Peterson and force turnovers on defense if they're to have any chance to compete against Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated defending Super Bowl champions. That will be difficult because the Vikings have only eight takeaways while the Packers have only seven giveaways. Blitzing Rodgers won't help either since he's especially dangerous in those situations. The Vikings' front-four pass rush is much more effective at home, which should help. The Packers are fifth in the league against the run, so they know how to contain Peterson. The Packers are 31st against the pass, but part of that can be attributed to having big leads and teams being forced to throw more. Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier didn't waste any time earlier this week in anointing Ponder the starting quarterback for Sunday's game and apparently the rest of the season. Taking away the element of surprise when Frazier could have waffled throughout the week between struggling veteran Donovan McNabb and Ponder has given Green Bay ample time to study Ponder and build its game plan around him. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers more often than not gets the better of a rookie quarterback, though Capers didn't sit easy in the coaches' box at Carolina in Week 2 this season, when Cam Newton shredded Green Bay's wobbly pass defense for 432 yards. The Vikings took Ponder 11 selections after Newton was off the April draft board as the No. 1 overall pick. Like Newton, Ponder moves well outside the pocket, but the first-time starter out of Florida State isn't nearly as stout as Newton. Throwing a steady diet of blitzes off the edges could be Capers' approach to keep Ponder between the tackles. The Packers' primary focal point with Minnesota's offense is trying to contain Peterson, who is averaging 4.4 yards per rush and already has seven touchdowns on the ground. Minnesota undoubtedly will look to Peterson on track early and give Ponder time to settle in. Green Bay will have to be better than it has played against the run the last three games, allowing an average of 113 yards to the opposition. On offense for the Packers, it should be more of the same from Mike McCarthy in making liberal use of MVP front-runner Rodgers and his arsenal of weapons in the passing game on the fast indoor track. The Vikings are a mess in the secondary. With veteran Chad Clifton out a second straight game because of a hamstring injury, the odds swing greater in Allen's favor that he will add to his league-leading sacks total of 9½ . Allen has 10 career sacks against the Packers, and 7½ came in Minnesota's two-game sweep of Green Bay in the 2009 season, when Clifton missed both contests because of injury. The replacement combination of Daryn Colledge and T.J. Lang on the left side and Allen Barbre on the right side (for an injured Mark Tauscher) was overmatched that year by Allen, who recorded a career-high 4.5 sacks in the first '09 meeting at the Metrodome. Allen had all of two sacks when Clifton played in the teams' other four games since Aaron Rodgers took over as Green Bay's starting quarterback in 2008. Improving second-year player Newhouse, making just his fourth pro start and second at left tackle, will have his toughest test yet. \"I'm really proud of the way he's played,\" Rodgers said. \"I'm not worried about him. Jared is a great player; he's one of the premier pass rushers in this league. (But) tackles are expected to block ends, so we expect him to be prepared and play well.\" Minnesota is counting on Loadholt to play Sunday after he left last Sunday night's lopsided loss at Chicago with a knee bruise. Neither Loadholt nor Brown played well against an active Chicago pass rush, which produced five sacks. The 6-foot-8, 343-pound Loadholt, a second-round draft pick in 2009, is a load but gives up a lot against a speed rusher such as Matthews, who is practically 100 pounds lighter and also is five inches shorter to be able to dip underneath the block. Matthews has only one sack in two games at the Metrodome but could be primed for a breakout performance after registering his second sack of this season last time out. Speedy 5-11 receiver Percy Harvin has a league-leading four kickoff returns for touchdowns since 2009, including one in this year's season opener at San Diego that covered 103 yards. Harvin is averaging 32.1 yards on runbacks this season, but the Vikings' primary kickoff returner has been 5-10 running back Lorenzo Booker, who has a 26.6 average with a long of 68. First-year cornerback Marcus Sherels, who also stands 5-10, has been productive on punt returns with an average of 13.9 yards with a long of 53. Green Bay continues to be prone to giving up a sizable return, which could be just the spark a woebegone Vikings team would need to stay in the game and threaten the Packers' unblemished record. Playing indoors should allow strong-legged Mason Crosby to make Harvin and/or Booker nonfactors by booting his kickoffs out of the end zone. Tim Masthay has struggled on punts at the outset of this season, but his directional expertise could neutralize Sherels. Griffin has given up far too many big plays this season. He's been torched in the team's past two losses. He fell in coverage while allowing the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe to make an easy 52-yard touchdown catch three weeks ago. And last week, on Chicago's third offensive play, receiver Devin Hester blew by Griffin for a 48-yard touchdown catch. Jennings is one of the more dangerous receivers in the league downfield. Griffin is going to need safety help. 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