Vikings-Packers game plan

Christian Ponder's mobility should be a solid asset Sunday against a Packers defense that is getting closer to full health with its biggest stars. Get keys to the game, fast facts and more in preparation for Sunday's division rivalry.

Sunday
Washington Redskins (3-2) at Carolina Panthers (1-5)
Atlanta Falcons (3-3) at Detroit Lions (5-1)
Denver Broncos (1-4) at Miami Dolphins (0-5)
San Diego Chargers (4-1) at New York Jets (3-3)
Chicago Bears (3-3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2)
Houston Texans (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (3-2)
Seattle Seahawks (2-3) at Cleveland Browns (2-3)
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) at Arizona Cardinals (1-4)
Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) at Oakland Raiders (4-2)
Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5)
St. Louis Rams (0-5) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
Indianapolis Colts (0-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-2)
Monday

Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5)


Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/23/11
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver


KEYS TO THE GAME: Vikings QB Christian Ponder was more effective throwing on the move during the preseason. Combined with the poor pass protection in Chicago last Sunday night, look for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to give the rookie plenty of bootlegs and to move the pocket. Of course, the most important factor is RB Adrian Peterson being effective against eight- and nine-man fronts. The Packers have a plus-seven turnover margin and a big-play secondary, so Ponder's accuracy will be put to the test.

Green Bay's offense has been rolling, but it is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. That could open the door for DE Jared Allen to have a major impact rushing QB Aaron Rodgers' blind side against LT Marshall Newhouse.

FAST FACTS: Of Allen's 92.5 career sacks, 10 have come against the Packers. ... Green Bay's 12-game winning streak ties a franchise record.

VIKINGS

Christian Ponder's second play in the NFL was an 8-yard run on second-and-7 on the road in Chicago in the fourth quarter of last week's 39-10 loss to the Bears.

Ponder has the mobility, speed and what offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave calls a "sixth sense" when it comes to feeling pressure and knowing precisely when to take off running. He'll probably need that when he makes his NFL starting debut against the defending Super Bowl champion Packers on Sunday at Mall of America Field.

"It definitely comes in handy," Musgrave said. "I remember when Jason Campbell was there with Washington. He had that sense. He had it at Auburn. Those guys are born with it. John Elway had that. Steve Young had that. It's just something that keeps those guys alive out there and allows them to extend the downs and ad-lib somewhat."

Musgrave coached Campbell and was the backup to Elway and Young during his playing career. Now, he's coaching another mobile player in Ponder, the 12th overall draft pick in this year's draft.

While Musgrave is excited about Ponder's ability to extend plays, he's also trying to make Ponder understand this isn't college football. Hits taken in the NFL can quickly land quarterbacks on injured reserve.

"He's got to make good judgments late in the down," Musgrave said. "If you looked at the film at Florida State, he was a fearless runner. Fearless. Which is an attribute. But at this level, with the guys playing defense, you got to be smart. Otherwise, you won't stay upright. You won't stay in the league very long, health-wise.

"He's got that sixth sense, but we also need him to exude good judgment late in the down when defenders are bearing down on him."

PACKERS

Defensive leaders Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews have continually answered the bell on game day this season despite missing significant practice time the last four weeks.

Yet, to have the veteran cornerback and the young linebacker involved in the team's only padded practice of this week Thursday was a big deal for the unbeaten Packers (6-0), who will play the NFC North-rival Minnesota Vikings (1-5) on Sunday at the Metrodome.

"It's good any time everybody on your football team practices," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "That's why you practice. It definitely helps them with their assignments and the communication with their teammates.

"It's really staying fine-tuned. It's great to have them out there."

Starting after the Week 2 win at the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 18 up until this week, Woodson and Matthews had made a cameo appearance in practice just one day a week on a limited basis – typically on a light Friday after the team had its heavy Thursday workout in pads.

Both players were put on the extremely abbreviated practice schedule to allow them to sufficiently recover between games because of lingering injury issues. Woodson, who turned 35 earlier this month, has endured foot and knee soreness. Matthews has battled a recurring thigh/hamstring injury since his rookie season in 2009.

The extra rest has benefited both players, allowing them to move better on game day and continue to contribute as playmakers. Woodson leads the team with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Matthews has just two sacks through six games -- well off his pace of a career-high 13.5 in the 2010 regular season -- but he has a team-high 26 quarterback hits (two times more than fellow outside linebacker Erik Walden, who ranks second on the defense).

That Woodson was cleared to do some limited work Wednesday and Matthews joined him on the field Thursday is positive news they are getting better on the health front. While the team officially listed them as limited participants in Thursday's practice, McCarthy said, "They were close to full."


Viking Update Top Stories

\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Sunday
Washington Redskins (3-2) at Carolina Panthers (1-5)
Atlanta Falcons (3-3) at Detroit Lions (5-1)
Denver Broncos (1-4) at Miami Dolphins (0-5)
San Diego Chargers (4-1) at New York Jets (3-3)
Chicago Bears (3-3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2)
Houston Texans (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (3-2)
Seattle Seahawks (2-3) at Cleveland Browns (2-3)
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) at Arizona Cardinals (1-4)
Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) at Oakland Raiders (4-2)
Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5)
St. Louis Rams (0-5) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
Indianapolis Colts (0-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-2)
Monday

Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5)


Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/23/11
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver


KEYS TO THE GAME: Vikings QB Christian Ponder was more effective throwing on the move during the preseason. Combined with the poor pass protection in Chicago last Sunday night, look for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to give the rookie plenty of bootlegs and to move the pocket. Of course, the most important factor is RB Adrian Peterson being effective against eight- and nine-man fronts. The Packers have a plus-seven turnover margin and a big-play secondary, so Ponder's accuracy will be put to the test.

Green Bay's offense has been rolling, but it is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. That could open the door for DE Jared Allen to have a major impact rushing QB Aaron Rodgers' blind side against LT Marshall Newhouse.

FAST FACTS: Of Allen's 92.5 career sacks, 10 have come against the Packers. ... Green Bay's 12-game winning streak ties a franchise record.

VIKINGS

Christian Ponder's second play in the NFL was an 8-yard run on second-and-7 on the road in Chicago in the fourth quarter of last week's 39-10 loss to the Bears.

Ponder has the mobility, speed and what offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave calls a \"sixth sense\" when it comes to feeling pressure and knowing precisely when to take off running. He'll probably need that when he makes his NFL starting debut against the defending Super Bowl champion Packers on Sunday at Mall of America Field.

\"It definitely comes in handy,\" Musgrave said. \"I remember when Jason Campbell was there with Washington. He had that sense. He had it at Auburn. Those guys are born with it. John Elway had that. Steve Young had that. It's just something that keeps those guys alive out there and allows them to extend the downs and ad-lib somewhat.\"

Musgrave coached Campbell and was the backup to Elway and Young during his playing career. Now, he's coaching another mobile player in Ponder, the 12th overall draft pick in this year's draft.

While Musgrave is excited about Ponder's ability to extend plays, he's also trying to make Ponder understand this isn't college football. Hits taken in the NFL can quickly land quarterbacks on injured reserve.

\"He's got to make good judgments late in the down,\" Musgrave said. \"If you looked at the film at Florida State, he was a fearless runner. Fearless. Which is an attribute. But at this level, with the guys playing defense, you got to be smart. Otherwise, you won't stay upright. You won't stay in the league very long, health-wise.

\"He's got that sixth sense, but we also need him to exude good judgment late in the down when defenders are bearing down on him.\"

PACKERS

Defensive leaders Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews have continually answered the bell on game day this season despite missing significant practice time the last four weeks.

Yet, to have the veteran cornerback and the young linebacker involved in the team's only padded practice of this week Thursday was a big deal for the unbeaten Packers (6-0), who will play the NFC North-rival Minnesota Vikings (1-5) on Sunday at the Metrodome.

\"It's good any time everybody on your football team practices,\" head coach Mike McCarthy said. \"That's why you practice. It definitely helps them with their assignments and the communication with their teammates.

\"It's really staying fine-tuned. It's great to have them out there.\"

Starting after the Week 2 win at the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 18 up until this week, Woodson and Matthews had made a cameo appearance in practice just one day a week on a limited basis – typically on a light Friday after the team had its heavy Thursday workout in pads.

Both players were put on the extremely abbreviated practice schedule to allow them to sufficiently recover between games because of lingering injury issues. Woodson, who turned 35 earlier this month, has endured foot and knee soreness. Matthews has battled a recurring thigh/hamstring injury since his rookie season in 2009.

The extra rest has benefited both players, allowing them to move better on game day and continue to contribute as playmakers. Woodson leads the team with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Matthews has just two sacks through six games -- well off his pace of a career-high 13.5 in the 2010 regular season -- but he has a team-high 26 quarterback hits (two times more than fellow outside linebacker Erik Walden, who ranks second on the defense).

That Woodson was cleared to do some limited work Wednesday and Matthews joined him on the field Thursday is positive news they are getting better on the health front. While the team officially listed them as limited participants in Thursday's practice, McCarthy said, \"They were close to full.\"

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