Sunday To Provide Great Matchups

Vikings vs. Packers is always a feast for the viewing eye, but even besides the rivalry between the organizations, there are some great individual matchups to watch in Sunday's season opener. Here are eight of the best.

Picking one key matchup to watch Sunday? That's easy. The Packers' passing game against the Vikings' pass defense. Here are some of the matchups within that matchup:

* LCB Denard Walker against WR Donald Driver, who caught 70 passes for 1,064 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Walker says the hamstring injury that slowed him this preseason is healed. It better be.

* Rookie No. 1 draft pick LDE Kevin Williams against RT Mark Tauscher. Williams moves to NT in the nickel. He's a good pass rusher, but needs work as a run stopper.

* Nickel rusher RDE Lance Johnstone against LT Chad Clifton, who is playing his first game since getting Warren Sapp-ed with a blindside block on an interception return last season.

* DT Chris Hovan against RG Marco Rivera. Rivera, who went to the Pro Bowl last season despite playing with torn MCLs in both knees, has re-torn his left one, but will play. Hovan will line up across from Rivera about 50 percent of the time.

* FS Brian Russell, making his first start at FS and third start of his NFL career, against Favre. Favre no doubt will try to look off the young safety and launch the ball past him in a blink.

We could go on. But now on to the Vikings' offense:

* RB Moe Williams against rookie MLB Nick Barnett. Williams is starting because Michael Bennett is out with a fractured foot and Doug Chapman is slowed by a high ankle sprain. Williams has started only three games in his eight-year NFL career. He's made a career out of being a third-down specialist. He's only 205 pounds, so there is some question as to how long he can carry the load. He topped 100 yards rushing last year against Buffalo when the Vikings featured him. Rookie fourth-round draft pick Onterrio Smith will play a significant role unless he fumbles early. If he does, Chapman might be forced into the game. Barnett is a smallish linebacker the Packers like because of his speed. He's a three-down player, but the Vikings will try to overpower him with their massive offensive line.

* C Matt Birk against NT Gilbert Brown. Birk is one of the best centers in the league. Brown is one of the hardest players to move. But Brown is playing with a torn biceps muscle. His status isn't day-to-day. It's play-to-play.

* WR Randy Moss against the Packers' secondary. CBs Mike McKenzie and Al Harris aren't going to stop Moss one-one-one. They'll need help and communication from FS Darren Sharper and SS Antuan Edwards. Sharper has a groin injury, but practiced Wednesday.


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