Randy Moss has been a thorn in the Packers' side for two wins with Scott Linehan as his offensive coordinator, while the Packers focus on another part of their offense. We take a look at all the matchups to watch from both teams' perspective.
VIKINGS GAME PLAN
The mental chess match revolving around Randy Moss
continues Sunday between Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan
and Packers defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.
Linehan has been with the Vikings for three games against the Packers. He's 2-1 and it's no coincidence that Moss dominated in the two victories and was contained in the loss.
Facing a heavy dose of single coverage in the season opener seven weeks ago, Moss caught nine passes for 150 yards and a touchdown as the Vikings won 30-25.
The Vikings are expecting more Cover 2 Sunday. That will take away Moss as a deep threat. However, it also will open up the running game.
The Vikings are preparing to get the ball to Moss when he's single covered and run the ball when the safeties sit back in Cover 2.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
WR Randy Moss vs. Packers secondary — Three of Moss' nine 150-yard receiving games have come against Green Bay. He caught nine passes for 150 yards and a touchdown in the 30-25 victory at Lambeau Field in the season opener seven weeks ago. The Packers use more single coverage on Moss than most teams. It didn't work the last time as Moss beat corners Mike McKenzie
and Al Harris
. If the Packers' front seven can stop the Vikings' sputtering ground game, safeties Antuan Edwards
and Darren Sharper
can play Cover 2 and take away the deep passes to Moss.
Vikings running game vs. Packers front seven — The key to opening up Moss' big-play ability is establishing the run. If the Vikings can run the ball, then the safeties have to cheat up. The Vikings ran for 154 yards and a 4.3-yard average in the first meeting this season. However, they haven't run the ball as well the last two weeks. Last week, the Giants held the Vikings to 11 yards on 12 first-half carries.
Vikings secondary vs. Packers QB Brett Favre — Favre threw four interceptions in the season opener. Strong safety Corey Chavous had two and free safety Brian Russell had one. Chavous and Russell now lead the NFL with six interceptions apiece. Favre has thrown nine interceptions on the season and has a cracked thumb on his throwing hand.
Vikings CBs vs. Packers WR Javon Walker — Walker caught five passes for a team-high 84 yards (16.8) and a touchdown in the first meeting. He has caught only Vikings run defense against RB Ahman Green. Green is fifth in the NFL in rushing with 734 yards on 151 carries (4.9). His 10 touchdowns (eight rushing, two receiving) are second behind only Priest Holmes' 12. The Vikings stuffed Green in the season opener, holding him to 53 yards on 15 carries (3.5) and the Packers' running game to 62 yards on 19 carries (3.3). The linebackers, linemen and safeties worked well together to stop the run. End Kenny Mixon had a career-high 10 tackles.
Vikings kick coverage vs. Packers KR Antonio Chatman — Chatman, a rookie, had his season-long 46-yard kickoff return against the Vikings. He is averaging 22.7 yards per return. The Vikings have covered kicks better the past two games, but they're still 16th in the league with a 21.4 average.
Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper vs. Packers secondary — Culpepper's streak of 130 passes without an interception ended in the fourth quarter against the Giants. New York turned the pick into a 12-point lead late in the game. Culpepper also threw an interception on the final play of the game. Although the first interception was partly the fault of rookie receiver Keenan Howry, it will be interesting to see if the interceptions start snowballing on Culpepper, as they did when he threw 23 last season. The Packers' defense has nine interceptions this season.
Vikings kickoff returners vs. Packers kick coverage — Rookie Onterrio Smith will return kickoffs for the first time since last season when he was at Oregon. The Vikings' kickoff return unit ranks 31st in the NFL with a 19.5-yard average. The Packers lead the NFL in kickoff coverage at 18.4 yards per return.
PACKERS GAME PLAN
On offense, the Packers will try to get their ground game going after having it fall apart in St. Louis. The Rams stunted and slanted on almost every play and the Packers did a poor job blocking the back side. The Vikings also move their defensive linemen constantly so it will be a similar situation, plus the Metrodome crowd noise will make it difficult for Green Bay to get off the ball. Given time, Brett Favre should be able to make plays against a slow corps of linebackers and a suspect secondary that Kerry Collins picked apart last Sunday. But the Vikings are rushing the passer much better this year than in the past and Favre has a bad thumb.
On defense, the Packers will have to come to grips with Randy Moss, who has demolished them over the last 5 1/2 years. There was a game or two in the past when the Packers neutralized Moss by bumping him at the line with a cornerback and then keeping Darren Sharper over the top in double coverage. But with Moss lining up in the slot a lot more than in the past it's tougher to dictate coverage. The Vikings also have killed the Packers on the ground in recent years with their big, physical offensive line.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Packers OL vs. Vikings DL — The Packers are coming off their worst rushing game of the season in St. Louis and their offensive linemen are out to prove something. One of the keys to the Vikings' revival has been their keen improvement in the defensive line, especially RE Kenny Mixon and NT Fred Robbins. The Packers held three-technique DT Chris Hovan without a tackle in the Week 1 game but he has been a disruptive force in other meetings.
Packers front seven vs. Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper — Culpepper ran for big yardage last week against New York, proving that his back was sound. He has given Green Bay fits in previous outings. It will be up to the front four to maintain their lane integrity on pass rush and for LBs Nick Barnett and Na'il Diggs to tackle effectively in the open field.