Vikings-Packers Game Plan

In the first meeting of 2004, the Vikings couldn't stop the run, and just the opposite was true in their Dec. 24 matchup. That could put all the pressure on the Vikings offense to step up. Get the feelings from both camps, the matchups to watch and the injuries that could affect the outcome of the first playoff meeting between these division rivals.


Basically, the plan is to hold the ball at the end of the game and score four more points. In both of their last-second, 34-31 losses to the Packers this season, the Vikings were shredded by Brett Favre in the closing minutes.

The scores were the same, but the Packers won the first game because of their running attack (206 yards) and the second one because of Favre (365 yards passing, three touchdowns). The best way to beat the Packers — probably the only way — is to outscore them.

The pressure is on QB Daunte Culpepper to have his best game and not turn the ball over. If the running game stalls, Culpepper has to run more than he has all season. If the passing game stalls, Culpepper needs to get out and throw his 264-pound body at the first-down marker.


Vikings WR Randy Moss vs. Packers CB Al Harris — Harris shadowed Moss in the Packers' 34-31 victory at the Metrodome on Dec. 24. Moss caught only two passes for 30 yards, although one was a 12-yard touchdown. Moss had five catches for 66 yards and a 28-yard touchdown at Washington. He also might be motivated by the fact coaches and teammates were angered by his actions at the end of the Redskins game. Moss walked off the field with two seconds left as the Vikings were lining up for an onside kick in a game they lost 21-18.

Vikings SS Willie Offord vs. Packers QB Brett Favre — It's harder for a quarterback to pick on a strong safety, but when the Packers spread the field with three or four receivers, look for Favre to find Offord and wing it. Offord will be making his first start since 2002 because starter and 2003 Pro Bowl SS Corey Chavous is out with a fractured left elbow. Offord, a third-year player, climbed up to special teams captain as of last season. But he's not an instinctive player, and his tackling ability is weak considering he has the prototypical size for a strong safety.

Vikings CBs Antoine Winfield and Brian Williams vs. Packers WRs Donald Driver and Javon Walker — With Winfield playing a limited role in the loss to the Packers two weeks ago, Driver (11-162, 1 TD) and Walker (5-90, 1 TD) combined for 16 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Keep an eye on how well Winfield is moving. This will be his first start since suffering a high left ankle sprain at Chicago on Dec. 5. Williams also has had three consecutive poor games. Leg fatigue as a result of too many extra plays on special teams has been used as an excuse by the coaching staff.


  • SS Corey Chavous is out because of a fractured left elbow. Although Chavous hasn't had near the season he had when he was a Pro Bowl performer in 2003, he is head and shoulders above Willie Offord, who will replace him.

  • CB Antoine Winfield will start for the first time since suffering a high left ankle sprain on Dec. 5 at Chicago. He is going to attempt to play without the ankle brace that has hampered him the past two games. If Winfield is anywhere close to being healthy, his return to the starting lineup will make a huge difference. The Vikings' secondary is completely lost without him.

  • CB Ralph Brown, who has missed the last three games because of a fractured eye socket, will return. His return isn't that big of a deal. He might replace Terrance Shaw as the nickel back. Shaw played horrendously against Washington. But there's no reason to believe Brown will play any better.

  • CB Terrance Shaw has a rib injury but should be able to play. He might fall from being a starter the last three games to the dime back behind Antoine Winfield, who is healthy enough to start again, and Ralph Brown, who is back from a fractured eye socket. Shaw has gotten progressively worse this season. He was terrible against the Redskins last week.

  • WR Kelly Campbell has a separation of the AC joint in his right shoulder. He is expected to play, but he probably won't return kickoffs. He's a decent kickoff returner but no better than rookie Mewelde Moore, who will take his place. As a receiver, Campbell is a dangerous deep threat although he hasn't caught a pass in the last three games.


    On offense, the Packers should be able to run and pass with great success. The Vikings rallied to stop their run (34-102) in the Week 15 meeting, but the Packers hammered for 206 in Week 9. If the Vikings bring a safety into the box, it will leave them vulnerable to the Packers' passing game.

    Donald Driver had a career day on Christmas Eve when the Vikings spent most of their time double-covering Javon Walker. A key is protection. Guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle will be asked to contain DT Kevin Williams with help from C Grey Ruegamer.

    On defense, the Packers clearly are a distinct disadvantage. Expect them to play Cover 2 in an attempt to stop Randy Moss and even Nate Burleson from beating them deep. If they can stop the run with seven in the box, as they did in Week 15, they should win. However, the Vikings have had two weeks to prepare for Green Bay's version of Cover 2 and should have many zone-beaters ready to go.


    Packers C Grey Ruegamer vs. Vikings NT Spencer Johnson — Johnson has had 18 tackles in two games against Green Bay even though he started only one. Johnson, a rookie free agent from Auburn, is a lot quicker than Reugamer and hasn't stayed blocked. Ruegamer is getting the starting nod in a close call over rookie Scott Wells.

    Packers LBs Nick Barnett, Na'il Diggs and Hannibal Navies vs. Vikings TE Jermaine Wiggins and RB Michael Bennett — Wiggins had a field day against Navies in Week 9 but was kept under control in Week 15. Bennett has home-run speed and hurt the Packers many times in the past. Diggs is back from a bruised kidney that sidelined him for two games and is a bruising run defender. Barnett must be diligent in his run fits and not get impatient scraping over the top.


  • WR Robert Ferguson (head, neck) hasn't played since being injured Dec. 19 against Jacksonville. On Wednesday, he was in uniform and took part in individual drills. Ferguson is doubtful and not expected to play Sunday, but if the Packers continue he could get clearance for the divisional round.

  • RB Najeh Davenport (shoulder, ribs) sat out the Bears game but practiced Wednesday and should be fine. He also will be back returning kickoffs.

  • TE Bubba Franks (knee) sat out Wednesday but should be fine.

  • NT Grady Jackson (knee) took another day off Wednesday but will play.

  • FB Vonta Leach (shin, ankle) was out Wednesday but should be fine.

  • LB Paris Lenon (elbow) practiced with a brace on his arm.

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