The Vikings are coming off an upset victory over the host New York Giants, but the Packers also will have plenty of confidence, not to mention the home-field advantage, in Monday night's game.
The Packers, who had one victory before surprising the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome, held a 17-0 halftime lead on the Vikings but were outscored 23-3 in the second half of their Oct. 23 game at the Metrodome.
The Vikings will need far more offensive productivity than they got from Brad Johnson and Co. against the Giants - no touchdowns and 137 total yards - and certainly can't assume that punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns will become the norm.
But going against Green Bay defensive coordinator Jim Bates' unit won't be easy. Bates' defense caused the Falcons all kinds of troubles, and the coordinator certainly will attempt to take a page from the Giants' game plan when he watches the film.
That will mean the Vikings can expect the Packers to go all out to stop the run and dare Johnson to beat them with his arm. The Vikings offensive line will have to do a better job of blocking and open up some lanes for either Mewelde Moore or Michael Bennett or the lack of productivity likely will continue. Of utmost importance is that the Vikings can use the play-action pass as a credible threat.
Defensively, the Vikings gave up 405 yards to the Giants but got key stops when they were needed. This was in part due to the ineptitude of New York quarterback Eli Manning, who tossed four interceptions. Such a performance certainly can't be expected from Brett Favre on a Monday night in Green Bay.
The Vikings will need to get continued solid play from the defensive backfield, including new starting corner Brian Williams, and the front four will have to get consistent pressure on Favre to help matters.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Coach Mike Tice said Monday that Nate Burleson "seems to be banged up" and indicated the receiver could see a reduced workload in practice this week. He didn't practice Thursday. If that carries over to Monday night's game, the Vikings could attempt to get Koren Robinson more involved. Robinson returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown against the Giants, and that might tempt the Vikings to see if he can provide big-play ability on offense.
Although it might be wishful thinking that the Packers would have the aching trio of WR Robert Ferguson, TE David Martin and RB Tony Fisher all back in action Monday, the offense still needs to make some hay from the outset in a critical game between archrivals.
The Packers scored on their opening possession Sunday for only the second time this season and didn't let up in rolling up 33 points, their second-highest output. Of course, building a sizable halftime lead (17-0) didn't work in the first meeting with the Vikings last month, but an encore performance out of the chute should be good enough to keep Minnesota down in this one since Daunte Culpepper won't be in uniform Monday.
Long drives also are to be had by the Packers offense, which will put its No. 2 league ranking for third-down conversions (45.3 percent) up against the dismal last-place success rate (45.0 percent) of the Vikings defense.
With the unimposing Brad Johnson at quarterback for Minnesota, the Packers can concentrate on what they do best on defense and devote most of their efforts toward stopping RB Michael Bennett, a non-factor off the bench in the first meeting. The Wisconsin native, though, is starting again and has three 100-yard games against the Packers.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Packers head coach Mike Sherman paid Sharper a high compliment Wednesday by saying, "We certainly have to know where he is at all times." With Sherman of late calling for a heavier dose of short drops and quick passes to help Favre function with a short-handed receiving group, Sharper may be subtracted from the big-play equation.
Whether or not Tony Fisher is cleared to play after a two-game absence because of a broken rib will have no bearing on who starts at running back Monday. Undrafted rookie Samkon Gado has earned a second straight start after churning out 103 yards on 25 carries in the upset win at Atlanta on Sunday, the first 100-yard game by a Packers back this season. Gado would get the bulk of the work Monday on early downs, leaving either Fisher or ReShard Lee to take over in third-down situations.
WR Robert Ferguson and TE David Martin are questionable to play because of knee and groin injuries, respectively. Without both of them available the last three games, the Packers have all but abandoned their four-receiver sets that spread the opposing defense. Donald Driver and Antonio Chatman are the only reliable wideouts QB Brett Favre has had at his disposal, so he's had to move the ball around with shorter passes.