Once again, the Vikings will be presented with an opportunity to show their offense has the ability to pick up big chunks of yards through the air. Packers cornerback Al Harris is very good, but this pass defense is ranked dead last in the NFL and overall the unit is ranked 20th.
Keep in mind, however, the Vikings aerial attack failed against a San Francisco pass defense that went from 31st entering Sunday's game to 25th coming out of it. Exposing the Packers weakness will be on quarterback Brad Johnson and a group of receivers that includes the struggling Troy Williamson. If Williamson can't get well Sunday, and that means he quits dropping passes, it might not happen this season or ever.
Green Bay has the NFL's No. 10 rushing defense but that likely won't stop Vikings coach Brad Childress from calling Chester Taylor's number 20-plus times. Childress has proven he's devoted to the run.
Defensively, the Vikings enter Week 9 with the NFL's top running defense but are 18th against the pass. Even without these statistics, it's not as if Brett Favre needed any motivation to begin throwing the ball. Look for defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin to send plenty of blitzes at Favre.
The Packers' rising running game will get its stiffest challenge from the league's top run defense. Green Bay is averaging a robust 168.3 yards per game in the last three outings, second in the league behind Kansas City. It will be interesting to see how long head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy stays true to his run-first commitment if the yards aren't to be had early.
Thus, more could fall on Brett Favre's right arm. Since the Vikings, like Buffalo the previous week, will be anticipating the quick slants, Favre will need time to set up and throw. So, more formations out of shotgun and movement of the pocket should be in greater frequency to counter the inside rush of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams and the blitzing linebackers.
The defense, meanwhile, will have a stop-the-run mentality with Chester Taylor and Mewelde Moore on the other side. Still, expect the pressure to be turned up on quarterback Brad Johnson. The Packers have 13 sacks in the last three games and teed off on Johnson with five sacks in the teams' second meeting last season. League sacks leader Aaron Kampman has the edge on young right tackle Marcus Johnson.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
INJURY IMPACT The Vikings have clearly missed Marcus Robinson (lower back) the past two games, especially as Troy Williamson has struggled to hang onto the ball. Robinson has three touchdown catches this season and his return would be a big benefit for struggling quarterback Brad Johnson. If Darrion Scott (high ankle sprain) can't go, it's likely rookie Ray Edwards would get the start. Edwards has had a solid season, but the Vikings' depth on the line would take a hit if Scott sits out. Nose tackle Pat Williams (knee) and defensive tackle Kevin Williams (ankle) also are hurting. Running back Chester Taylor (calf) had his reps cut back in practice this week and it could be that his workload is beginning to catch up to him after four seasons as a backup in Baltimore. Artose Pinner and Mewelde Moore might be asked to take some of the load off Taylor.
Not unlike last week, the Packers will go down to the wire at the end of the week before knowing whether they'll have cornerback Charles Woodson (knee) and rookie receiver Greg Jennings (ankle) available for Sunday's game at Minnesota. Both players are questionable with their lingering injuries and aren't expected to practice until Friday. Jennings aggravated a mid-ankle sprain in the last game, so there's more doubt about whether he can give it a go than there is with Woodson. The Packers have little depth to speak of behind Donald Driver and Jennings. So, the passing game that might be in demand, what with Minnesota leading the league in stopping the run, could be hurting. Tight end David Martin has been a godsend the last three games, but Brett Favre can't get by with Driver and Martin alone if the offense is forced to go one-dimensional. With No. 2 halfback Vernand Morency likely out for the second straight game because of a back injury, the wild card is Noah Herron. He doesn't have Morency's quickness and elusiveness, but Herron, who's better suited for a third-down role, has responded when called upon with some big gains as both a runner and a pass catcher.