The plan to start rookie Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback could cause the Packers plenty of headaches as they attempt to get ready in a short week. Jackson has appeared in two of the past three games, but the only real film the Packers can watch is from the fourth quarter of the Vikings' loss to the Jets on Sunday.
What they'll see is a young, mobile quarterback with a very strong arm who could create havoc if he's put in a situation to succeed.
That will be up to Vikings coach Brad Childress, who calls the plays. With Jackson running the show, the Vikings should have the ability to go vertical because his arm strength is far greater than that of veteran Brad Johnson.
But opponents also must respect Chester Taylor and the Vikings running game.
The Vikings defense, meanwhile, will have to rebound from being picked apart by Jets quarterback Chad Pennington to the tune of 339 gross yards against. The Jets were able to give the Vikings' pass defense problems by providing good protection for Pennington and finding the weaknesses in the Vikings' zone coverage.
The Packers are familiar with how to attack the Vikings. In Green Bay's 23-17 victory over Minnesota on Nov. 12 at the Metrodome, Brett Favre threw for a season-high 347 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Donald Driver had a career-high 191 receiving yards in the victory.
It's likely Green Bay will stick with this formula -- which includes spreading the Vikings out -- especially since it appears to remain a problem spot. The Packers also will be able to use some play-action pass with running back Ahman Green to keep the defense honest.
Both teams are in the same proverbial boat with little preparation time on a short week and facing a must-win situation as they cling to remote playoff prospects with an identical 6-8 record.
The Packers defense comes in with little knowledge of rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. He is the antithesis of the weak-armed, immobile Brad Johnson, whom Green Bay sacked four times in its win at Minnesota last month. So, Bob Sanders probably won't be as aggressive with his pressure packages as he was Sunday, when the Packers' relentless line piled up a season-high six sacks against Detroit.
The Green Bay offense, meanwhile, has a tough nut to try to crack with the Vikings' impenetrable run defense, which is yielding all of 55.1 yards per game. Mike McCarthy clearly thought he would have to win the first meeting through the air, as evidenced by pass calls on nine of the first 12 plays. The Packers did prevail with that mindset, thanks in part to a mistake-free performance by Brett Favre. Five weeks later, though, Favre is up to his 2005 tricks of throwing careless picks. For that, the running game has to be an emphasis in the rematch. Having speedy Vernand Morency available -- Ahman Green's understudy was out with a back injury in the first meeting -- is a plus.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Vikings rookie corner Cedric Griffin likely will sit out Thursday because of a neck stinger, meaning Fred Smoot would move back into his old starting role. That would put Ronyell Whitaker into the nickel defense. The Vikings also could be without leading receiver Travis Taylor (ankle). If Taylor can't go, veteran Marcus Robison almost assuredly would be back in the lineup.
The hot-and-cold running game could get a boost Thursday with the return of right tackle Mark Tauscher after a five-game absence because of a groin injury. Tauscher is listed as questionable, but all indications are he will start. Tauscher has only three practices under his belt in the past week, so it's probably going to take him at least a few series to get his blocking techniques down and get back in sync with his linemates. Tauscher, though, should be able to function with his guile from seven years of starting experience. ... Running back Ahman Green (knees) and cornerback Charles Woodson (shoulder), meanwhile, will try to bounce back after only three days of recovery from the last game. Both players have been accustomed the last several weeks to not practicing until the latter part of the week as they cope with chronic soreness. Neither was on the field Tuesday, which was the only full-scale practice for the team before the game, but both are probable to play. ... Wide receiver Donald Driver, likewise, should be ready for the game despite being held out Tuesday to rest a shoulder injury he aggravated in the last game. ... The team's depleted depth at receiver might be bolstered after Ruvell Martin practiced Tuesday. Martin had been out since suffering a bruised chest Dec. 10 at San Francisco. He is questionable for Thursday.