This one won't be easy for the Vikings. The Packers don't have much of a running game and thus coach Mike McCarthy has a team that has become pass happy. Green Bay's passing attack ranks sixth in the NFL and only the Detroit Lions have thrown the ball more than Green Bay (138-125).
Two weeks ago, the Lions passed for 393 yards against the Vikings in a 20-17 overtime victory. Green Bay could do the same against a defense that tied for last in the NFL in 2006 against the pass. The Vikings struggle when teams spread them out and that's what Green Bay had to do.
This not only will be a test for the secondary — and young cornerbacks Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley — but also for the linebackers as the Packers utilize their tight ends and could go right after Chad Greenway on the weak side.
Offensively, the Vikings need to get on track with a unit that has been effective running the ball, but has had absolutely no success with the passing attack in its first three games. The Vikings are ranked 28th in the NFL in this category.
Bobby Wade leads the team in receptions with only 10 catches; the only passing touchdown has gone to Adrian Peterson and that came on a swing pass that the rookie running back did most of the work on.
Kelly Holcomb is likely to get a second consecutive start at quarterback as Jackson continues to nurse a strained groin. Having Jackson sit again would make sense because the Vikings have a bye the following week, meaning he would have extra time to rest.
Until a defense can consistently run legal interference with Green Bay's myriad slants, crosses, hitches and screens, the Packers won't be bashful to throw, throw, throw. They almost have no choice but to go liberal with the pass in this one because the Teflon roof coming unhinged off the Metrodome is more likely than Green Bay's league-worst rushing attack plowing through the Vikings' impenetrable middle of the line.
Likewise, it's no secret Minnesota will be trying to put the football in rookie back Adrian Peterson's hands with regularity. The Green Bay defense has had good training in targeting a versatile weapon and previously came out ahead against the Eagles' Brian Westbrook and the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson. With no big receiving threats to occupy their attention, the Packers figure to stack the box and turn up the pressure on immobile quarterback Kelly Holcomb.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Vikings RT Ryan Cook vs. Packers DE Aaron Kampman. Cook has had his problems this season and that is likely to continue as he goes against Packers Pro Bowler Kampman. Kampman has only one sack this season but last year led the NFC with 15.5 sacks. Three of those came in the Packers' victory over the Vikings in December. Cook, a center throughout his collegiate career, remains new to the tackle spot and is probably being asked to bite off more than he can handle. Kampman, no doubt, is licking his chops.
Vikings CB Antoine Winfield vs. Packers WR Donald Driver. Winfield said this week that he was going to ask to be matched up against Driver on Sunday. Opposing quarterbacks have been throwing the ball toward second-year corner Cedric Griffin and at rookie corner Marcus McCauley, who plays in the nickel, and thus have avoided Winfield. The veteran is tired of it and figures playing against opposing teams top receivers would force the issue. This could be interesting considering Driver had 191 receiving yards the last time he played at the Metrodome.
Even if Winfield is put on Driver all day, it doesn't mean Griffin won't be busy. It's likely quarterback Brett Favre will go at Griffin and Greg Jennings figures to be the primary target. Jennings caught four passes for 82 yards, including a touchdown, last Sunday in the Packers' victory over San Diego and will present Griffin with a difficult challenge. Griffin hasn't been as effective in coverage this season as he was during his rookie year and also has struggled with his tackling.
Driver welcomes the attention and comes in with his own agenda — he wants to be on the receiving end of Brett Favre's next touchdown pass, which will eclipse Dan Marino's league record of 420. Since Winfield's arrival in Minnesota in 2004, Driver has been next to unstoppable with 49 catches for 746 yards and five touchdowns in seven meetings, including three straight 100-plus-yard receiving games at the Metrodome. Winfield has only one interception to his credit in the previous encounters. So much for an even matchup.
Packers MLB Nick Barnett vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. Barnett hasn't played flawless football the first three weeks, but he's been a terror in both run defense and pass coverage. He leads the team with 32 tackles. He'll be on the spot again for the third time in four weeks tracking a dynamic back out of the backfield. Barnett was a big reason why the defense neutralized the Eagles' Brian Westbrook in Week 1 and mostly bottled up the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson in Week 3, punctuated by Barnett's late interception intended for LT to help seal Green Bay's upset win. Peterson is playing beyond his rookie status and will be a load with which to contend as both a runner and a receiver. He accounts for 40 percent of the Vikings' offensive touches.
"Medical Monday" was in vogue with the Packers earlier this week. "Wary Wednesday" has been a running theme of the last few weeks. The medical staff has resorted to keeping injured key players off their feet in the practice environment for extended portions throughout the week until Friday as a way to preserve them for game action. Driver (toe) and Greg Jennings (hamstring), TE Bubba Franks (knee), LT Chad Clifton (knee) and CBs Al Harris (back) and Charles Woodson (hip) are all decent-to-good bets to play Sunday at Minnesota after getting limited or no practice time Wednesday and Thursday.
More uncertain is the status of DE Cullen Jenkins, who suffered damage to his ribs after twice having the wind knocked out of him in the last game. The coaches appear to be more inclined to move Corey Williams from tackle to right end to fill the void on early downs if Jenkins were to be out Sunday, thus keeping onetime starter Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila in his passing-down role. Williams is aching with knee soreness. The defense has ample depth on the line to compensate for any losses. Johnny Jolly would be back in the starting lineup at a tackle spot if Williams is moved outside.
For the Vikings, Holcomb figures to start again Sunday as Jackson recovers from a groin injury. The Vikings' continue to evaluate Jackson's status and last week did not announce their starter until Sunday. Jackson gives the Vikings a bit more mobility, but Holcomb provides some veteran savvy. Chester Taylor (hip) is expected to return after missing two games. The Vikings would like to get Taylor back because it will help reduce the workload on rookie Adrian Peterson. Peterson has 72 touches through three games and 431 yards from scrimmage. Troy Williamson missed last Sunday's game at Kansas City because of a hamstring injury, leaving the Vikings with four active receivers (Robert Ferguson, Bobby Wade, Aundrae Allison and Sidney Rice). Williamson should be able to go healthwise, but it will be a coaching decision how much time he sees. His absence would give the more sure-handed Sidney Rice a chance to get involved.
Vikings-Packers Game Plan
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