Adrian Peterson is the talk in Minnesota and the focus of defense in Green Bay. See the perspective from both camps, along with the matchups to watch in Sunday's division-rival game.
right, Adrian Peterson left and Adrian Peterson up the middle. That's what the Green Bay Packers
will be expecting Sunday at Lambeau Field and that's what they are going to get.
The San Diego Chargers
' 3-4 defensive scheme was able to hold Peterson to 43 yards on 13 first-half carries last week so that had to be encouraging for the Green Bay defense. The problem is if the Packers watched the second half they saw Peterson run for 253 yards on 17 carries (14.9 yards per attempt).
The Packers have the eighth-ranked run defense in the NFL this season and will go all out to stop Peterson with eight or nine men in the box. (Anybody who doesn't at this point is crazy.)
This means they will dare, heck encourage, the Vikings to pass the ball. Minnesota has been playing musical quarterbacks of late because of injury problems and its 30th-ranked passing game commands little respect.
The Packers, meanwhile, will go to the air early and often against a Vikings pass defense that moved from last in the NFL to next to last after a solid performance last Sunday against the Chargers.
Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier devised a game plan that put consistent pressure on San Diego's overmatched quarterback Philip Rivers
. It seemed to work, in part because Minnesota's top-notch run defense made life miserable on LaDainian Tomlinson
(40 yards, 16 carries).
Packers quarterback Brett Favre
, playing at the top of his game these days, certainly won't be bothered by any looks Frazier will throw at him. Favre completed 32 of 45 passes for 344 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 108.0 quarterback rating in the first meeting between these clubs.
It's no secret how these archrivals will be trying to attack one another. Minnesota wants to run all day with rookie wunderkind Adrian Peterson, a week removed from his league-record, 296-yard rushing performance. The Packers are prepared to get a heavier dose of Peterson after Vikings coach Brad Childress inexplicably limited him to 12 carries in their first meeting — Peterson had only two runs in the second half after he gashed Green Bay for 108 yards in the first half. Save for giving up a 55-yard tote, Green Bay's solid run defense had one of the better efforts against Peterson so far this season.
Keep Peterson from reaching triple digits, and Green Bay would be poised to improve to 8-1 because it need not worry about what else the Vikings supposedly have on offense.
The Packers likely will be compelled to be one-dimensional themselves on offense, since their injury-plagued running game should remain in neutral against Minnesota's formidable front. Yet, relying strictly on the pass will be to their advantage. Brett Favre has his deep-ball groove on at age 38, directing the league's No. 2 pass offense, and he'll be able to pick on a 31st-rated pass defense with a shaky secondary. Ball security, though, will be critical for the Packers. Minnesota leads the league with 14 forced fumbles. The Packers put the ball on the Metrodome turf four times, losing two, and were fortunate to get out with a win in that early-season game.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH RB Adrian Peterson carried the ball only 12 times for 112 yards the first time the Packers and Vikings met. Green Bay should consider that a one-time favor from Minnesota because it won't happen again. This means several members of the Green Bay defense figures to be busy trying to contain the rookie sensation. Among those who must help in run support is middle linebacker Nick Barnett. The Vikings don't pose much of a passing threat so Barnett figures to put his focus on Peterson throughout the afternoon.
CB Charles Gordon has done a good job in the past two games since taking over as the Vikings' nickel back. But this will be the second-year player's biggest test, especially since playing against the slot receiver means he could frequently be trying to stop Donald Driver, who is Green Bay's leading receiver. Driver has 44 catches for 539 yards and figures to use his veteran savvy to teach Gordon a thing or two. If Gordon can hang in there, he will have proven he deserves to be in this role.
This seems to be a weekly theme but once again Vikings RT Ryan Cook will be presented with a very difficult matchup. Cook, who has had an up-and-down season at best, will be faced with trying to contain Packers left end Aaron Kampman, whose nine sacks this season are tied for first in the NFL with Philadelphia's Trent Cole. Kampman had one sack in the first game between these teams this season. Cook is going to need tight end help throughout the afternoon.
Interior of Packers offensive line vs. Vikings DTs Kevin Williams and Pat Williams — Green Bay has serious concerns with the play of its young guards, and there's no telling who will man the starting posts Sunday. The state of flux on both sides of C Scott Wells doesn't come at an opportune time, what with the imposing Williams tandem lined up on the other side. While all of the attention is on what the Vikings' Adrian Peterson will do for an encore after his record-breaking rushing performance, the Packers would like to grind out some significant yardage with their league-worst run game. They managed only 46 yards in 20 cracks earlier in the season at Minnesota. If the execution by the guards doesn't improve, the Williamses will have their way, as they typically do against Green Bay, in anchoring the Vikings' second-rated run defense. Kevin Williams, who has 16 quarterback hurries, also will have to be accounted for in pass protection.
Packers QB Brett Favre vs. Vikings SS Darren Sharper — Favre claims he didn't catch wind of his famously loquacious ex-teammate's fighting words earlier this week because he was out hunting. Sharper is daring Favre to follow his course of action of late by throwing the ball deep. Favre took the high road Wednesday, so as not to further stoke the competitive border rivalry. Sharper routinely picked off wayward long balls from Favre in practice during their time together until last year. Sharper intercepted a Favre heave on the Packers' first play from scrimmage in the first meeting this year, but it was negated by a Vikings penalty. The intended target was Greg Jennings. Fast forward to the past two games, and Favre has been impeccable in hitting Jennings, not to mention Donald Driver and James Jones, with deep throws. A few more of those Sunday should hush Sharper until the teams reunite next season.