Who's going to win tonight? The team that wins the majority of these battles:
No. 1: Pat and Kevin Williams vs. the Packers interior line — The Packers intend, when all are healthy, to have Scott Wells at center flanked by Mark Spitz and Daryn Colledge – a pair of up-and-down guards that have never really replaced Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle. There is a pretty good chance that the Vikings might end up facing Spitz at center and either backup tackle Tony Moll or backup left guard Allen Barbre at the right guard spot. This could be a domination of huge proportions if the Williams Wall can overpower players who are inexperienced and out of their natural positions.
No. 2: Jared Allen vs. Chad Clifton — Clifton has been battling pain in both of his knees and, in his ninth season, the game-to-game pounding is starting to take a toll. If the Vikings are to hurt the Packers offense, Allen schooling Clifton for a sack or two or perhaps a turnover is a must.
No. 3: The Packers defense vs. Adrian Peterson — We are likely to see a preview of how defenses plan to attack the Vikings and that plan starts (and may end) with the Packers putting eight men in the box when they're convinced Peterson will get the ball. We've seen that when Peterson gets the blocking he needs, there is no more explosive player in the open field.
No. 4: Artis Hicks vs. Cullen Jenkins and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila — The Vikings were more than a little upset to hear that Bryant McKinnie got a four-game suspension, but even if it had been reduced, it wouldn't help the team this week. Hicks got moved to left tackle in a pinch while with the Eagles on a Monday night game against Miami, drawing the assignment of Jason Taylor. Hicks accounted for himself well in that game and the Vikings will need another step-up performance.
No. 5: Ryan Cook vs. Aaron Kampman — The Vikings wanted Kampman bad enough that they offered him a lucrative contract as a restricted free agent with an offer sheet the Packers matched. They have not been disappointed with that decision. Over the last two years, nobody in the NFC has more sacks than Kampman. Cook has been adequate at best at the right tackle spot and the kind of pressure Kampman can bring is the type that causes turnovers. If the Vikings are in the situation that they have to pass, if Cook can't hold his own against Kampman, the Vikings will have a difficult time winning.
No. 6: Ryan Grant vs. the Vikings defense — Grant was the only running back to gain 100 yards in a game against the Vikings defense last year. He had 25 carries for 119 yards in the 34-0 blowout Packers win at Lambeau Field last year. If the Vikings are to win, he can't have that kind of day again.
No. 7: Tarvaris Jackson vs. Aaron Rodgers — Jackson has been erratic in his short career and Rodgers is making his first career start. With the attention this game is garnering, both will likely be nervous and not wanting to make the critical mistake that costs his team the game. If either lacks confidence, it will be evident early on. Both players likely will be asked to manage the game rather than take it over. If one of them fails, it could easily turn the tide of the game.
No. 8: Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice vs. Charles Woodson and Al Harris — The Packers have a pretty hard and fast rule defensively – Woodson and Harris play physical bump-and-run coverage and are often asked to take a receiver all the way down the field with little to no safety support. One blown coverage can result in huge plays. If the Vikings can isolate one or both of them and take a few shots deep downfield, the passing game could provide the big play needed for a tough road win.
No. 9: Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin vs. Greg Jennings — Donald Driver is a very good receiver, but Jennings is a home-run hitter. Much like when the Vikings faced the Bears aware that Berrian and Devin Hester were the two players they had to contend with concerning back-breaking big plays, the same is true for Jennings. He averaged 17.4 yards per reception and scored 12 TDs on just 53 catches. He can strike like a rattlesnake, and one mistake or bite on a double move could lead to an easy touchdown.
No. 10: Visanthe Shiancoe and Garrett Mills vs. Donald Lee and Jermichael Finley — Of all the cast of characters heading into this game, one seemingly lost element is that both teams run a West Coast Offense that is designed to get plays deep over the middle to tight ends with a linebacker in coverage. With defensive attention expected to be given to the running game and tight coverage to both teams' receivers, the tight ends that create a big play or two down the seam could be the key to victory.