Top 10 Vikings matchups to monitor

The Vikings' rivalry game with Green Bay features plenty of intriguing and important matchups, enough to dust off the tired old top-10 format.

Top 10 lists are always a cheap device to get a point across, whether it be the best power ballad of all time or desert-island movie favorites. The same can be said about the Vikings-Packers. There will be so many potential game-changing confrontations going on in this game, we had enough to make a top 10 list.

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 CliftonClifton 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 PetersonWe 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-BiamilaThe 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 KampmanThe 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 RodgersJackson 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 HarrisThe 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 JenningsDonald 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 FinleyOf 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.


  • Word out of Green Bay is that Wells may be de-activated or at best used as an emergency backup, but you tend not to believe it until you see it these days with the injury report.

  • The injuries of the NFL are all too common, but Sunday's potentially season-ending knee injury to Tom Brady brought that point into perspective. Suddenly, the Patriots don't look so invincible. The team is said to be getting ready to work out Chris Simms and Tim Rattay. You have to wonder if former Viking Randy Moss would try to talk Bill Belichick into giving recently retired Daunte Culpepper a call. Their Minnesota relationship didn't end all that positively, but he knows how to get Moss the ball.

  • The Bears sent a message Sunday night that the Vikings might want to pay special heed to – blitz Peyton Manning fast enough and you can slow down the Indianapolis offense. It was clear that the Colts are going to miss Jeff Saturday because the Bears were able to blitz up the middle effectively and not give Manning time to get comfortable – forcing him to move laterally in the pocket on his injured knee.

  • Tennessee QB Vince Young may not be back by the time the Titans play the Vikings in Week 4. Young suffered a lower leg injury and the early projection is for him being out two to four weeks. The Vikings would be the third week of that timeline.

  • The Vikings might end up playing against Cedric Benson this year after all. With the first week of the season done for all but four teams, the rules change regarding contracts signed by veteran players – they aren't guaranteed if signed after the first week of the season. Word in Houston is that the Texans are going to work out Benson some time this week.

  • For those who saw the Bengals game, you may have noticed that Chad Johnson didn't have Ocho Cinco on his jersey. The league did not yet recognize his name change, saying that he and other NFL players have deals with Reebok – which manufactures jerseys for the NFL. If a player changes his number, he needs to get approval of the change as part of the contract, much less a name. For most players the point is moot, because Reebok only produces mass quantities of jerseys for the top stars. If you want to get a replica jersey of most players, you have to special order it, but players of Johnson's (or Ocho Cinco's) caliber have thousands of jerseys in stores throughout Ohio and other parts of the country that specialize in sports apparel. However, it likely won't be a problem because the Ocho Cinco jersey would be the best-selling novelty jersey since the league banned the sale of Michael Vick jerseys that said "Mexico" – a lawsuit filed against Vick in 2005 claimed he used the alias Ron Mexico (look up the more salacious details yourself).

  • An interesting rumor is circulating in San Diego that the Chargers, who are in the final year of their lease at their current stadium, may leave San Diego after this season and relocate to Los Angeles. For their regular-season opener, a local TV station had to buy up tickets to assure a sellout so the game would be televised locally – a problem the Vikings have had at times over the last couple of seasons.

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