At 6-1, the Vikings have plenty to be confident about, but they are heading into the home stadium of their biggest rival, the Green Bay Packers, who have won their last two games and are 4-2.
With consecutive wins – 26-0 against the Detroit Lions and 31-3 against the Cleveland Browns – the Packers are feeling good about their improvement, even though they did come against teams with a combined 2-11 record. The last loss for the Packers came against Minnesota on Oct. 5 in the Metrodome, and Green Bay's coaches are confident they have improved.
"Our confidence is high, and it damn well should be," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday after their win against Cleveland. "We're growing as a football team. We're coming forward with the targets we're trying to hit. I think we're definitely, from a preparation standpoint, it's looking the way you want it to look week in and week out ….We feel very, very good about ourselves as a football team."
Defensively, the Packers are making strides. Vikings guard Anthony Herrera said he thinks the Green Bay defenders are getting more used to the 3-4 scheme that defensive coordinator Dom Capers has implemented.
For his part, Capers outlined several areas where he thinks his defense has improved since the last meeting between the two teams, only four weeks before this one.
"No. 1, we've played well on first down. We've stopped the run, so we've been able to make it a little bit more of a one-dimensional team. When you do that, you normally can get more pressure on the quarterback if you get an offense a little bit more predictable," he said.
The Packers actually did a good job of that in Metrodome, holding Adrian Peterson to 55 yards on 25 carries, but that didn't translate into getting pressure on Brett Favre. He went the entire game without a sack.
Capers admitted Green Bay didn't play well on third down against the Vikings.
"If you go back to the Viking game, that was where we have to improve. I think the last two weeks, people have converted only two third downs on us in two games, and we've played very well in the red area the last two games. I think those things are the biggest differences," Capers said.
The Vikings were much more successful on third downs against the Packers, converting 8 of 14 third-down attempts against the Packers on Oct. 5.
"I think (the Vikings) had like seven third downs in a row that they converted. Some of those were third-and-ones, which you can live with," Caper said. "Secondly, we have to play in the red zone like we've been playing in the red zone the last two weeks. If you can keep people out of the end zone — even if they get down there, keep them kicking field goals as opposed to scoring touchdowns — you really increase your chances of winning."
The Vikings did score touchdowns on all three of their possessions inside the 20-yard line the last time the two teams play. Visanthe Shiancoe caught a 1-yard touchdown, Sidney Rice caught a 14-yarder and Adrian Peterson ran in from the 1-yard line.
Bernard Berrian also caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Favre, and eliminating the big plays is another focus for Capers. On Oct. 5, the Vikings had four plays that went for a combined 123 yards – all of them passes from Favre – a 43-yarder to Percy Harvin, the 31-yard TD to Berrian, a 25-yard pass to Jeff Dugan and a 24-yarder to Rice.
"When you're dealing with a guy like Brett, who's an experienced guy, the minute he reads pressure, he's unloading that ball and getting it out of there. If it's a longer yardage situation, many times they're going to keep seven in to protect," Capers said. "There's no question we've got to try to generate more pressure. You don't want to do that to the extent where you've got 20- and 30-yard runs coming out of there, and then you open yourself up to bigger plays down the field. We've got to be able to find a way to be a little bit more disruptive and yet not give them anything up the field."
But the Packers have been doing well since that last meeting. After the two blowouts against the Lions and Browns, Green Bay is second in the league in turnover ratio at plus-10 and has the eighth-ranked offense and third-ranked defense.
"We're an improved football team and we've improved the last two weeks. That's really what my focus is on," McCarthy said. "We're 4-2. We won two games that we felt we were the better team than our opponent. That's what you are supposed to do, but more importantly, you have to improve. Confidence is a big part of this business and our confidence has definitely grown. It's a plan, a preparation … and it's a correction mindset, and I think our team has done a very good job with that."
Packers preparing with confidence
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