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AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - In recent years much of the excitement surrounding the Minnesota Vikings has been tempered off the field distraction and down right nasty performance on the field. Still, there are two games on the Vikings schedule each year that will never take any extra-curricular impulsing to get the fans riled up. Vikings at Packers and Packers at Vikings. One of those games happens to be this weekend as Aaron Rodgers and the 7-4 Green Bay Packers will play host to the 6-5 Minnesota Vikings.
After losing three of their first five games of the season, the Green Bay Packers rattled off five straight wins including a trademark 42-24 win over the 10-1 Houston Texans. Most recently though, the Packers laid an egg on national television dropping last week's Sunday night tilt to the New York Giants by a score of 38-10. Angry and looking to bounce back, the Packers will surely be ready to play Sunday afternoon against the Vikings, but do they have the team to put Minnesota down and out for a fifth consecutive time?
Here are some things that you should be looking for as the Vikings take on the Packers Sunday at noon.
While the official injury reports for Sunday have not yet been released (should be coming Friday afternoon) both the Vikings and the Packers will likely be missing integral parts to their game plans on Sunday.
After giving it a go on Wednesday afternoon, Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin did not practice on Thursday. Harvin has missed the past two games with an ankle injury and based off of how badly he was limping on Wednesday, I would have to say that it is doubtful that Percy will be ready to go full throttle by kickoff on Sunday afternoon. Other than that, the Vikings are a bit bruised but not too battered.
Kyle Rudolph (concussion/shoulder), Jasper Brinkley (shoulder), Phil Loadholt (knee), Harrison Smith (concussion), and Antoine Winfield (knee) have all been limited this week but are expected to play.
For the Packers, two members of the secondary, Charles Woodson (collarbone) and Sam Shields (ankle), have already been ruled out of Sunday's game and an army of others are in question. Donald Driver (thumb), Clay Matthews (hamstring), Ryan Pickett (quadricep), Johnny White (concussion) and C.J. Wilson (knee) have yet to take part in a practice this week. Also limited for the Pack is Terrell Manning (shoulder), Marshall Newhouse (wrist), Andrew Quarless (knee) and Sean Richardson (back).
If last week's 61-yard touchdown reception was any hint, Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson appears to be healthy and a viable threat for the Packers passing game. Add to that the return of veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings who has missed most of the season so far with various injuries and the Packers aerial attack is getting all of their weapons back at the right time of the year.
While the pieces around him have been in and out this year, Aaron Rodgers has continued to stand tall in the pocket and is putting up some crazy numbers against divisional opponents, especially the Minnesota Vikings. Rodgers made his first career start against the Minnesota Vikings in 2008 and posted a 115.5 passer rating. Since that point, he's never looked back and only gotten better.
In eight career games against the Vikings, Rodgers has combined for a 116.5 passer rating, passing for 2,172 yards and 19 TDs with just three INTs. The three most recent games have gone for a combined 145.4 passer rating.
While the Vikings pass defense is greatly improved this season, there is still a long ways to go and Rodgers knows how exploit even the best defenses in the league.
The Packers combination of Alex Green, Cedric Benson, James Starks, Aaron Rodgers, John Kuhn and Randall Cobb have combined for a total of 1,108 yards rushing this season. Conversely, Adrian Peterson alone has eclipsed this mark with his 1,236 yards on the year. Needless to say, the Packers have been pretty one-dimensional so far this year.
Forced to try the run, simply to keep opposing defenses honest, the Packers average only 3.8 yards per carry and have only found the endzone twice via ground delivery. I wouldn't expect the Packers to run much even against a Vikings defense that has proven vulnerable on the ground.
Because of what he's done in the past and because they are in the middle of a playoff push, the Packers are in no shape to replace their kicker, but looking at his past few weeks, Mason Crosby is a legitimate liability for Green Bay.
A career 77% field goal kicker, Crosby has missed at least one field goal in each of the Packers last five games. On the season Crosby has eight misses and has connected on only one kick from outside of 50 yards. Unable to kick from distance and unable to regain his confidence, Crosby has been a shell of his former self for much of the season. If Sunday's game comes down to one final FG attempt to end the game, millions of eyes and mountains of pressure will be raining down on Crosby as he attempts to kick the Packers to victory.
- Get on the Board Early: If the Vikings win the coin toss on Sunday they should opt to receive the ball and do their darnedest to find the endzone on the first drive of the game. When playing at home with your hometown crowd behind you, it may be smarter to defer but on the road against your arch rival is a perfect place to get out to an early lead and set the tone for the day.
- Get Pressure on Aaron Rodgers: With little threat of a run game, the Vikings defensive line should be pinning their ears back and chasing down Aaron Rodgers all day. Injuries and lack of talent have left the Packers offensive line susceptible to a good pass rush and Jared Allen is beyond due for an impactful performance.
- Open up the Field For Adrian: AP will likely run all over the Packers no matter what, but imagine the impact that he could have if Christian Ponder and the passing attack can start clicking early in the first half! There's no doubt that he's the best running back in the league, it's time to give him some support and force the opposition to play him straight up.
While I do legitimately think that the Vikings have a decent opportunity to shock some of the pundits this weekend and upset the Green Bay Packers, I have not seen enough consistency from them to give them the nod in my prediction. I see Adrian Peterson having a monster afternoon but fear that Aaron Rodgers might have a bigger one. The Packers are a tough beat at Lambeau Field winning 17 of their last 18 and 23 of their last 25. Unfortunately I see this one going the way of the Green and Yellow.
Vikings 24 - Packers 31