Green Bay Packers: Will Defense Struggle Again Vs. Minnesota Vikings Offense?
Yet that's where the two teams stand heading into a pivotal showdown of the long-time rivals at Lambeau Field Sunday night.
And while there are story lines throughout this game, the one that catches my eye as a Packers' observer is the matchup between Green Bay's up-and-down defense and a Vikings' offense, which has yet to fully click.
It's a matchup that the Vikings' completely dominated last season, and if the story remains the same this season, there's no doubt in my mind that Minnesota will sweep the series again in 2010.
Looking deeper into the numbers of the matchup reveals some trends that have to be scary to Packers' fans.
Here's a few reasons why the Packers' defense is so important to the game Sunday night, and a couple tidbits on why this year may or may not be different for Green Bay.
Brett Favre vs. Dom Capers
It's a fact that was hashed over last season before the two faced off, but it remains true: Brett Favre is 8-0 against teams that Dom Capers has either coached or coordinated.
Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put out more stats that are frightening. Favre's average game against Capers: 21 of 34 for 281 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a rating of 107.1.
And last season, Capers certainly didn't help improve any of his career stats against Favre, as the Packers' defense gave up 515 yards and seven touchdowns in the two games during '09.
Capers has to turn around those statistics in a hurry, because I'd say there's no way the Packers beat the Vikings on Sunday if Favre is that good again.
And, to be honest, there's no indication he's ready to put up those type of numbers with the shaky start Favre has endured in 2010.
His stats are clearly down from his '09 campaign, and with a rating of 72.1 (28th in the NFL), he's a far cry from the quarterback he was when he posted a 107.2 rating last year.
Obviously through six weeks, the NFL has found a blueprint in stopping Brett Favre.
But it will be up to Capers and the defense to make sure they exploit that blueprint, and end Capers' winless streak against No. 4.
Randy Moss Returns to Lambeau
We're certainly not in 1999 anymore, but either way, No. 84 in purple and white will again be on the opposite sideline of the Packers' defense.
And that could spell trouble in Green Bay for a number of reasons.
The first, and most obvious reason, is the success Moss has had against the Green Bay Packers.
In 13 career games, Moss has caught 66 passes for 1243 yards (18.8 average) and 12 touchdowns. That equates to almost 100 yards and a touchdown every time Moss and the Packers play.
No Packers' fan should want Randy Moss anywhere near the end zone, especially after his "mooning" incident in his last game at Lambeau Field.
The second reason, and possibly more troubling, is the way No. 1 receivers have hurt the Packers in the last four weeks.
Against Chicago, Johnny Knox caught four passes for 94 yards, but that was only the tip of the iceberg.
Finally last week, the Dolphins' Brandon Marshall took the latest bite out of the Packers' secondary as he caught 10 balls for 127 yards. He nearly had a touchdown when he slipped behind the Packers' coverage but was ruled out of bounds.
It's an average of over 106 yards a game for No. 1 receivers, and the Packers' defense as a whole has given up 1140 yards passing (285 average) the past four games.
They are disturbing trends that the Packers have to address before Sunday night, because you get a bad feeling that if Favre goes for 285 and Moss has 106, the Vikings offense probably had a pretty good day.
Putting Favre On The Ground Is A Must
Take a wild guess at how many times the Packers sacked Brett Favre in 2009? If you guessed zero, you're right; the Green Bay defense registered a goose egg in the sack column during the two meetings last season.
It's another trend that, if it happens again Sunday night, gives you a bad feeling about the Packers' chances. Sacking Favre is almost a must, as these telling statistics (via Bedard) show how much keeping Favre upright means to the Vikings' offense:
In the 11 games Favre has been sacked two or fewer times, Minnesota is 10-1 and Favre has thrown 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions (108.5 rating).
In the 10 games Favre has been sacked more than twice, the Vikings are only 4-6 and Favre's stats drop to 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions (89.7).
Getting Clay Matthews back should help the Packers in that category immensely, as his worth has been on showcase the last five and a half quarters he's been out of the Green Bay defense.
Since he left the game in Washington, the Packers have only registered one sack and hardly laid a finger on the Dolphins' Chad Henne last week.
Needless to say, if Favre gets the kind of protection Henne received, the 41-year old dongslinger (did I say dongslinger? I meant gunslinger) will have a field day with the Packers' defense.
I wouldn't expect that with the NFL's sack leader Matthews back in the fold, and two Minnesota starting tackles who he should have no trouble running circles around on Sunday.
All Day Will Be There All Night
Adrian Peterson is another reason for Dom Capers to lose plenty of sleep this week. Peterson, like Moss, has found a lot of success in pounding the Packers' defense.
In six career games against Green Bay, Peterson has rushed for 604 yards and four touchdowns, and has also caught 10 passes for another 108 yards.
He's having another great season, leading the NFL in rushing yards per game at 110 and anchoring a Vikings' offense with 553 yards and four touchdowns. At his current pace, Peterson will rush for over 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns.
And to think he won't be the centerpiece of the Vikings' attack Sunday night is crazy (and possible). Against the Packers' 21st-ranked rush defense, Peterson could have another big game and is talented enough to keep Minnesota alive if Favre falters in the passing game.
But Vikings' coach Brad Childress has shied away from Peterson in the past, deferring to Favre and the passing game countless times even though he has the NFL's elite running specimen.
Let's just hope Childress keeps the ball out of No. 28's hands come Sunday night.
No Mercy for Percy
The final reason the Packers could struggle Sunday night is Percy Harvin.
Harvin is the type of game breaker who I don't think the Packers have an answer for. In the two meetings last year, Harvin caught seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, but he's a much better receiver this season.
He's benefited greatly from the trade for Moss, and now that he's back as the slot receiver, Harvin will be a handful for whoever has to line up opposite him.
Green Bay's Sam Shields has the speed to keep up with Harvin, but that's about it for elite speed on the Packers' defense. I think Shields would get overpowered by Harvin in that matchup anyway.
I'd say the Packers only option would be lining up Charles Woodson against him. He's a veteran who could bully Harvin at the line, and Woodson is always better when he's covering the slot man and around the football.
That leaves either Tramon Williams or Al Harris with the duty of covering Moss, and I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be with either of those scenarios.
Either way, it's clear the Vikings have some favorable matchups against the Packers' defense. But that doesn't guarantee what happened last year will happen again.
Favre is nowhere near his 2009 self, and Childress is one of the best in business in screwing things up from the sidelines.
Regardless, it's clear to me that this matchup of Packers' defense vs. Vikings' offense is the one to watch.
Will Green Bay's defense keep the Vikings' offense in the shell it's been in all season, or will Favre and Minnesota finally start to click?
I can't wait to find out that answer.
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