Green Bay Packers Week 7: 10 Keys to Victory for Packers over Minnesota Vikings
The Packers are the only undefeated team left in the NFL, and look to remain unbeaten against the 1-5 Minnesota Vikings. The Packers are coming off an easy 24-3 victory at home against the St. Louis Rams, though the defense continued to give up a decent amount of yardage, but only gave up three points by the end of four quarters.
They head to Minnesota to face the Vikings, after losing to the Chicago Bears 39-10 in a game where the Vikings benched Donovan McNabb and gave rookie first-round pick Christian Ponder his first NFL playing time.
Stop Adrian Peterson
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Whether Donovan McNabb or Christian Ponder is starting this Sunday remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: Neither quarterback can beat the Green Bay Packers alone. Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers offense is running too smoothly to lose in a shootout to either one of these quarterbacks.
The only way a team is going to beat the Packers this year is by controlling the clock with the ground game and limiting turnovers. The Steelers in the Super Bowl provided the blueprint, but once Clay Matthews forced the ball out of Rashard Mendenhall's grip, the Steelers attempted to pass to get back in it and ended up losing the game.
Adrian Peterson is a monster and is the only real threat on this offense right now since neither quarterback is going to be able to completely utilize the full set of tools offered by Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe.
If the Packers stop AP, it'd be hard to fathom the Pack not heading into their bye week 7-0.
Protect Aaron Rodgers' Blindside
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Marshall Newhouse is currently making a name for himself. After stepping in for the injured RT Bryan Bulaga, Newhouse had to slip to the opposite side of the line the same game when LT Chad Clifton was injured.
Since then, Newhouse has done a very good job of manning one of the most important positions in the NFL, especially for an offense that relies on the passing game as much as the Packers do. Not too shabby for a 2010 fifth-round pick.
This week he will have his hands full with Jared Allen who has come back into form after a somewhat disappointing 2010 campaign. Allen last week had a forced fumble and fumble recovery, and also had a sack in his eighth straight game, tying a team record.
Expect Newhouse to get some pointers from Clifton who has battled Allen often and coach Mike McCarthy to roll Aaron Rodgers out to the right and call quick slants in the beginning for Newhouse to get comfortable. So far however, Newhouse has been playing beyond anyone's expectations for this second-year player.
Get Ahead Early
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The Packers have excelled at scoring early and scoring fast. This year they have shown the ability to put games away by running out the clock and having the defense buckle down by forcing the opposing offenses to pass more than they would like.
Mike McCarthy has not gotten enough credit for the system that he runs in Green Bay, and is often overlooked by jump-start head coaches (see: Jim Harbaugh, Ron Rivera) or coaches who have exceeded expectations (Marvin Lewis) in the Coach of the Year discussion. Nevertheless, the Packers are undefeated, and he is one of the reasons why.
The Packers are going to want to come out swinging and get the crowd out of it early, and even get the Packer fans attending the Metrodome to get loud (a large number of Packer fans gobble up tickets at the Metrodome, especially a year in which the Vikings are under-performing and the Packers are hitting on all cylinders).
Expect to see a couple long throws early and Aaron Rodgers to continue his torrid first half numbers. By doing this, the Packers will have essentially taken Adrian Peterson out of the game, and will force either Christian Ponder or Donovan McNabb to beat them. This is the ideal scenario for Green Bay.
Feed Jermichael Finley
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While the Packers offense has been going strong, it still has not been perfect. Jermichael Finley has not had a memorable last couple games after his three-touchdown performance against Chicago. Finley adds a component to this offense that sets it apart from other top tier offenses in the NFL.
He's too big for safeties and too fast for linebackers. Aaron Rodgers knows this, Mike McCarthy knows this and every defensive coordinator in the NFL knows this. So in order for Finley to be the game-changer everyone knows he can be, expect Rodgers to throw his way more often this game.
Finley has had some of his biggest moments and games against the Vikings in his career. Don't be surprised to see it continue.
Limit Percy Harvin
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Percy Harvin is the only real threat the Vikings have in their passing attack. The explosive receiver out of Florida is a dynamite stick in the mold of a DeSean Jackson who can take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
The more the Packers are able to keep the ball headed another direction, the better. Harvin should be the top priority of this defense behind Adrian Peterson.
Help Clay Matthews
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Some people look at Clay Matthews' stats this year and see a player who is coming down to earth. However, his play this season has been fantastic, and his stats total do not tell the whole story. He's playing the run better than ever, still brings it every play and in passing situations is drawing two, sometimes even three blockers.
With this attention, the rest of the defense needs to step up and provide more pressure. Frank Zombo is back from injury and should help Erik Walden provide pressure from the right side. B.J. Raji needs to get the same pressure he was getting at the end of last year.
Dom Capers needs to keep drawing up blitzes involving cornerbacks and safeties. Matthews is a great player, but a team cannot depend on one guy to draw pressure.
Attack Cornerback Cedric Griffin
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Anybody who watched the Vikings Bears game saw how easy receivers for the Bears were getting open against the Vikings secondary. GM Jerry Angelo of the Bears has been getting killed all year for his unwillingness to obtain a better receiving corps than what he gave Jay Cutler this year.
The Packers might have the best receiving corps in the NFL. All this adds up to the Packers having a favorable matchup in the air. The cornerback most picked on against the Bears was Cedric Griffin. Don't be surprised for the Packers to pick up on this and exploit Griffin against top tier receivers such as Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones.
Run to Set Up Play Action
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The Packers offense has scored on big play action calls all year. It seems as though every game there has been one called play action bomb, and it has connected more times than it has not. For some reason, defenses are still getting beat on the play, so look for the Packers to keep calling it.
For it to work however, Green Bay needs a strong running game to keep the defense honest. No one is going to confuse Ryan Grant or James Starks for Adrian Peterson, but both backs are hard runners who more often than not get positive yards. If McCarthy calls enough runs early, and the backs are doing their jobs, watch out for a big play action call.
Watch the Screens
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If Christian Ponder starts for the Vikings expect more of these calls, but with either one of these quarterbacks, the Vikings are going to call their fair share of screens. Whether it's a bubble screen to Percy Harvin, or a screen to third down back Lorenzo Booker, the Packers have to be able to diagnose them and blow them up in the backfield.
Last week the Packers defended Rams screens well, and will look to continue that at the Metrodome.
Help Morgan Burnett
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Morgan Burnett should be applauded. The man is playing safety in the NFL with a broken hand, which on game day is transformed into a club. While Burnett has been a ball-hawk in the early parts of the season, there is no way he could catch a hard pass thrown his way.
With Nick Collins already out for the season, safety is a position that has hit some troubled times so far this year in Green Bay. The corners have been getting better each week, and that trend must continue to shore up a secondary that has a safety playing with one hand.