Vikings vs. Packers, Week 7: 5 Players to Watch This Sunday

Brian Dezelske@@BrianDezelskeCorrespondent IIIOctober 21, 2011

Vikings vs. Packers, Week 7: 5 Players to Watch This Sunday

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    Adrian Peterson will be right behind Christian Ponder as the rookie QB gets his first crack as the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday—it also happens to be against the reigning Super Bowl Champs in the hated division-rival Green Bay Packers.

    Ponder is the biggest key player in this Sunday’s game that everyone will be paying close attention to.

    However, there are several other key players on both sides of the ball that will be huge factors in this division matchup.

    Without wasting any more time, let’s dive in and break these players down and take a look at their critical matchups.

Christian Ponder

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    All eyes will be on this young rookie as he takes on a stout Packers pass rush, but a weaker pass defense that ranks 31st in the NFL against the pass.

    Ponder is sure to have plenty of opportunities to penetrate the defense downfield—he’ll need to test the waters early and break through to force the Packers away from stacking eight and nine men in the box.

Charlie Johnson

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    Charlie Johnson is the Vikings' less-than-stellar left tackle that has the tall order of blocking Clay Matthews all game long.

    Johnson has been average at best in his replacement of Bryant McKinnie. If Ponder and the Vikes have any shot of moving the ball down the field, Johnson must contain Matthews—probably with tight-end help and a running back to help chip as he’s coming off the edge.

    When it's all said and done, this could be the most important matchup of the game.

Marshall Newhouse

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    What goes for Charlie Johnson also goes for Marshall Newhouse. The relatively unknown left tackle is lucky enough to have drawn the NFL’s sack leader, Jared Allen, as this weekend's dance partner.

    One of the main reasons Aaron Rodgers can be a dominant quarterback is the great protection he has up front. What Newhouse needs to do is make sure Allen doesn't do the two-step on the back of Rodgers' jersey.

    As Kevin Seifert of writes, Newhouse is making his second NFL start while Chad Clifton recovers from a hamstring injury, which means that keeping Allen off of Rodgers may prove to be more than he can handle.

    He better bring his A-game if he plans on keeping Allen from chewing Rodgers up and spitting him out.

Chris Cook

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    A lot of talk has been made regarding the lack of coverage from the Vikings' corners and there’s no doubt things have been shaky back there, especially since the loss of Antoine Winfield.

    Chris Cook is a large part of the Vikings struggles in the secondary. He hasn’t quite lived up to expectations since being drafted early in the second round back in 2010.

    In order for the Vikings to have any shot at all, Cook and Cedric Griffin are going to have to come up big against what is considered by many to be the best receiving corps in the league. 

James Starks

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    The Packers lack of a run game last year seems to have spilled over into this season. Right now they’re pushing along at 3.8 yards per carry, which is 27th in the NFL and nowhere close to where they want to be as a team.

    In order for the Packers' offense to keep the pressure from Jared Allen and Brian Robison at bay, they will need to generate enough of a run game against the Vikes' sixth-ranked rush defense that’s only giving up 3.5 yards per carry.

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