Green Bay Packers: 5 Big Questions for Sunday's Game Against the Vikings
In Week 7, the Packers travel to Minneapolis to take on their division rival the Minnesota Vikings, who are sitting at the bottom of the division at 1-5. Despite the poor record, this is not a team to be taken lightly, considering the talent existing on the team and, of course, considering the fact that they are a fellow NFC North foe.
The Packers may be lucky this week to have rookie quarterback Christian Ponder getting his first NFL start. However, with all the struggles on defense this year, the Packers could still find themselves getting picked apart much like they did against rookie quarterback Cam Newton is Week 2.
While the Packers are heavily favored to win, there are still some big questions for Sunday's game that will decide the direction the game will go in. Here are the big questions surrounding the Packers for this week against the Vikings.
5. Will Crowd Noise Be a Factor?
Aaron Rodgers has said that the Metrodome is one of the most difficult places to play, based on the simple fact that the stadium gets so loud because of a raucous Vikings crowd cheering in the dome. However, with the Vikings struggling for the second season in a row, are Vikings fans behind their team in the same way that they were a couple of years ago?
Also, consider the fact that there will be many Packers fans making the short trip from Wisconsin to Minnesota. If the Packers get a good showing from their fans, or if they can silence the home-field crowd early, then the noise factor could be essentially neutralized, giving the Packers a better chance to win.
4. Will the Packers Be Able To Stop Adrian Peterson?
With a rookie quarterback starting for his first game this week, the Vikings may take a conservative approach and run the ball. This is easy to do when you have one of the best running backs in the league in Adrian Peterson.
However, the Packers have done very well this year stopping the run, as they were able to limit their other NFC North foe, the Chicago Bears, to only two yards rushing with premier running back Matt Forte. If the Packers can shut down Adrian Peterson, they will have a very good chance of winning this game. Of course, this is easier said than done.
3. Will the Packers Passing Game Take Advantage of a Weak Vikings Secondary?
The Vikings have an aging defense that has already become beat up in the first six games. This is especially true for the Vikings' secondary, which has struggled all season long against the pass, ranking 24th in the league. This is good news for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense, who have been putting up incredible numbers in the air.
Aaron Rodgers has perhaps been playing better than anyone else in the league so far, and he is set up to have another great game this week. But there is one man who could seriously get in the way of this, who I will get to in my next question.
2. Will the Offensive Line Protect Aaron Rodgers Against Jared Allen?
Jared Allen has quietly been putting up some of the best numbers in the league for a defensive end this year, recording 9.5 sacks already in 2011. And against the Packers, Allen has had some of his best games. Considering that the Packers' offensive line is already beat up with the losses of Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton, it is very possible that Allen could have another big day against the Pack.
If Aaron Rodgers is going to be able to pick apart the Vikings secondary, he is going to have to stay upright, which means that young and unproven lineman Marshall Newhouse will have to step up and fill the void of Chad Clifton. This could be a tall order for the young Newhouse, especially against Allen, one of the best defensive ends in the league.
1. Will the Packers Defense Take Advantage of a Rookie Quarterback?
The Packers are ranked second to last against the pass this year, which is surprising considering how dominant the Packers were on defense last year, particularly against the pass. And while they have been playing better in the last two weeks, they have still given up over 300 yards passing to the likes of Cam Newton, Kyle Orton and Sam Bradford.
Christian Ponder is in a very similar situation that Newton was a few weeks ago; it is his first start, and he is in the tough spot of trying to turn this Vikings team around. It is unclear whether or not the Packers will be able to take advantage of Christian Ponder's lack of experience in the NFL, as they weren't necessarily able to against Cam Newton.
However, this is a veteran defense that has certainly proved that they are one of the best in the league when they are playing their best. If the defense can continue the success they've had in the past game and a half, and are able to shut down Christian Ponder (which shouldn't be that hard), then the Packers should be on their way to 7-0.