While the 2-6 Minnesota Vikings won't have much to play for in terms of the standings on Monday night, there is no question that they will want to give the Green Bay Packers their first blemish of the season.
The 8-0 Packers have been absolutely dominant, particularly on offense, and are surely favored to be back-to-back Super Bowl Champions. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been unstoppable to be certain, but the defense has proven beatable and could come into play against the Vikings.
Minnesota has had a rough year, but the Vikes hung with the Packers a few weeks ago and lost by just six points. The Vikings have been rejuvenated by the play of rookie quarterback Christian Ponder and have a lot of solid components on defense as well.
The Vikings have already proven to be a worthy opponent for the Packers, and they longer they go undefeated, the more pressure will begin to mount. It may not seem likely that the Vikings would be the team to knock Green Bay off, but the Packers will certainly have to be alert under the bright lights.
Where: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc.
When: Monday, Nov. 14 at 8:30 p.m. EDT
Listen: ESPN Radio; KFXN 100.3 FM (Minnesota) and WTMJ 620 AM (Green Bay); Sirius XM Satellite Radio: XM 225 (Internet 878, Minnesota) and XM 226 (Internet 872, Green Bay)
Betting Line: Green Bay (-14)
What's at Stake?
Although the Vikings aren't technically eliminated from playoff contention, this game will be more about pride and defeating a division rival. The Vikings aren't realistically going anywhere this season, but beating the undefeated Packers would be a major feather in their cap.
As for the Packers, they have a shot at a truly magical season. The schedule is certainly in place for an undefeated season, and with teams like the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears in their division, every win is important. A loss wouldn't be crippling for the Packers, but it might cool their swagger a little bit.
Vikings Injury Report
Out: OL Anthony Herrera (knee)
Questionable: DB Antoine Winfield (neck)
Packers Injury Report
Out: RB Alex Green (knee - IR)
Questionable: OL Chad Clifton (hamstring), LB Frank Zombo (hamstring)
Probable: DB Morgan Burnett (hand)
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
Start: QB Aaron Rodgers (GB) - Aaron Rodgers may very well be the best player on the planet right now, both in real and fantasy terms. He is a threat to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns every week, and that is certainly a possibility against a Vikings secondary that he carved up a few weeks ago.
Sit: RB James Starks (GB) - Seeing as the Packers are a pass-first team, running back James Starks doesn't put up the same numbers he could on a more run-oriented team. Despite that, he usually makes the most of his touches. I wouldn't expect him to get much going this week, though, against Minnesota's stout run defense.
Sleeper: QB Christian Ponder (MIN) - While there aren't any byes this week, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder would be an advisable start in deeper leagues this week. Ponder looked very good against the Packers in his first career start a few weeks back, and the Packers' pass defense is in disarray. He could be sneaky good this week.
What They're Saying
Despite the fact that he has struggled with injuries throughout his young career, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin is an integral part of the team. While he has had to sit some games out, his grit and determination displayed in playing through pain makes an impression on his teammates, according to Dave Campbell of the Associated Press.
'The guy is unbelievable,' (quarterback Christian) Ponder said. 'He's tough. He's one of the toughest guys on the team, not only physically but mentally. I think the biggest play of the game was him catching that flat — it was a hot route — on the last drive and making a guy miss and getting the first down. He's got tremendous heart, and he's a tremendous player.'
While the Green Bay Packers are the NFL's only remaining undefeated teams, they aren't without their faults. The Packers were torched through the air in their 45-38 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday and communication problems had a lot to do with it, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
'This is just a matter of getting everybody hitting on all cylinders,' linebacker Desmond Bishop said. It's up and down. Sometimes we're on point and sometimes we're not. We just need to figure out how to hit on all cylinders.'
'Maybe simplifying it might not be like a punishment,' Bishop said. 'It might actually be good. Teams game plan for so much stuff and we only do a few things, it might throw them off. But that's up to the coaches.'
Vikings Player to Watch: RB Adrian Peterson
Running back Adrian Peterson is by far the Vikings' best player, and he will have to play like it if the Vikings are going to beat the Packers. Green Bay is quite good against the run, but if Peterson get get something going on the ground, then it will keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers' hands.
While the Vikings may be able to go blow for blow through the air with the Packers for a quarter or a half, it isn't sustainable for an entire game. If Peterson can help Minnesota win the time of possession battle, though, then perhaps the Vikes can pull off the upset.
Packers Player to Watch: QB Aaron Rodgers
The Packers' success begins and ends with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. No matter how poorly the defense plays, Green Bay always has a chance as long as Rodgers plays well. Green Bay probably won't be able to run the ball much on Minnesota, so everything rests on Rodgers' shoulders.
Rodgers has been spectacular in literally every game he has played this season, and Monday night should be no exception. If Rodgers slips up even a bit, then the Packers are very susceptible, but that doesn't seem likely to happen.
Key Matchup: Vikings Pass Rush vs. Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers cannot be stopped, but perhaps he can be slowed down to an extent. The Vikings have an impressive pair of edge rushers in Jared Allen and Brian Robison, and if they can get in Rodgers' grill, then they may be able to disrupt the rhythm of Green Bay's offense.
That didn't work out a few weeks ago, but one would think that there will be a revised gameplan this time around. Rodgers has incredible escapability so it won't be easy to bring him down, but the Vikings can't rest on their laurels and allow him to pick them apart.
On the Hot Seat: Packers Secondary
While the Packers secondary is highly skilled as individuals, there is simply something that hasn't worked for them this season. Green Bay has been very soft against opposing passing games and there have been plenty of breakdowns in the secondary.
The Likes of Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams won't lose their jobs, but if the unit doesn't start playing collectively better, then some new blood may start to get rotated in. Whatever the issue has been, it is likely correctable, and making life miserable for rookie Christian Ponder would be a nice start to a rebound.
Packers 38, Vikings 28