Minnesota Vikings: Quick Hits for the Rematch Against the Green Bay Packers
The Packers come into the game as nearly a 14-point favorite because of their perfect record so far this season. They know, however, that this Minnesota Vikings squad is no ordinary 2-6 team.
The Vikings, through every fault of their own, have dropped quite a few close games this season - including their last game against Green Bay in week 8 - but that is not to say that they aren't doing a lot of things right.
While Green Bay is the clear favorite, it would be foolish to write off this matchup as an easy win for the Pack. The Vikings have a number of not only high quality talent on their roster, they also have some potential Pro-Bowlers and even a favorite for Defensive Player of the Year in Jared Allen.
Here are 5 quick takes that will be important to keep in mind for this Monday Night Football matchup with one of the League's most rivalries.
Look for a Big Game from the Vikings Front Seven
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The Vikings are notoriously weak in their defensive secondary, but their front seven is loaded with talent.
One of the league's great defensive tackles Kevin Williams anchors a defense that is fully capable of putting pressure on a QB and making tackles in the open field.
Defensive ends Brian Robinson and Jared Allen could be one of the best tandems in the NFL. The two have a combined 17 sacks so far this season and tallied four against Aaron Rodgers only two weeks ago. Look for these two to, once again, put a ton of pressure on the QB and do a solid job of containing a very mobile Aaron Rodgers.
Alongside star DT Kevin Williams, the Vikings have a young NT in Remi Ayodele that could certainly use some work. Because of a certain degree of ineptitude from Ayodele, opposing defenses have been allowed to double team Williams and essentially make key runs against a once stout rush-defense. Ayodele needs to come up with a decent game to completely take away the run from a team that almost exclusively throws the ball for their offensive production.
While most would label Chad Greenway as a bust this season after signing a large franchise-tagged contract, the strong-side linebacker is silently leading the Vikings in total tackles with 65. Look for Greenway to be all over the field against one of the league's best TEs in Jermichael Finley and hopefully have a big day.
Brothers Erin and EJ Henderson make up the rest of the linebacker corps and have done a pretty solid job thus far this season. While EJ has struggled in pass coverage due to a lingering knee injury, he will likely see an increased role against the Packers after being given the opportunity to rehab his injury fully and hopefully be up to 100%.
Erin, on the other hand, had been one of the Vikings' most pleasant surprises at the weak-side linebacker spot. His vast improvement undoubtedly can be credited to new linebacker coach Mike Singletary, one of the best linebackers in NFL history. Erin has seen a lot of play in nickel packages and has excelled when given the opportunity.
All of these players make up a solid front seven for the Vikings defense. With the strength of the Packers offense and the relative weakness of the Vikings secondary it will be up to these specific players to not only make plays, but be the identity of the Vikings on the field.
If these players have a big game, the Vikings could very well win tonight.
The Return of Antoine Winfield
Not only is Antoine Winfield hands-down the most talented defensive back on the Vikings roster, he could be one of the best form-tackling CBs in the NFL.
Winfield has been sidelined for the last four weeks with a neck injury. The severity of said injury has been kept under wraps by the Vikings organization, but the veteran is finally back to 100% and ready to play on Monday night against the team's hated rivals.
Winfield's absence has certainly been felt by an already week Vikings secondary that also lost promising corner Chris Cook because of complications of his arrest the day before the Vikings last matchup with the Packers. Without these two key players, the Vikings gave up three touchdowns and over 300 yards to the league's best QB Aaron Rodgers.
I'm confident in saying that, if the Vikings had these two starting corners and starting free safety Jamarca Sanford, the already close game would have been even closer.
Winfield needs to have a big game to try and limit Rodgers and the Packers prolific passing offense. It's unrealistic to think the Vikings can shut down this offense, but they need to limit the damage and stop the bleeding as much as possible.
This all starts with this veteran corner who is perfectly capable of coming up big in big games.
Ponder vs Packers, Round 2
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Christian Ponder, who has a 1-1 record as the Vikings starting QB, has already instilled some hope in a franchise that desperately needs some.
Despite having a completion percentage of just over 50, Ponder has made the tough throws and big plays that Minnesotans have grown unaccustomed to. Ponder's three touchdown passes and only two interceptions are already nearly eclipsing that of Donovan McNabb through six games as the team's starter.
Even though Ponder threw two picks to Charles Woodson against the Packers, he still threw two touchdowns against the Pack and even had the audacity to throw one right in the face of Woodson, who made him look like the rookie he is all game long.
Ponder's confidence was padded even further against the Carolina Panthers a week later as the QB threw one touchdown, no interceptions and had a passer rating over 100.
After two games, Ponder appears to be the answer the Vikings have been looking for at QB. He certainly has some work to do as the starter, but does possess the leadership and athletic versatility to be a star for the Vikings.
Look for Ponder to be more careful with his passes against the Packers, but not necessarily reserved. He will still take chances and try to get the ball down the field, but it is his scrambling and ability to throw on the run that make him tough to cover. Ponder was only sacked once against the Packers in his first start. They will likely have to play him carefully knowing that he does have the awareness to sense pressure, evade defenders and make plays outside of the pocket.
The Vikings rookie QB will be an X-factor in this game.
Wide Receivers to Step Up
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The Vikings receiving corps as a whole have been a huge disappointment this season - and yes that includes Percy Harvin.
After losing Sidney Rice, the Vikings passing game took a step backwards. Granted, they did have to find a long-term answer at QB, but that doesn't change the fact that their receivers have dropped some very easy, good passes in pivotal situations.
Percy Harvin, who has been one of the Vikings most reliable play-makers in recent seasons, has been sidelined with various injuries and illnesses this season. A rib injury kept Harvin out for most of the previous Packers matchup. When opposing teams don't have to account for Harvin's ability, it is a lot easier to make the rest of the Vikings weak receivers look even worse than they are.
Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu have both been pleasant surprises this season. Though both have certainly made some mistakes, they have both been established as the most reliable targets on the team. The Vikings need the two of them to have a solid day to keep the offense rolling and have any sort of chance at winning this game.
Adrian Peterson Needs to Be This Game's MVP
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Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL and the bets player on the Minnesota Vikings.
In the team's last meeting with the Green Bay Packers, Peterson ran for over 150 yards and a touchdown. In the ensuing week against Carolina, Peterson broke his career best for receiving yards when he showed his offensive versatility in being a solid receiving option as well.
Peterson needs to one again be the guy in this game. He not only needs to be effective and violent in the run-game, but he needs to be utilized in the passing-game to stretch out the field and become a reliable target for a rookie QB that understands his check-downs.
If the Vikings win this game, all of the aforementioned takes will be important, but the game MVP will be Adrian Peterson.
Peterson has been the Packers' kryptonite in the past and he needs to be that once again on Monday night to keep his team in the game. Peterson will have to put the team "on his back," Greg Jennings style, and battle for his team to victory.
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