For the fourth straight season, and sixth time in seven years the Packers and Vikings play in prime time. But this is the first time the game features a two touchdown spread. The Pack’s winning streak is at 14 and counting and few people outside of the land of lutefisk believe the Queens have a chance.
For a number of reasons, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the Vikings hang around in this one. For one thing, they’re rested and ready after their bye, for another they’ll get two key guys back who missed the first meeting: Antoine Winfield and John Sullivan. The Packers get Sam Shields back for this one and will be without only Clifton, Neal and Zombo.
But even with the return of Winfield, the biggest mismatch in the game is the Packers offense against the Vikings D. The loss of Chris Cook is critical–the team is short on capable corners and don’t get me started on the safeties. They’re pinning their hopes on Jared Allen wreaking as much havoc on Rodgers as he did in the first meeting. I’d like to think the noise and playing conditions will neutralize his speed a bit, though he will probably beat Marshall Newhouse a couple of times.
This game presents an opportunity for the Packers defense to show the world that they’re not as ordinary as the statistics say they are. Eight picks in the past three games has helped preserve the perfect record–and a plus 11 turnover differential puts them in the top three in the league. But they’re asking the secondary to do too much heavy lifting. The pass rush has been mediocre at best and they cannot consistently get to the QB. Clay Matthews is getting asked daily why he has only three sacks.
Christian Ponder has shown he can move around in the pocket and in two starts has demonstrated that he is up to the challenge. But he has yet to play in an environment like the one he will face on Monday night. Loud, crazy crowd that’s waited four weeks for the team to return home. Prime time, national TV audience…expect Dom Capers to throw the kitchen sink at the kid and see how he handles it. When you play an opponent twice in three games, you can bet you’re going to shake up the gameplan. Let’s see how Ponder responds.
Obviously it all begins with #28. If the Pack gives up big runs to Adrian Peterson like they did at the Metrodome, it will make things a lot easier for Ponder. I expect a heavy dose of Percy Harvin in this game as well–he seems to come up big against the Pack and he appears to be almost fully healed from a rib injury. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if he touches the ball ten times, on the ground and through the air.
There is no question the Packers will put up 30 points on the Vikings. What is in question is how many points the Vikings will score on the Pack. I expect a strong effort from the D, but I think the Vikings find the end zone a few times. This is a bitter rivalry and more often than not, the games are closer than expected.
Pack 31 Vikings 21