Expect Rodgers To Be In Prime Form Thursday Night

At the quarter pole, we don't know precisely what to expect when the Packers take the field these days. Are they the high flying aerial circus we saw at Soldier Field or are they the mistake prone unit we saw the first two weeks? Are they a defense that will live by the takeaway or die thanks to negligible run defense?

The next test comes Thursday night when the young, promising Purple come to town. This is a team still recovering from the loss of its superstar, but one that is finally well coached and playing like it's starting to believe they can win. But they too have questions. Are they the mistake-prone outfit that got blown out at home by the mediocre Patriots, or the gutty squad that kept the Saints sweating till the end at the Superdome?

Lots of questions to be answered Thursday night, but there's one fact that can't be questioned. Aaron Rodgers will be spectacular. In his 12 career games against the Vikes, he's completing 71% of his passes, has thrown 27 TD passes to just four picks and has a passer rating of 116.8. Now, he will face Mike Zimmer's newfangled defense, but they're still a work in progress. Matt Ryan had little trouble carving them up on Sunday and the Pack's passing attack has apparently found its mojo.

The Packers, finally back home after three of four on the road, will use the blueprint that worked so well in Chicago. Pass early and often to set up the run. Use lots of no huddle to keep the defense off balance. Strike quickly. Use Randall Cobb as the weapon he clearly is.

The Packers will score plenty of points on Thursday night. The questions is, can they stop the Vikings' offense? The big question entering the game is the status of Teddy Bridgewater's ankle. If he's 100%, he can use his legs to burn the Pack, like other running QBs have done of late. But it's hard to believe on a short week that he will be 100%. His first start was beyond impressive. He showed the poise, confidence, smarts and accuracy that had him atop the draft board at this time last year. Of course, he played the perfect team: the Falcons are the league's worst at rushing the passer and lack playmakers on the back end to make up for it.

If Teddy plays, you can bet Norv Turner will fill the playbook with quick hits, slants, screens--high percentage passes to keep the Pack's pass rush at bay and give the young QB the best chance to succeed. Of course, they'll rely on the run, which was very effective against the Falcons. Matt Asiata will test the middle of the Pack's run defense with no nonsense bursts between the tackles. Rookie Jerick McKinnon has big play potential. The Pack has fallen to the bottom of the league in run defense. Maybe it's time to give Mike Pennel a chance to man the nose in the base defense; Letroy Guion has been lousy so far.

As impressive as the Vikes' win was on Sunday. This is a far more difficult assignment. Their young team and new coaching staff has never dealt with a Thursday night road test and the abbreviated preparation time. Their rookie QB has never started a game on the road, let alone in prime time against their bitter rival.

Oh yes, about the prime time aspect of this matchup. The last two nighttime games between these teams went the Packers' way by a combined score of 89-38. Home teams generally have a big advantage in these Thursday night matchups and you have to believe the Packers will use the momentum of their big win in Chicago to dispose of the Vikes. Corral Cordarelle, plug up the run and let Rodgers work his magic.

It's a close game throughout, but a late touchdown seals the deal.

Packers 31 Vikings 20


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