Packers Will Make It 13 Straight With Win Over VikesPosted:Oct 22nd, 2011 3:15 pm
OK, if you've listened to me at all this week, you know I've been cautious about this one. As much fun as it is to look at the Vikings' most recent effort in Chicago compared to the Pack's 12 game winning streak, I'm always wary about "obvious" mismatches.
After all, the Vikings have upset the Pack four times of the last seven that they were home dogs. You have to back a decade to find the most recent one, but the Pack knows it will always get their best effort.
But the news that cornerback Chris Cook will be watching the game from the Hennepin County Jail is the last straw (he was arrested early Saturday morning on two charges of domestic assault, a story broken by Trent and me on "In the Zone" on KFAN). He was slated to replace the injured Antoine Winfield.
The Vikings will take the field Sunday without three regular secondary players. Cook is wearing an orange jumpsuit, cornerback Antoine Winfield (neck) and safety Jamarca Sanford (concussion) are doubtful. I glanced at the Vikings depth chart. You're looking at the top three corners being Cedric Griffin, whose knees are shot and is getting torched weekly, Asher Allen and either returner Marcus Sherels or Brandon Burton. Good luck with that. At safety, Tyrell Johnson gets another chance after being benched. The guys behind him have never played before.
So the Packers passing game has a huge edge against the secondary. The one area of concern: left tackle Marshall Newhouse against pass rusher extraordinaire Jared Allen. Newhouse was excused from practice Friday, flying home to deal with a family issue. Let's hope it is resolved and his mind is on #69, because we've seen what Allen can do when Chad Clifton is not out there. He leads the league in calf roping (sacks) and if hits Rodgers a couple of times early, it could knock the Packers' high flying offense out of rhythm. Expect McCarthy to give Newhouse some help with a fullback or tight end more than he usually does.
When the Vikings have the ball, everything revolves around Adrian Peterson. The Packers have contained him pretty well of late, but with a rookie QB making his first start, they will be relying on him more than ever. That said, I would not be at all surprised if the Vikings come out of the game throwing the ball. Look what opposing offenses have done to the Pack in the first quarter, particularly on the road. Cam Newton, Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan have all put up big numbers early. In each case, Dom Capers and the defense have settled down and shut them down from that point on.
Look for Bill Musgrave to look for Percy Harvin or Devin Aromoshadu deep early. I also expect him to look early and often for his tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph. He may even have some success. The Vikings' only hope is to score a couple of first half touchdowns to keep their half of the crowd interested.
The defense is down a few players: Sam Shields and Frank Zombo will not play. Ryan Pickett suffered a concussion in practice on Thursday, but somehow is expected to be cleared my medical professionals (which seems strange to me). But after losing to Josh Freeman in his first start a couple of years ago, Capers and this defense will be ready to take care of business.
Ultimately, the Packers have too many weapons for the Vikings to compete for 60 minutes. 30 minutes? Maybe. The Vikings have been dominant in the first half of home games this season, against Detroit, Tampa Bay and Arizona. But we all know what's happened to them in quarters three and four. This offense is tailor made for the perfect conditions of the Metrodome. I think it's a close game at the half, say 17-14 Pack, but when the dust clears the Pack will coast to their franchise record 13th straight win. Call it 41-21 and a couple of weeks to rest, heal up and look for #14 in San Diego.